By Dr Louise Irvine, Secretary to the National Health Action Party
The last 48 hours have been a national humiliation. Yet – and this is the truly perverse part of it all – none of this has been a surprise. We all knew that the Prime Minister’s deal wasn’t going to get through parliament on a second attempt and we know it won’t get through on the next attempt (although it also remains to be seen as to how we can even have another “meaningful vote” in the wake of Bercow’s intervention).
The Prime Minister’s dangerous and demagogic rhetoric on the steps of Downing Street – as shocking as it was to some – was also to be expected. If there’s one thing we’ve seen throughout May’s premiership it’s her refusal to change course even when things are clearly going wrong. What we’ve also seen throughout this process – from the calling of the referendum to the shambolic negotiations – is that Brexit has always been about the Tory party. The good of the country has been always been an afterthought.
Theresa May also knows – as do the whole of the Tory party – that divided parties never win elections. And this is currently what is making the whole situation worse. The natural intransigence of the Prime Minister is being bolstered by the fear that if she is forced to go back to the people the Conservatives will be roundly punished, she will be booted from office and Jeremy Corbyn will be made Prime Minister. The Tories would much rather a no-deal Brexit.
But one thing is – thankfully - clear, Parliament has already voted to take no-deal off the table. The Brexiteers wanted parliamentary sovereignty: now they have it. We cannot have a no-deal Brexit. The European Union has now taken control of the situation. A reckoning is coming, and something has to give. The Prime Minister is stuck, and she knows it. Yet, we cannot underestimate the lengths she - and this government - will go to in order to kick the can further down the road. It is not out of the realm of possibility that May will try and use a long-extension to bide the Conservative Party more time.
And fundamentally, one of the most tragic and shameful aspects of this entire episode has been the colossal waste of time spent on a Tory psychodrama. We can’t get the time back that we’ve wasted on Brexit. But we can reset the clock. If we had a proper government with the national interest at heart, we could cancel Brexit and then spend our time dealing with the more important challenges facing this country.
Our public services are on the verge of collapse and our economy is ridiculously unbalanced. We could be doing so much more to address these issues. These are the issues that allowed the Leave vote to win in the first place. Cancelling Brexit cannot and should not mean that we can go back to the way things were before – as we can’t and nor should we strive to. But we could begin to repair the country, if we weren’t currently being held to ransom by a Conservative party more concerned with its own survival than the people it is meant to represent. History will judge Theresa May and the Conservatives harshly. The waste of time that has been Brexit, is unforgiveable.