We knew what would happen on Tuesday last. Sir Graham Brady’s amendment was certain to pass (uniting the Conservative Party), which meant the other amendments would be defeated, except for the safe non-binding one re our not leaving the EU without a deal. Conservative Party safe.
What happens now? Negotiations, in Brussels, and here in Parliament amongst those who saw the relative strengths of those amendments and will draw up battle-lines for decisive voting on the Brexit deal/no deal.
It has been fascinating. Democracy at work, factional fighting, banner waving, shouting voices, quiet diplomacy, intelligent discussion, opposition and enemies taken on. And everyone right. That’s what surprises. There is little mind changing, people’s thinking as previously, voting again as before. They seem not to hear others’ arguments. If you and I come out of a discussion thinking exactly as before we have not been listening to each other.
“Others are wrong because I am right.” Suppose we always tried to share the best of all sides of our arguments. Would the political party machines allow that? Loyalty, self-serving, fear, ambition, dislike, jealousy – we can see and hear it all. Democracy is human frailty and stubbornness and idealism under the spotlight. Personal frailties in everyday life we can hide or hide from, but in public life the politicians run the risk of the mob, the angry leadership, the jealous rivals. False step, foolish word – and that’s you finished.
We watch. So does Europe. What does it see? Not a United Kingdom. It sees that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted convincingly to stay in Europe, that Wales thinks the same in the latest surveys. It sees England’s reaping again the consequences of dividing Ireland early in the 20th century and hears the fears of the Good Friday Agreements weakening under the strain of social and political divisions. Why should Europe and Southern Ireland solve the problems created by the British Government?
We accept that we are not a united kingdom. We are British, but our national – Irish, Scottish, Welsh, English – feelings are strong and can be divisive, as everywhere; but we have learned to live together and we don’t want to be divided or separated. Humbly, we must seek to find the common good for Europe and for the United Kingdom.
God bless us to be and feel involved,
(3rd February 2019)