Will rebels be disciplined? asks Chris Moncrieff
Whatever happened to political party discipline? With the exception of Stephen Hammond, who was sacked as a Tory Party vice-chairman, the other 10 Conservatives in last week’s hugely damaging anti-Brexit rebellion may be getting away with it scot-free.
The rebellion led to a Government defeat in the Commons, which gravely weakened the Prime Minister in her Brexit negotiations with the Brussels Eurocrats. Government whips no doubt gave the miscreants a severe telling off – but other than that, at the time of writing, there seems to be no other form of punishment detectable.
But it is difficult to disagree with outspoken Tory back-bencher, Nadine Dorries, that they should all be formally reported to their local constituency parties, with a view to their being deselected at the next general election. MPs may deplore the whipping system, but they should remember that virtually every MP is elected not on his personal appeal but on the party he represents as a candidate.
This, therefore, makes them, generally speaking, duty-bound to follow the official party line, whether they agree with it or not.
In addition, this rebellion demonstrated that the rebels do not trust their leader. She had said Parliament would, in any event, have the last say on this issue. But that was not good enough for the rebels, who wanted to see that in writing.
If they, insultingly, don’t trust the Prime Minister, they should have the guts to call for a leadership election.
Later I heard motormouth Anna Soubry, a prominent rebel, say at great length (poor Jeremy Vine could hardly get a word in) that they were defending the supremacy and sovereignty of Parliament.
How can she say this when the EU pours scores of new laws into Parliament, which just go through to the statute book without debate?
That is the very reason people are already starting to ask what is the purpose at all of voting at general elections, if power is insidiously passing to Brussels?
The existing turmoil in the Tory party will certainly not be remedied by events such as this.
n Is Brexit Secretary David Davis really as naive as was suggested by his remark that in his job, you don't need to be clever, just keep calm? This seemed a remarkably feeble comment from a man with a tough London East End upbringing (and a broken nose to show for it), who is prominently engaged in the most difficult negotiations a British Government has been involved in for generations.
But perhaps Davis is a master bluffer, hoping his remark will cause his Brussels ‘opponents’ to drop their guard. We must hope so.
However, Davis is a far from spectacular performer in the House of Commons. He mumbles so badly that not only do members of the Press Gallery have difficulty in hearing him, but his fellow MPs also find themselves in the same plight. He has been rebuked by he Speaker, John Bercow, for mumbling.
He needs to buck up his ideas at Westminster, even if he is playing cunning games with his Brussels counterparts – which some people, I am afraid, may doubt.
n The controversial figure Max Clifford, who made a fortune exploiting big news stories – although absolutely legitimately, I must stress – has died while serving an eight-year prison sentence for historical sex offences.
Sadly perhaps, it appears, that outside his own family, very few tears have been shed at this news.
Clifford could be economic with the truth, as he himself admitted. For instance, he once said that his story that one-time Tory Cabinet Minister, David Mellor, had sex while wearing the blue and white Chelsea football strip was simply made up. That story will bedevil Mellor for so long as he lives. Similar doubt attaches to the “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” claim. How can we possibly know how many of his other claims were true or not?
I was once on a radio programme with Clifford. We were in different studios, but we found ourselves having a ferocious row live on air. The presenter got so alarmed at the ferocity of it all that he quickly moved into calmer waters by introducing a completely new topic.