The PM is reportedly planning to extend the summer recess while she negotiates Brexit
Scrutinising the biggest constitutional change in living memory should take up quite a bit of time, you would think.
But apparently the Prime Minister disagrees. According to reports today, Theresa May is planning to extend this year’s summer recess for MPs to nearly three months.
The reason? If the claims in the Sunday Times are true, it’s to avoid summer plotting to oust her by her own MPs.
That’s three months while May and her team negotiate the most significant shake-up of British democracy since at least 1990s devolution — and arguably way back to 1973 when we joined the EEC in the first place.
And while she’s doing that: no Brexit select committee, no Treasury select committee, no Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee, no debates in Parliament, no votes, no Early Day Motions. No chance, in sum, for MPs to flag concerns or hold the government to account in Westminster.
Usually there would be a sitting in September — the 5th to the 14th — to ensure not too much time was spent away from the Commons. That would go, it seems, to save the PM’s skin. And Parliament would break before its usual 20th July time.
This is a slippery slope for our democracy. When parliamentary time becomes a tool of the executive to stifle or circumvent scrutiny — at the crucial time in our country’s politics — we are on a dangerous path indeed.
In this understanding of democracy, what’s to stop a Prime Minister pushing it beyond three months — to six, or a year. Extreme and nigh-on-impossible, sure. But steps towards this are normalised by the notion that our Commons is simply an extension of political parties, rather than the Mother of Parliaments that, for all its flaws, it vital to preserving our freedoms.
When combined with the fact that the unelected Lords may prove more rebellious in this hung Parliament, going so far as rejecting manifesto commitments, we’re into uncomfortable territory early on.
Few could begrudge MPs spending time in their constituencies. But when there are so many crucial issues to discuss — from the Tory-DUP deal, to the status of EU citizens in the UK and growing Parliamentary momentum to secure an ‘open Brexit’, this move seems cynical at the least.
Without wanting to invoke turkeys and Christmas, let’s see if MPs kick off about it.
Josiah Mortimer is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward