The PM is working with Labour because she has to.
Despite projecting the image of being devout defenders of the British constitution, hard Brexiteers seem to have forgotten a few crucial facts.
The European Research Group responded with rage to the PM’s offer to meet with Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday.
“People did not vote for a Corbyn-May coalition government – they voted for a Conservative government, which became a confidence and supply with the DUP,” said Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Tory MP Conor Burns was devastated that the PM was working with Labour:
“The UK no longer has a functioning government of executive control. The PM has handed the future decisions over Brexit to the Labour party. It will now be for Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell to decide if the Conservative party implements its manifesto. It is a very bleak day.”
Both statements betray some fairly brazen inconsistencies.
Firstly, people didn’t ‘vote for a Conservative government’. Under Parliamentary democracy, people vote for 650 MPs, who then give ‘confidence’ to the formation of a government. The Tories rely on the DUP to prop them up. And if you can no longer count on your confidence-and-supply partner, you have to look elsewhere.
Taking a step back: the Conservatives got 42% of the vote in 2017. Labour weren’t far behind with 40% of the vote.
The DUP – which has dominated the debate and is greatly over-represented under First Past the Post – secured 0.9% of the vote. On less than 300,000 votes, they have dominated the Brexit debate – while the SNP with around 900,000 votes have been ignored and sidelined.
Nor did voters elect a Tory majority. Famously, the party lost seats and failed to get over the line.
You can argue the Tories have the largest mandate – but the public did not give the party a monopoly to ride over their concerns about jobs, workers’ rights and the environment.
As one person pointed out, it’s funny how quick the Tory right are to switch their focus when peddling their “80% of voters supported for Brexit-backing parties in 2017” line – but refuse to countenance talking to a party that makes up half of that vote share. (Brexiteer David Davis is among those who’ve trumpeted such claims.)
Burns’ statement that “It will now be for Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell to decide if the Conservative party implements its manifesto” also misses the point.
You don’t get a right to unilaterally impose your manifesto if you didn’t win a majority. By definition, May is working with Corbyn because she has to. The two parties did secure over 80% of the vote in 2017, after all.
But then again, perhaps none of the ERG’s constitutional confusion is surprising when you consider that Jacob Rees-Mogg recently called for Parliament to be shut down to force through Brexit. Or that Tory MPs apparently obsessed with ‘Parliamentary sovereignty’ appear to have discarded Burke in viewing the 2016 referendum as an ‘Order’ to MPs. That view – expressed by the ERG’s Mark Francois this week – effectively turns MPs into drones rather than representatives with their own minds.
Looks like hard Brexiteers only really support Parliamentary democracy when it suits.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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