DAN HODGES: The coronation of Keir? Forget Tony Blair in The Crown, that’s a prospect to give us ALL nightmares
As the acclaimed Royal biopic The Crown moved towards its denouement last week, the directors opted for a nightmarish – unless your name is Peter Mandelson or Alastair Campbell – finale.
A bemused Queen Elizabeth is pictured walking unrecognised through the streets of London as her former subjects joyously celebrate her enforced abdication, and prepare for the upcoming coronation of King Tony Blair.
The camera cuts and we see a stony-faced Prince Charles gritting his teeth as our all powerful New Labour monarch rises from his throne, while the choir of Westminster Abbey regales him with a heavenly verse of Things Can Only Get Better.
The whole thing proves to be nothing more than a feverish dream. But if those Tory MPs intent on unseating Rishi Sunak and destroying his Rwanda plan get their way, it may provide a prescient foresight into Britain’s political future.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister saw off his rebels and secured a second reading for his Safety of Rwanda Bill.
In the Netflix show The Crown, a bemused Queen Elizabeth is pictured walking unrecognised through the streets of London as her former subjects joyously celebrate her enforced abdication, and prepare for the upcoming coronation of King Tony Blair (Pictured)
The choir of Westminster Abbey regales him with a heavenly verse of Things Can Only Get Better as the powerful New Labour monarch rises from his throne in the Netflix series The Crown
According to the Electoral Calculus website, Sir Keir Starmer and his party are on course for a majority of 268 seats
Yet it will provide only temporary respite. As the consigliere of one of the ‘Five Families’ – the Cosa Nostran nickname given to the numerous groups of backbench Tory rebels – explained to me: ‘We had 30 people abstain on Tuesday, and another 15 to 20 who agreed reluctantly to support the Bill so we could try to make changes in committee.
‘We’ll wait to see what No10 offer us in the New Year. But if they don’t come up with anything significant, we’ve got enough votes to kill it.’
To No10 and their allies, this is the cry of a bunch of crazed ideologues. ‘They are not actually interested in stopping the cross-Channel boats, or getting a working immigration system in place,’ one Minister complained. ‘They’re too far gone. They hate the EU, they hate the courts, and they just want a fight to the death.’
A number of the rebels would not entirely disagree with that view. To them, the Rwanda battle is as much as one of principle as it is of political practicality.
They believe the primacy and sovereignty of the House of Commons is at stake. In their eyes, the will of MPs is being defied by a motley cabal of unelected peers, liberal judges and meddling Eurocrats.
Episode six opens with the Queen having a dream about Tony Blair being crowned King at Westminster Abbey with his wife Cherie
The late Queen elizabeth II walking along Downing Street with Prime Minister Tony Blair after a service at Westminster Abbey commemorating her golden wedding anniversary
As leading rebel MP Sir John Hayes intoned: ‘The real divide is between those people, very largely on the Opposition benches, who believe that international law trumps the supremacy of this place, and those who believe that the reason the Commons is supreme is that our legitimacy is derived from the people.’
But Sir John and his colleagues should be careful what they wish for. Because as The Crown writers have graphically – if hyperbolically – demonstrated, a country in which politicians assume absolute power is not necessarily one in which the people are well represented. Or safe.
Consider, for example, the mess the Prime Minister and the Tories have already got themselves into with the Rwanda Bill.
Initially, Sunak was clear. He would not, he pledged, allow ‘foreign courts’ to interfere in the removal of migrants from Britain.
But the legislation given preliminary approval by the Commons last week specifically allows the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to retain jurisdiction.
What’s more, it does so – as Sunak and his Ministers have asserted – because the Rwandan government insisted that international legal protection be retained.
So this is what ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ looks like in practice. The British Government formally reasserting the right of the ECHR to retain influence over UK legislation because a foreign state demanded it.
Tory rebels have vowed to overturn this ridiculous contradiction. But to replace it with what?
They hold that the sole arbiters of our rights as individual citizens should be themselves.
The Lords should be shunted aside. The courts – domestic and international – neutered.
The ultimate guarantors of our liberty should be a group of legislators currently luxuriating in self-descriptive comparisons with the Mafia.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Not a week seems to pass without another politician being subject to a recall-ballot for some form of impropriety. Bullying. Sexual misconduct. Perverting the course of justice. Fake expenses claims.
There now appears to be a daily cavalcade of abuse and corruption parading through Westminster. And yet those leading it are the same people we are seriously supposed to look to safeguard our most basic rights?
In Britain’s uncodified constitution, the House of Commons has a vital role in providing necessary checks and balances. But it is not, and cannot, be the sole regulator.
Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in conversation
At the moment, Tory MPs are doing a pretty good job in ensuring Sir Keir Starmer is elected Britain’s next Prime Minister
The Rwanda rebels are currently revelling in holding Rishi Sunak’s floundering executive to account. But time is running out for them.
Next year, there will be a General Election. And the predicted outcome is not in dispute. According to the Electoral Calculus website, Sir Keir Starmer and his party are on course for a majority of 268 seats.
What sort of checks and balances do recalcitrant Tory MPs think they would be in a position to provide then? Maybe they don’t think they’d need to.
They may place absolute faith in Sir Keir and his colleagues. Perhaps they feel that such an unassailable majority would automatically bestow great wisdom and statesmanship.
Well, I don’t share their confidence. Not because I believe Starmer and his Shadow Ministers are closet Marxists, or reckless adventurers.
The stifling caution that has characterised their advance on Downing Street would not be discarded with a dramatic cry of ‘Fooled you suckers! We are the masters now!!!’
But I still remember the night of Thursday, June 8, 2017, when Jeremy Corbyn came within 2,227 votes (based on analysis of marginal seats) of being able to form a coalition government. How many checks and balances would we have enjoyed amid that coalition of chaos?
Starmer is no Left-wing radical. But that doesn’t mean he would necessarily be immune to temptation. A majority anywhere close to the size currently predicted would see him under intense pressure to march off stridently to the Left.
Property rights. Protection from retrospective wealth redistribution. Press freedom. Protected spaces for biological women.
How many of these rights, and others, could be guaranteed in a scenario where parliamentary supremacy is gifted to a political party – of any persuasion – that enjoys such a potentially unassailable majority?
We all know the answer.
I had a close-up view of the 1997 Labour government. I remember well its promise that ‘things can only get better
The Labour Party’s past and present leaders Sir Keir Starmer (Pictured Left) and Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair (Right)
I had a close-up view of the 1997 Labour government. I remember well its promise that ‘things can only get better’.
And then watching as a Commons super-majority of 160 was deployed to send British troops to the deserts of Iraq, signing the death warrant of 179 of them, along with 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians.
Yes, the peers, judges and the eurocrats remain maddeningly obstructive. The barriers they place in the way of the will of the people presents its own constitutional issues. We do, indeed, need to find a way to stop the boats.
But stripping away all of our other legal and legislative protections, and replacing them with what amounts to an elected dictatorship is not the answer.
And in a desire to hand illegal migrants a one-way plane ticket to Kigali, we are now in danger of doing the same with our most basic freedoms and protections.
At the moment, Tory MPs are doing a pretty good job in ensuring Sir Keir Starmer is elected Britain’s next Prime Minister.
If they’re not careful, they risk guaranteeing his coronation to a much more powerful post.
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