Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen: Tory grandees at odds in a day of real drama

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Parliament/PA)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Parliament/PA)
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

In our extraordinary political times when the established order has been turned on its head, it was perhaps apt that it was old Etonian and Tory toff Jacob Rees-Mogg reprimanding MPs on democracy.

The electorate, 17.4m of them to be precise, had given Parliament an instruction when they voted for Brexit, he told the House of Commons during last night's emergency debate.

"Sovereignty comes from the people to Parliament, it does not come to Parliament out of a void," he said.

"If Parliament tries to challenge the people, this stretches the elastic of our constitution near to breaking-point.

"We should recognise that the people are our masters and show us to be their servants, not to place ourselves in the position of their overlords."

MPs' approach was the "most unconstitutional" use of Parliament since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell, Rees-Mogg added in an intended rebuke that had Irish eyes smiling.

"One country's parliamentary agitator is another's 'poor dead king'," a tweeter reminded him.

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Tory grandee Ken Clarke congratulated Rees-Mogg for "keeping a straight face" while he making "incredible" arguments.

He said it would be "quite horrendous" for Parliament to allow itself to be sidelined.

There were only 20 Tory MPs who genuinely wanted no-deal, but yet that was the prospect facing the UK.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was standing up for Tory MPs whom he claimed had been subjected to "bullying and threats" for having the "political courage" to pledge to vote against their own Government.

Mr Corbyn's own days of Eurosceptic rebellion seem to have been relegated to history as he manages a deeply divided party and maps out a route to Downing Street. He quoted an array of experts warning about the disasters that lay around the corner.

"No-deal will decimate our manufacturing industry, no-deal will destroy our agricultural sector, it will mean food shortages. It will bring chaos to our ports and transport networks," he declared.

"Now is not the time to play Russian roulette with our economy."

Not too long ago similarly grave warnings circulated about what a Corbyn premiership would mean.

But post-Brexit politics is a fast changing and challenging place.

We may soon find out what the electorate makes of it all.

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