Sunday, February 03, 2013

Booker: MPs plumb new depths

Booker 002-mps.jpg

I don't think anyone I've spoken to about that debate has been in the least bit impressed by the performance of our MPs. Witterings was so depressed that he had to take a break.

It is not surprising therefore, that Booker – in and amongst a nightmare week that had BT scrambling his telephone lines – should find space in his column to remark on the vacuity of our MPs. 

His piece starts, however, with the Ken Clarke show on Radio 4's Today programme, a more vacuous item it is hard to recall. This was the 12-minute interview last Thursday in which that battered old Euromaniac was excitably egged on by John Humphrys to explain why it would be "a fatal mistake" for Britain to leave the EU.

Constantly talking over Clarke, Humphrys himself even went so far in betraying his bias as to compare those calling for a referendum to the "hangers and floggers" of yesteryear.

The most dismal consequence of David Cameron's promise that we might one day have an in-out referendum has been the eruption on all sides of Europhiles suggesting not just that it would be disastrous for Britain to leave the EU, but that even to talk of a referendum is creating such a miasma of fear and uncertainty that it is already imperilling the future of Britain's economy. 

But the most dismal spectacle was the week in the House of Commons, writes Booker. This began on Monday with Speaker Bercow's support for the idea that MPs should get a 30 percent pay rise, just as the rest of us are facing years of austerity. 

On Tuesday, we saw Nick Clegg's Lib Dems vengefully refusing to support those promised boundary changes that might give their Tory Coalition allies 20 more seats at the next election. This prompted that admirable parliamentary commentator Quentin Letts to a wonderfully contemptuous threnody on the depths to which, in the past 20 years, he has seen Parliament sink. 

This was followed on Wednesday by a six-hour debate on "Europe" in which, without exception, MPs regurgitated to an often largely empty House nothing but equally empty cliches, most so ancient that they were already familiar decades ago. 

Not a single MP, Europhile or Eurosceptic, seemed to have the slightest grasp of how the EU actually works or the rules it lives by. Not one knew enough to spell out why Mr Cameron’s proposals are no more than wishful thinking. 

Not one, for instance, was aware that for Cameron to get his "re-negotiation" would, under the Lisbon Treaty, require a new treaty, involving procedures so lengthy that they would last way past his 2017 deadline. 

The only way he could get the negotiations he says he wants would be to invoke Article 50 of the treaty, which not a single MP seemed aware of – and which Mr Cameron has already ruled out, because it would require him first to declare Britain’s intention to leave the EU.

Concludes Booker, one of the heaviest prices we have paid for handing over the running of our country to this system centred in Brussels is that our MPs have lost all ability to think for themselves, or to do enough homework to allow them to relate to the real world.

All these sad people can think about is how they should be given a pay rise, for serving us more lamentably than any MPs in history.