I left work last night embarrassed to call myself a Member of Parliament. The Government are not without blame—the deal is far from perfect and our Brexit journey could have been managed better—but yesterday evening, footage was being shown all around the world of the Mace being taken, apparently because MPs, although legions of them have been on TV to say that they could not vote for the deal and the Prime Minister needed to do better, were outraged that she wanted to go off and do exactly as we had instructed.
It turns out that, for too many of us in this place, the politics matters more than the reality. Very few of those who intended to vote against the deal really wanted the Prime Minister to go off and do any better; they wanted no deal, or no Brexit, or a second referendum, or a general election, or a new Prime Minister. The divisiveness of no deal or no Brexit seems to matter not one bit. The mockery that a second referendum would make of our democracy seems to matter not one bit. The reality that a change of Prime Minister would still mean that someone had to captain the same ship through the same storm seems to matter not one bit, and the fact that the Labour party says it wants a general election, but still has no idea what its Brexit policy is, let alone how it would negotiate it, seems to matter not one bit either.
So here we are, angry that we did not get a vote on whether we should have a vote, having a debate about not having a debate. There is no majority for anything and, as far as I can tell, there is little desire to find a majority either. At the most important parliamentary moment in decades, we are digging our trenches deeper and refusing to find compromise. In the past few weeks the Prime Minister has travelled around the country, trying to sell her plan. She has spent hours in this place doing the same. Now she is travelling around Europe, trying to articulate Parliament’s requirement that we get something different.
Despondent, last night I read an early draft of my maiden speech, written just three and a half years ago. It was filled with hope: hope for what our Government could do, and hope for what this Parliament can do. We have all agreed that this is not how it should be. Deep down, we all know that we can do better, but only if we climb out of our trenches and reconsider all options, especially the Prime Minister’s deal. The Christmas present that the nation seems to want above any other is for us in this place to rediscover the art of the pragmatic compromise. That is not weakness; it is leadership.