It’s crunch time once again for Theresa May’s government, as the House votes this afternoon on whether her ministers – including the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox – should be held in contempt of Parliament for not releasing the government’s legal advice on the backstop.
If the opposition motion passes, the matter will most likely be referred to the privileges committee, who will decide what action should be taken against the censured government ministers, and when it should come into effect. As they have the power to suspend MPs from the House, and with May’s big vote due in the Commons on 11 December, it’s no exaggeration to say that the seven MPs on the committee hold the Prime Minister’s fate in their hands.
Which is why it’s most fortunate for Theresa May that two of the three Conservative members on the committee have already been buttered up by the government in the recent past.
Mr Steerpike has no doubt, for example, that the Prime Minister will be reminding one of the members, Christopher Chope, of the knighthood he received in the 2018 New Year’s honours list – mainly to keep him quiet on the backbenches. Or, that No. 10 refused to condemn him when he was raked over the coals for blocking a bill on upskirting.
Similarly, Mr S notes that John Stevenson, another Conservative MP on the committee, was promoted by the government to be ‘Borderlands Growth Deal Champion’ earlier this year. Stevenson helpfully explained that the position is ‘not a ministerial role but it’s a bit like being a trade envoy.’ Clearly no conflict of interest there then.
That said, if it comes down to the wire, the deciding vote on the committee will not be held by a Tory, but the chair: Labour’s Kate Green. No doubt Theresa May will be racking her brains to think of some way to win her round…