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Coffee House Steerpike

Dominic Grieve’s constitutional crisis

21 January 2019

1:09 PM

21 January 2019

1:09 PM

Backbench MP and arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve shocked political observers this weekend, when it was revealed that he is planning to take control of the parliamentary timetable to allow a coalition of 300 MPs (less than a majority) to introduce legislation to block a no-deal Brexit. If he succeeds, the former Attorney General will overturn centuries of precedent and completely upend Britain’s unwritten constitution which says that whoever wins an election, gets control over introducing legislation in the Commons.

Speaking on Radio 4, Grieve defended his plot by saying that his controversial amendment still required a majority to pass into law:


‘No business of the House can be decided without a majority. But at the moment it’s worth bearing in mind that all sorts of people can move motions. The Speaker can prompt a debate, the backbench committee can do it, so we are talking about the numbers you need to get a motion actually in front of the House, not to pass it.’

All very well. And Theresa May for one, could be accused of running her own minority government now she has lost the support of the DUP. But Mr S has noticed that Grieve has not always been this relaxed about constitutional upheaval and the introduction of even more minority rule. In 2010, when the Lib Dems were arguing for the introduction of ‘Alternative Vote’ at elections, Grieve made an impassioned speech in the Commons outlining the danger of minority parties wielding power, arguing that it would:

‘lead to weak, unstable government, to minority parties holding the balance of power on a tiny fraction of the vote, and to extensive parliamentary representation for madmen and extremists.’

Strangely though, ever since he became a crusader for the second referendum, this no longer seems to trouble him. Mr Steerpike can’t help but wonder, what possibly could have caused him to change his mind?


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