Lesley Laird: Tories in office, but not in power

No matter where I go people have been saying to me, what is going on? Along with a few other words that aren’t suitable to print. One thing is now certain - if there was any doubt about the Tory rank incompetence, then the last two weeks have shown it in all in its full-unadulterated glory. It really is a horror show.

For the first time in history, we have a Government that has been found in contempt of Parliament. We have a Government that lost three key votes in the space of an hour. And we have a Government that has pulled the rug from under Parliament’s feet by refusing to allow us to vote on its Brexit deal.

That is not a Government that is fit to govern, it's a Government that’s running scared. This was supposed to be the meaningful vote – the clue is in the name. Yet we are now in a situation where the Government is trying to ensure that the meaningful vote isn’t so meaningful.

The Labour Party is clear – this vote must happen and Parliament must be given the opportunity, sooner rather than later, to express its dismay at the deal the Government has negotiated. And let us be in no doubt – this is not a choice of deal or no deal. We were supposed to be taking back control.

And we’ve not even got onto the fact that the Prime Minister has narrowly survived a coup from her own backbenchers. On Wednesday she clung to power by 200 votes to 117 meaning that around one third of her MPs no longer believe she is capable of leading their party or the country.

On Monday, after the news broke of the Government pulling the plug on the big vote on its Brexit deal, there was a clamour from some of the smaller parties in the Commons for Labour to table a motion of no confidence in the Government. It was an exercise in political opportunism from people who admitted that they had no chance of winning it. If we had tabled that motion I am under no illusions that all it would have achieved was to unite the Tory party behind Theresa May.

Yet the events of Tuesday night and Wednesday showed that Labour were correct to hold our nerve. We could have tabled that motion of no confidence and united the Tory party but we waited and it's a good job we did.

The Prime Minister has been substantially wounded by her own side as a result. And Labour is clear that we will table a motion of no confidence when we feel that we can win it. We won’t play political games here, despite the fact that the SNP wish we would. They tried to pressure us into shooting from the hip, but they failed. They set an ultimatum saying that, if we did not table the motion of no confidence by close of play on Tuesday, then they would. Yet they seem to be rowing back from that position because they do not have the numbers.

In my opinion this week has shown the true colours of the Tories and the SNP. That is why we are calling for a General Election – a General Election that will allow us to put our case to the country and address not only the Tories' shambolic Brexit debacle, but the rest of the grotesque inequalities that we see in our society. But I would also say that it has shown that the SNP have absolutely no desire for a General Election either, they are far more interested in stoking the conditions for a second referendum on independence that would only create more chaos and instability.

Labour isn’t willing to play games with the future of our country. If others are serious about stopping this bad deal, we must restore parliamentary democracy and have a vote on it. If that fails, this Government must get out of the way and allow the Labour Party to take over.

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