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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > May 2019 > CRISIS. WHY IT’S TIME TO REWIRE BRITISH POLITICS

CRISIS. WHY IT’S TIME TO REWIRE BRITISH POLITICS

FOR ALL ITS QUIRKINESS, OUR CONSTITUTION ALWAYS USED TO MUDDLE THROUGH. BUT THE BREXIT CRISIS IS STRAINING IT LIKE NEVER BEFORE

“Iadmit that I wasn’t on top of the British parliament’s 17th-century procedural rules,” Angela Merkel confessed in March. The woman who at that moment probably held more sway over the fate of our nation than anyone else outside it—and possibly inside it too—was being sardonic. She knew perfectly well that neither the British people, their MPs or indeed their prime minister were familiar with the venerable precedents which, with great theatricality, the speaker John Bercow had wielded the previous day to scupper the third “meaningful vote,” which Theresa May had been banking on to finally pass her derided Brexit deal.

Standing up from his great green chair, in his long black robe, the speaker told a stunned House of Commons that under a principle established in 1604—and then reaffirmed most “notably” in 1864, 1870, 1882, 1891 and 1912—May’s plan to grind the House into submission in successive votes would not be “orderly.” And, as a result, it would not be happening, at least until something else changed.

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About Prospect Magazine

InProspect's May issue: Tom Clark explores how British politics has ended up in crisis and suggests that a proper constitution could have avoided the current chaos and may well be necessary now to avoid the same problems in the future. Elsewhere in the issue: Kevin Maguire profiles Labour deputy leader Tom Watson who says that “if needs must” he would join a government of national unity. Max Rashbrooke examines Jacinda Ardern’s government in New Zealand and the ways the country is being transformed, ultimately suggesting that it could be an example for Britain to follow. Also, Stefanie Marsh follows the work of a donor detective who is helping children conceived by anonymous sperm donation to find their biological parents and Francesca Wade shows how Virginia Woolf is inspiring a new generation of women writers.