Six Minutes in November 2018?

‘The Clerk at the table turned over the sandglass to time six minutes to the division. The Bar Doorkeeper opened the Chamber’s inner doors and shouted “Division!” to alert the principal doorkeeper, who activated the bell by a lever in the arm of his chair. Bells rang throughout the Commons, and the cry of “Division!” was taken by police officers and other staff. The bells rang for fifty-five seconds. During this time each side of the argument provided Tellers for the Division. After two minutes, the speaker again put the question, and announced the names of the Tellers … Members had four minutes to get into one division Lobby or the other … It is hard to say at what point the government grasped the nature of this maelstrom. Earlier in the afternoon, Ministers had felt that the Labour decision to divide the House was a mistake and had freely predicted that no more than a dozen Conservatives would defy their Whips. David Margesson [the chief government whip] claimed that it dawned on him only in the winding-up speeches that the large government majority was likely to collapse. Out of the blue, a routine adjournment motion for the Whitsun holiday, which the government had expected comfortably to win, had been hijacked, using a procedural vote to expose the fragility of the Chamberlain administration. As the division bell sounded with the piercing shrill of a fire alarm, panic spread along the front bench … There was no indication of how the vote would go as Members began to move into the division lobbies … Active until the sixth minute when the Doorkeepers turned their keys in the locks, government Whips and Ministers were still putting pressure on the dissidents … Almost the last group to make up their minds were the Conservative dissidents … Quintin Hogg [who later became Lord Chancellor] still standing [exclaimed] ‘What should I do?” He agonized. “Vote for the Government as the majority would do? Abstain as many subsequently did? Vote against and perhaps bring my country as well as the Government down?” … On the Clerk’s table, the grey sand in the Victorian glass trickled to a halt. The Speaker rose a second time, and called out: “Lock the doors” … Mind made up, Hogg rushed past the Doorkeeper – in one version forcing him aside – and got into the No lobby “as the door closed behind.” Dingle Foot described the scene in the No lobby as unique, a fitting culmination to what had been “unquestionably the most important debate in Parliamentary history”. Clement Attlee saw – much to his “pleasure and surprise” – something that he had long hoped for, but never expected to witness: Conservative MP after Conservative MP … crowded with Labour and Liberal MP’s into the same lobby. In Ronald Blythe’s phrase: “Shifty eyes and blushes met the Labour and Liberal grins.”’ Six Minutes in May– How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister, by Nicholas Shakespeare (2017).

If the UK remains on course for a ‘no deal Brexit’ could history repeat itself in November 2018?

If you ask an adult to make a rational choice between:

(i)            saving around £300 per year in household bills (the theoretical free-trade benefit of Brexit articulated today on the BBC Sunday Politics programme by Owen Paterson MP); and

(ii)           loss of access to an essential public service (the ‘price’ of Brexit), e.g. medical care for the treatment of cancer, which could easily exceed multiple thousands of pounds in the same period for an individual (compounded by the cost of paying for private medical care if affordable unless they have insurance),

then, unless that person is a rabid ideologue, the rational answer is obvious, in which case why not ask the people ‘now that you know what the actual cost/benefit is likely to be, are you sure that you want to jump over the Brexit cliff?’ because there is no parachute or safety-net below – only sharks and rocks.