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Wiggling buttocks enliven existential hell of Brexit debate | Politics

Category: Political Protests,Politics

The people finally got to have their say on the government’s Brexit deal. In parliament no less. And what they had to say was that they wanted to take almost all their kit off and protest against climate change instead. Time management. They probably reckoned there was more chance of the world’s politicians agreeing on plans to save the planet than anyone coming up with a Brexit solution that the government was prepared to implement.

The protest began three-quarters of an hour into the latest iteration of the indicative vote process, aka IV2, with 12 men and women in the public gallery stripping down to their pants to reveal climate change slogans on their bodies. Well almost all of them. One bloke either lost his bottle or suddenly realised he was dressed commando and chose to keep his trousers on. Spoil sport.

Most rushed to the front and glued their hands to the glass barrier, while a woman, daubed in grey body paint and wearing a pair of elephant ears and trunk, indulged in some unusual interpretive dance. The police were called but didn’t seem entirely sure where to look. Or touch. So what followed was a very awkward, very British standoff. In its way the perfect Brexit statement.

MPs react as semi-naked climate protesters disrupt Brexit debate - video

The dirty dozen would occasionally self-consciously wiggle their bums and then stop, as if waiting for something to happen. Knowing how to end a protest is always much harder than starting one. The police initially appeared to just hope the men and women would get bored and wander off, but once they realised they were going to have to get hands on, a few officers reluctantly rolled up their sleeves.

First to be removed from the gallery was the elephant woman who got carried out horizontally while waving goodbye with her trunk. Eventually, just a man and a woman were left and officials were sent off to find some lubricant to remove the glue from their hands. That seemed to do the trick and half an hour after it had begun, the protest was over. All that remained were a few stains on the glass.

The sight of twelve semi-naked men and women in their pants was rather more entertaining and no weirder than anything else that happens in parliament these days and a few MPs greeted the disturbance as a welcome distraction. Peter Kyle snarfed about a cheeky intervention, Justine Greening asked him to flesh things out while Nick Boles wondered if Bernard Jenkin was among the protesters. Bernie’s naturism – he’s a legend in his own lunchbox – is by far his cleanest and most endearing pastime. Anything to relieve the tedium.

But mostly everyone in the chamber chose to keep their heads down and plod on. IV2 more closely resembled an IV drip of liquid valium with MPs mindlessly repeating what they had said in the first round of debates the previous Wednesday. There was little else they could do. Everything that could possibly be said about Brexit has long since been said. Again and again.

The sense of Brexit being an endless loop in space-time is now inescapable. After insisting the prime minister was keen to work constructively with parliament, Andrea Leadsom went out of her way to do precisely the opposite by saying that the government would be whipping against the business motion to allow further indicative votes. Time was now of the essence and it was up to the government to run down the clock by failing to get its own deal passed and not up to MPs to try and find some kind of consensus.

Ken Clarke observed that if the government had kept its promise to hold indicative votes then parliament wouldn’t have needed to hijack the Commons order paper. Leadsom sniffily replied that she wouldn’t be taking any interventions as it was a day for parliament to have its say. Either she genuinely isn’t very bright or she has no sense of irony. Or both.

Thereafter we just got stuck in an existential hell with MPs reduced to playing caricature versions of themselves. Edward Leigh merely suggested that now was not the time for the country to have a general election because the Conservatives would lose, while the Grand Wizard of Mogg himself chose to lecture the house on the meaning of shame. Having traded his principles for the party line and refused to take responsibility for retweeting far-right politicians, Jacob Rees-Mogg increasingly resembles the naughty prep school boy who has been found out by his peers and sent to the naughty step. Bill Cash was Bill Cash. That bad.

Things did improve when the debate proper began. But only marginally. Most MPs are sick and tired of being sick and tired. No one said anything unexpected or did much to suggest they had changed their minds. No one wanted to be the person who blinked first. Everyone was now waiting on a miracle.


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