Last night, Tory whips shouted at a female MP until she cried, over a key Brexit vote. In what will probably turn out to be a fairly good analogy for the entire Brexiteer experience, they still didn’t get what they wanted.
Despite bullying Remainer Tory MPs, Theresa May suffered an embarrassing Commons defeat last night after MPs narrowly voted for an amendment that will give Parliament more say over Brexit. The amendment, tabled by Dominic Grieve MP, means the government can’t make huge legislative changes before Parliament has approved the Brexit deal. It’s being talked of as Parliament’s right to a "meaningful vote" over Brexit, although as with the entire process, it’s not entirely clear what that will end up meaning.
Politically, the vote is being seen as heartening for Remainers and soft-Brexiteers, who have shown that they are able to use May’s piss-weak majority to influence Brexit.
The idea of screaming abuse hasn’t gone out of fashion at the Daily Mail, whose front-page today names and shames the Tory rebels and asks, "Proud of yourselves?"
It's very much in the style of their previous incendiary efforts, where they called some judges "Enemies of the People", or the one where they said Theresa May should "Crush the saboteurs".
It accuses the rebels of being "11 self-consumed malcontents" who have been "accused of treachery" against their leader, their party and 17.4 million Brexit voters.
Apparently, having some democratic oversight to make sure the final deal isn’t a nightmare of crap sweepingly imposed by an authoritarian government is a huge betrayal of the democratic will of the people at the referendum. I guess democracy is what you make of it, and for the Daily Mail and Brexiteers it means whatever makes sure they get their way. Most damningly, the Tory rebels have "increased the possibility of a Marxist in No. 10", as if that doesn’t sound lit AF.
None of this will do Brexiteers any good. Now that these MPs have been publicly monstered, there’s nowhere else to go. They can’t really be threatened over future votes if the Mail has already done its worst. The MPs have made their beds, but they could have been convinced to sleep somewhere else – instead, they're being made to lie in them. That's one theory. I suppose the other one is that they ramp this up into a sustained campaign of harassment against anyone they disagree with, with a devastating effect on the public discourse :-/
But here’s a reason reason to be hopeful that that bullying won’t work: seven out of the 11 pictures here are taken from the official Commons MP portraits, which were made freely available over the summer. Released by Parliament’s media team, they capture the MPs at their best. It was the same back when the Telegraph blasted "The Brexit Mutineers":
Time was that a tabloid would make a great effort to find pictures that made the target of a smear look like a confirmed wrong-un. Instead, in these pictures, everyone’s smiling, happy and generally not looking very treacherous or sinister at all.
Here’s the picture of Heidi Allen, in which she looks like the nicest teacher in your primary school.
Antoinette Sandbach is a traitor to her leader, her party and 17.4 million Brexit voters, but she makes the most fabulous Victoria Sponge which you must try at the church fete.
Bob Neil: Proud of yourself? Judging by this picture, the answer has to be yes.