all the weird stuff that happened in politics this week
Plus some good and some bad stuff. And a word you need to know.
Hello again! Welcome to the second edition of Political i-Deology, in which I, your in-house nerd, follow British politics and tell you what’s happened every two weeks so you don’t have to.
As has been the case since June 2016, a lot has happened on Brexit in the past fortnight but also nothing has, so we can (mostly) set it aside for the time being, and will come back to it once something actually changes.
In the meantime, here is some other stuff that happened:
One thing that actually mattered
Aahh! This is exciting! An actual thing that matters happened mere minutes after this column was written! This was originally going to be about the EU having picked new people for its top jobs, which is honestly not the most thrilling thing to talk about, BUT:
MPs have voted to extend abortion and same-sex marriage rights to Northern Ireland! Finally! In the year of our lord 2019!
Hero Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn put forward their respective amendments on July 9 and actually won, with the government saying it will honour both results. The one small problem is that Northern Ireland currently doesn’t have a functioning government, which is less than ideal, but on same-sex marriage at least, the law should change automatically in three months if Stormont isn’t back in business by then.
I’ll be honest, it feels very weird to be reporting on unexpected positive things Westminster has done that will have a real impact on people’s lives. Not really used to it.
One good thing that happened
As of later this month, the government will introduce a funeral fund to help parents who have lost a child. The main campaigner for the Children’s Funeral Fund is Carolyn Harris, a Welsh Labour MP who had to take out a loan to pay for the funeral of her son when he died in a road accident in 1989.
She made a speech on the change in Parliament and burst into tears, telling MPs: “Martin’s fund is a legacy for my son and will be a comfort to every parent that will need to use it in the future so from the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
The video is incredibly touching, and a needed reminder that positive changes can be made by politicians.
One bad thing that happened
Boy was there a lot of choice for this one! Several truly terrible things have happened over the past few weeks! Had to narrow it down though, so our Top 2 Most Depressing And/Or Infuriating Stories are:
1. The Home Office wants homeless charities to help them identify and deport non-UK rough sleepers
Yeah, you read that right -- the department that brought you the Windrush shitshow is now trialling a scheme which would ask charities working with homeless people to enter their details into a programme without their consent. The programme would then do automatic immigration checks on those people. Extremely yikes.
2. Over 200 schools literally cannot afford to teach kids five days a week anymore
Hundreds of schools across England are cutting classes to four or four and a half days a week because they don’t have enough money to have classes all week. It doesn’t really get more straightforwardly bleak than that.
One puzzling thing that happened
So you know how sometimes someone says something really offensive but you were so deeply not expecting that person to say something offensive that it becomes bizarrely funny?* Because friends, the Dalai Lama -- the literal, one and only Dalai Lama -- said in an interview that should the next Dalai Lama be a woman, she should be hot otherwise there would be no point. No, honestly, that’s a thing he said. So I guess the Dalai Lama is... cancelled? Can you cancel a spiritual leader?
*I mean I don’t know, it’s probably not funny, we’re all just a bit broken at the moment, everything is mostly bad.
One person to watch
Listen, you’re going to have to stay with me here. It’s not going to be an obvious choice. It’s not going to be a sexy one. Also I said this would be Br*xit free. But still, hear me out --
Philip Hammond. You know the one. There’s no other Philip Hammond; we’re talking about Spreadsheet Phil, current Chancellor of the Exchequer, the least exciting man to have ever made it in frontline politics.
Well friends, hold on to your hats because Big Phil has Had It; he is part of a group of formerly extremely dull Tory MPs (arise David Gauke) who have warned that they are going to rebel and do whatever they can to stop Boris Johnson from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal. Grab your (plain, room temperature) popcorn.
One word worth knowing
“Prorogation” is a word that appeared in the news a few weeks ago when famed men’s rights activist and Tory leadership contender Dominic Raab started floating the idea about (bad), then it disappeared as everyone maybe realised it would be a mad idea (good) and now Boris Johnson has refused to say he wouldn’t do it (bad) so we’re back, back again.
The basic concept is: we’re about to get a Prime Minister who’s quite keen on leaving the EU without a deal, presiding over a Parliament that doesn’t want to leave the EU without a deal. The solution? Proroguing Parliament would mean shutting it down, so putting an end to all the bills going through and sending the MPs back to their constituencies until a new parliamentary session starts.
Technically a Prime Minister *can* do it, but it would be heavily frowned upon, so...let’s see what happens next.