In 1990 John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher as PM, and this is the only context where ‘John Major’ and ‘succeed’ can be used in the same sentence.
That upheaval was effectively a coup perpetrated by the cabinet members ready to pledge their allegiance to Europe at the expense of British sovereignty.
The group, led by Michael Heseltine , chose Major as their front man (if the coup succeeded) or scapegoat (if it failed).
Major, whose academic attainment in his youth had been deemed inadequate for the job of bus conductor, represented Mrs Thatcher’s tragic mistake. It was she who had plucked this unremitting nonentity out of parliamentary obscurity and elevated him to the post of Chancellor.
Her rationale probably was the same as that of her nemeses: she thought Major was easy to manipulate and too inconsequential to be dangerous. Fair enough, Major did prove easy to manipulate – but not by her.
After all, he couldn’t ride two bandwagons at once. When Heseltine’s and Thatcher’s bandwagons went their divergent ways, Major jumped on Heseltine’s and hence the EU’s.
Though lacking in intellect and integrity, he was richly endowed with the apparatchik’s sensitive nose for where the wind is blowing. Since at the time it was blowing in the direction of Brussels, Major joined forces with other Europhiles to twist Mrs Thatcher’s arm into entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism.
That was widely seen as a prelude to joining the single currency and hence the EU. Margaret Thatcher resisted that step for as long as she could, but the combined weight of Messrs Heseltine, Hurd, Howe, Clark et al squashed her flat.
In 1990 Major became the puppet PM and signed the Maastricht Treaty two years later. In another seven months Britain predictably crashed out of the ERM, shedding an estimated £3.3 billion.
Another five years later Major’s leadership of his party produced its most devastating electoral defeat in modern times, elevating to government an even more venomous nonentity, Blair.
At the time Major affixed his autograph to the Maastricht Treaty, I thought it was treasonous – and I still do.
I was satisfied then, as I am now, that signing that document was tantamount to transferring sovereignty from Parliament to a foreign body, which fits any sensible definition of treason.
This, regardless of whether the foreign body in question is good or bad, and irrespective of any economic gains accrued thereby. In that case, the gains were nonexistent, but that wasn’t the issue – and it still isn’t.
Yet Major’s allegiance to the EU was never classified as treason because he found himself on the winning side. As John Harrington (d. 1612) explained, “Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.”
Like the Nazi and Vichy bureaucrats morphing into a homogeneous group that later became the EU by incremental steps, so did the British apparat – with some dissent – merge with its continental counterpart.
By now Major’s undying devotion to European federalism, along with his understated intellect and integrity, has become a pandemic disease spreading from Westminster to such oases of collaboration as Notting Hill, Islington and most of the media.
But not to the country at large. When Major’s spiritual heir Cameron arrogantly called a referendum because he was certain of victory and hoped thereby to put paid to all that talk about leaving the EU, he was in for a let-down.
The people voted by a solid majority of over a million to leave that contrivance and revert to the sovereignty of Parliament, that cornerstone of the British constitution.
Both Houses then overwhelmingly voted to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, formally notifying the EU of Britain’s departure. One would have thought that the matter was closed. The constitution was back on course.
It was then that a demonstration was staged, if any was needed post-Maastricht, that such things as the constitution, Parliament, the will of the people, democracy and Britain’s entire political history mean nothing to the quisling elite that had in effect usurped power.
Because the government was divided on the matter, the quislings decided to take governing away from the government and transfer it to what they call Parliament, meaning themselves.
They are confident of their majority there, and they’re probably right – because Parliament is no longer the constitutional body evolved over centuries. It has largely become the headquarters of the subversive elite, almost as unaccountable to the British electorate as the EU elite is.
This is the only possible explanation of the very fact that they now have a majority in Parliament. After all, in the last election all but a few dozen of them were returned on the promise issued by both major parties: to comply with the result of the referendum and take Britain out of the EU.
Liars then, opportunists now, self-serving nonentities ever – their true allegiance is pledged to themselves and whichever group is more promising to serve their careers. The EU is hard to beat: it can promise princely employment for productive life and a king’s ransom of a vast pension thereafter.
At that point, Major had to be taken off the mothballs, where he had resided for 21 years. He was asked (tasked?) to explain to the world what parliamentary sovereignty really means in today’s Britain, issuing in the process his own version of Apologia Pro Vita Sua.
Major didn’t disappoint. Article 50, he wrote, must be revoked and a second referendum called. The 17.4 million Britons – more than have ever voted for anything else – who voted to leave proved themselves to be indolent pupils who must re-sit their exams.
They don’t know what’s good for them, but thank God there’s Major to teach them. No-deal Brexit, he hectored, would be catastrophic: “Every single household – rich or poor – would be worse off for many years to come.”
I’ve never been prepared to argue the issue of Britain’s constitutional survival on such a puny basis. Even assuming that Brexit would make us all slightly poorer, our sacrifice for preserving Britain’s historical constitution would be negligible compared to the sacrifices previous generations had to make to the same sacred end.
“This may be politically uncomfortable,” conceded Major, “but any short-term political disruption pales into insignificance when compared with the potential long-term damage that could be wreaked on our country as a whole.”
Let me see if I understand. Burying Britain’s constitution for ever is a temporarily uncomfortable disruption, while potential long-term damage will last in eternity.
I especially like that ‘potential’. The potential for problems or even disasters is ever-present, especially in a country where spivocratic nonentities like Major can become prime ministers.
One can say with equal justification that any election at all, including one for the town librarian, may cause potentially long-term damage. Since in this case the list of confidently predicted disasters includes the debris of satellites falling on our heads, one can safely disregard that inane threat.
What I find particularly refreshing is the gall of our homespun constitutional experts who co-opt Edmund Burke to their own take on parliamentary sovereignty.
Didn’t Burke teach that MPs should be the people’s representatives, not their delegates? Meaning that, once elected, they should act according to the people’s interests (as they see them), not their wishes?
So what’s the problem then? We take the decision away from both the cabinet and the electorate and transfer it to Parliament. That makes this august body truly sovereign, doesn’t it?
Arguing against this idiotic effrontery, Stephen Glover referred to the great Whig as a Tory, but then one expects fundamental ignorance from our commentators.
Chaps, if Burke, one of the greatest constitutional thinkers ever, came back from heaven and saw this on-going Walpurgisnacht, he’d shudder and plead: “Pray, Sir, do take me back whence I came.”
Burke, now forced to cross the aisle to the Tory side, knew different MPs and different voters from today’s lot. Less than five per cent of the population were entitled to vote then (good old days, I say), and some two-thirds of them were in the south.
The voters trusted the MPs to act in their interests because they knew them, often personally, to be sage, accomplished men who dedicated their lives to public service – as opposed to personal enrichment through a career in public services.
It was only in 1911 that parliamentary salaries were introduced. Until then MPs had served pro bono publico, not, as they do today, pro their own bono, and the public be damned.
Instant accountability was guaranteed, and Burke didn’t even have to spell it out. Today, in conditions of our universal franchise run riot, the situation is entirely different.
Today’s crop of MPs are a breed apart from what Burke saw, and himself was. The constitutional arrangement still accentuates parliamentary sovereignty, but it can now only mean independence from foreign legislation – not from the voters’ wishes. For such independence would mean unaccountability.
In any case, today’s lot solve the Burkean conflict between representatives and delegates by being neither. They use voters to advance their own careers, and their pronouncements to the contrary are just camouflage.
Spending my life surrounded by brilliant and erudite British people, and looking at the pygmies who supposedly represent them, I often wonder if de Maistre was right when saying that every nation gets the kind of government it deserves.
I think he’d change his view if he saw the likes of Major. No nation deserves him.