Rafael Behr, writing in today’s Guardian on Commons Speaker John Bercow’s ruling that Theresa May cannot bring her Brexit proposal back to the House for a third time without significant changes to it.
That doesn’t mean his decision is capricious or unconstitutional. The relevant procedural scriptures seem pretty clear on the matter, so the Speaker is well within his rights to interpret them as he has done. But it is still a matter of interpretation, and so unavoidably a heavily political action. It blasts the prime minister’s plans for the week off course. It transforms the calculations that MPs make about what should happen next. It also retrospectively casts a darker, more terminal shadow over the decision a majority of them made to reject the deal last Tuesday. Might some Tories or members of the DUP have acted differently had they known it was May’s last shot at getting her deal through?
Certainly the prime minister’s strategy has depended on eliminating options, so that eventually MPs would conclude that the only feasible Brexit on the table was hers. For that to work, she needed to keep bluffing and keep raising the stakes. She didn’t realise that ultimately, in parliament, it’s the Speaker who runs the game. And now all bets are off.
Footnote: In cricket, a googly is a type of deceptive delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler.