On 14 June 2017, shortly after the General Election I wrote this in the Gloucestershire Echo: “The Government no longer has its majority. There is now an imperative to achieve the maximum possible national consensus. The Government will need to reach out to other parties and take on board their views, including the Labour opposition.”
I’m disappointed to say that for the next two years Theresa May declined to take this advice.
That was a mistake. That’s because you can't sensibly govern as if you have a 200-seat majority in Parliament if in reality you are in a minority. Put another way, there's no point pretending you have a parliamentary battering ram to get your way if all you have in truth is a pop gun.
It’s why I wanted her to be more flexible on her so-called “red lines”. I take her point that ruling out membership of the customs union, for example, was in the Conservative manifesto. But the fact is that the British people did not return a majority Government. It’s only reasonable to acknowledge that, and adapt accordingly. Doggedness and tenacity are admirable – but only when combined with a healthy dollop of judgement.
Now, at the eleventh hour Parliament has taken control and today (Wednesday) indicative votes will take place. I was ready earlier this week to rebel against the Government to force such a process, but in the event it would have been an empty gesture. That’s because it became clear it was going to happen anyway. In answer to a direct question from me in the House of Commons, Theresa May conceded from the despatch box that she would allow such a process, setting out a timetable for indicative votes even if the Oliver Letwin proposals had been defeated.
Now is the time for MPs of all parties to have their say. In truth they should not have had to wait this long.