It was parliament at its best, which is also its worst. The debate was passionate, the drama intense. And no one beyond the chamber could reasonably be expected to understand what the hell was going on. The short version: MPs arrived in the Commons on Monday afternoon expecting a debate on the European arrest warrant. They discovered that the government motion had been worded to cover a range of other European Union criminal justice measures – but not the thing Eurosceptics most wanted to argue over.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, deployed an ancient procedural device to derail the whole debate (on the grounds that it was on the wrong rails to begin with). So the question before MPs became whether to vote to not vote on something that was not the thing they had come to vote on in the first place.
Irate Eurosceptics threatened to side with Labour. Conservative whips fired off panicky text messages summoning absent MPs. David Cameron had to abandon the Lord Mayor of London’s banqueting table and race to the Commons, striding through the lobby in white tie and tail coat. It was the right costume for a rarefied legislative farce.
Legislative farce indeed. Do the politicians ever contemplate how their actions appear to the general public? Is it any wonder that confidence in the mother of parliaments is diminishing by the day?