Top 7: The strangest moments in British politics in the past week (29 March – 6 April)

, by Juuso Järviniemi

Top 7: The strangest moments in British politics in the past week (29 March – 6 April)
Photo originally published on the Led By Donkeys Facebook page, reused with permission.

Westminster never fails to disappoint politically-minded thrillseekers. New unusual, unbelievable and embarrassing stories now come out of London on a daily basis. A countdown of the strangest moments in UK politics since midnight on Friday night, the moment the UK was originally meant to leave the EU. Unfortunately, none of the stories were April Fool’s.

#7: Huge SOS message projected on the White Cliffs of Dover

In Dover, the town facing the English Channel crossing, the “Led By Donkeys” campaign group projected pro-European campaign messages on the surface of the famous white cliffs. A blue-and-yellow “SOS” may have been the most eye-catching message in the minute-long video of the 3,000 square-metre projection, released by the group on Thursday. In a complicated situation, sometimes three letters are enough to capture the feelings of half the population.

#6: UK issues passports without “European Union” written on cover, but still not in blue

On Friday, news media reported that since 29 March, the UK has begun to issue passports without the words “European Union” written on the cover. However, the colour of the passports remains burgundy, as with the majority of EU member states. The British Home Office explained the change by saying that it had assumed the UK would leave the EU on 29 March. Some of the new passports issued will still include the words European Union on the cover, but according to the Home Office, the individual cannot choose whether to have the words on their passport. The Home Office added that blue passports are set to be introduced in late 2019.

#5: House of Commons vote ends up in tie for the first time since 1993

“The ayes to the right, 310. The noes to the left, 310. (laughter)” On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted on whether MPs could have yet another round of “indicative votes” to determine what Brexit solutions the parliamentarians could support. The MPs had failed to support any of the eight options presented to them the previous week, and on April Fool’s they found no majority for any of the four options brought back. However, the tie on Wednesday was an even starker illustration of the Parliament’s indecision. After calling “order”, the Speaker John Bercow cast a deciding vote against a third round of indicative votes next Monday, explaining that such a decision should not be taken without a majority of other MPs supporting it. While various outlets reported that this was the first tie in 39 years, according to the Institute for Government the previous time the Speaker had to cast a deciding vote was in 1993.

#4: Protester waves English flag on the roof of a London railway station, cancelling traffic to Brussels

Friday 29 March was an evening of disappointment to Brexit supporters. One of them decided to climb on the roof of the London St Pancras railway station, waving an English flag. Metro.co.uk reports that the 44-year-old man spent all night on the station roof, disrupting the travel of thousands of passengers who sought to take the Eurostar train to Brussels. Free movement of people from the station continued after the police arrested the protester for trespass and obstruction of the railway.

#3: Theresa May to order European elections in the UK, while hoping they get cancelled last minute

On Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May requested a Brexit extension until 30 June, while maintaining that the UK government seeks to push its Brexit deal through Parliament in time for the country to leave the EU before the start of European elections on 23 May. In her letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, Theresa May says that “the Government is [...] making the Order that sets the date of the poll”, as well as doing other preparations to ensure the UK is ready to hold the elections. Parties and candidates are therefore set to begin campaigning in the elections, and on Friday Nigel Farage confirmed that he will stand as a candidate of his new “Brexit Party” in the elections. However, Theresa May’s stated ambition is that the campaigns are cut short, and that the public won’t have a chance to vote for any candidate. This, apparently, is the “will of the people” and would certainly not “undermine trust in democracy”.

#2: Semi-nude protesters point out “naked truth” about climate in Parliament’s public gallery

On Monday, activists from the environmentalist Extinction Rebellion group stripped themselves half-naked in the House of Commons while some glued their hands to the glass separating the public gallery from the main chamber. The group was pointing to attention to the “naked truth” about the effects of the climate and ecological crisis. Cameras captured Members of Parliament having a difficult time concentrating on their Brexit debate as the protesters’ buttocks faced the chamber. As the debate went on during the protest, MPs made jokes about “fleshing out” arguments, among others. The incident ended as 12 protesters were escorted out of the gallery by the police and arrested for “outraging public decency”.

#1: House of Commons adjourns because of a water leak

On Thursday, the House of Commons had to finish its proceedings two hours earlier than planned because of a large, loud water leak into the press gallery of the chamber. The House of Commons Press Office clarified that the leak was not sewage. Members of Parliament quickly made metaphors, saying that “Parliament is broken”. As reported by New York Times, the Conservative MP Julia Lopez asked whether a Biblical flood might be “coming to wash us all away”. At this point, it would seem unwise to deem anything impossible. We shall wait and see what happens on and after 12 April.

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