These days our legislators seem to exempt themselves from their own legislation. It’s often said (although it may not be true) that smoking isn’t banned in the bars inside the Westminster Houses of Parliament. But it seems to be true that smoking isn’t banned inside EU parliamentary buildings, even if it is banned throughout Europe. It may well also be true elsewhere.
There are some 650 MPs in the UK parliament, and this morning I found myself wondering what would have happened if all the smokers among them had been exiled to the outdoors along with all the rest of the smokers in the UK.
I imagined a noisy parliamentary debate on a Smokers Exclusion Bill in which 80% of MPs voted one morning to expel the remaining 20% of smoking MPs from the chamber, on health grounds. And so after the vote had been counted, some 130 MPs would have trooped out of the chamber of the House of Commons, and all stood out in the streets of Westminster, singly or in knots of 2 or 3 MPs, smoking cigarettes or pipes or cigars.
But why stop there? And so I imagined that next the MPs in parliament would debate an amendment to the Bill on whether to expel all the alcohol-drinking MPs from the chamber as well, once again on health grounds. Prior to the expulsion of the smoking MPs there might have been a majority of drinkers over non-drinkers, but since almost all the smokers were also drinkers, and had already been expelled, they now formed a slight minority of MPs. And so in a second vote, Parliament would vote to expel all its drinkers. And so another 250 MPs would troop out onto the streets of Westminster, and stand around sipping glasses of beer and wine and whisky.
And then the remaining 270 MPs in parliament might have voted on a second amendment, this time on whether to expel all the fat MPs from the chamber, again on health grounds. Originally some 80% of MPs had been overweight to one degree or other, but after the expulsion of the smokers and drinkers in the previous two votes, they too had become a minority. And so after the successful passage of the second amendment another 130 MPs would troop out of the Houses of Parliament, and join their colleagues outside on the streets of Westminster.
And then, after a vote on a third amendment to exclude all male MPs, as ever on health grounds, a further 50 MPs would be expelled.
By now, I imagined that crowds of people would have gathered to hoot and jeer at the exiled MPs standing forlornly around the Houses of Parliament. BBC cameras would have arrived, and MPs would be being interviewed on Parliament Square. Some would have been expressing their outrage at what had been done to them, while others would have been pointing out that it had all been done perfectly democratically, and that the will of the parliament was sovereign.
With traffic having ground to a halt, and the noisy crowd pressing ever closer, the police would then have arrived, and finding no defensible position for the expelled MPs, would have opened the doors of Westminster Hall, and ushered the 560 expelled MPs inside.
By this time, after several more votes inside the Commons on further amendments, there would be only 11 MPs left inside the chamber, all of them women, half of them black, and another half Muslims. The remaining 639 MPs would all be inside Westminster Hall, under the protection of police defending them from the crowd outside now hammering noisily at the door.
The 11 MPs – the Eleven – would now declare themselves to be the new British government, and would rapidly start enacting new laws. Sharia law would be imposed throughout the UK. Men would have to wear skirts. Women would have to wear burqas. And so on. Within hours hundreds of new laws have been enacted.
But inside Westminster Hall, the other 639 MPs would by now be conducting their own debates. They would have declared themselves to be the True Parliament of Britain, even though their votes no longer carried the force of law behind them. And they would announce that, although they had been expelled from Parliament, they all remained the elected Members of Parliament for their local constituencies, and since these constituencies were no longer represented in parliament, they had all become independent states.
And so after this Declaration of Constituency Independence, the 639 MPs would each go back to their own constituencies, where they were now the Heads of State. And the smokers among them would repeal smoking bans in their constituency, and the drinkers would lift all alcohol restrictions, and the fat ones would lift restrictions on fast food chains, and so on. Britain would dissolve into 639 separate statelets, with only 11 others having failed to declare independence, most of them in north London.
Fighting would almost instantly have broken out between some of these constituencies, as they tried to secure key roads and bridges, and set up borders. Islington North, one of the constituencies of the Eleven, would be invaded from the north from Haringey, and Islington South would be invaded from the Cities of London and Westminster. Within days the Eleven MPs in parliament would have lost their constituencies, and been replaced by new MPs. And within a week the 639 expelled MPs, along with 11 new ones, would have returned to Parliament to repeal all the acts passed by the Eleven during their brief reign, and a great many more.
All this is very fanciful, of course. But as smokers and drinkers and fat people are declared personae non gratae, this is what is happening everywhere. I no longer think that the UK parliament represents smokers like me. Same with the EU parliament. The political fragmentation of Britain may not have been taking place inside parliament itself, but it’s been happening outside. And as the numbers of the exiled and excluded swell, they will eventually become the majority.