By failing to make what was a very easy play – disown Moore and claim some sort of moral high ground – they signaled that literally nothing is more important to them than maintaining power. Nothing. There is no "bridge too far."Something very similar applies to the Brexit ultras in the British media and Parliament.
For them, no price is too high for severing Britain from all things European. None. They appear willing, even eager to sacrifice the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, the staff of the NHS, and the banks of the City of London.
To that list, we can add British democracy itself. The likes of the Daily Mail use the language of treason to describe MPs who dare to question the Brexit process:
Those same MPs have reported death threats to the police:When judges uphold the law, they are branded enemies of the people. When MPs uphold democracy, they are branded traitors. Never has it been more important to reassert our values. pic.twitter.com/baELrja6td— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) December 13, 2017
Something has gone badly wrong in this country when a former Attorney General and elected MP receives death threats for introducing an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Simply incomprehensible. https://t.co/w6xlu6Ehav— PJM QC (@pjm1kbw) December 15, 2017
The 11 Conservative rebels this week weren't even trying to halt Brexit. They were merely asserting Parliament's authority over accepting or rejecting an exit deal. This was enough to send the Mail into spittle-flecked rage.
Less than two years ago, a good and brave British MP named Jo Cox was murdered in broad daylight, by an attacker who believed in this narrative of treason. The Daily Mail has not moderated its behaviour in response. If anything, it has grown more extreme in its celebration of hate.
The philosopher Edmund Burke said of the duty of elected representatives:
But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.
When parliamentarians must fear death for using their judgment, the United Kingdom is heading to a dark place indeed.