Theresa May is criticised for her handling of the European Arrest Warrant vote. Photo: BBC
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35 Tories rebel after Speaker halts May on European Arrest Warrant

Disarray in the House after the Speaker gives backbenchers a chance to clarify this evening’s debate on European crime measures.

This article originally appeared on the New Statesman's election website May2015. Follow it on Twitter @May2015NS.

What is going on in the House?

Points of order are flying, the Home Secretary is speaking in disjointed hesitations and Labour sense a chance to escape a torrid news cycle.

The furore is over what exactly parliament are debating, and whether the government is trying to use tonight’s vote to pass measures they haven’t give the House a chance to debate.

The issue at hand is a package of European crime measures. The government opted out 110 of the measures last year but are now partially opting back into 35 of them.

These include a contentious measure know as the European Arrest Warrant. It is opposed by dozens of backbench Tory MPs and Ukip (who protested against it outside the House today).

The debate this evening was meant to be on only 10 of the EU crime measures, and not the EAW. Except Theresa May and the government tried – and still appear to be trying – to suggest that a vote for those measures would also given them approval to opt into the EAW.

In winning approval in this way, it was hoped the government would escape a fight with its backbenchers, who would not approve the EAW in a clearly stated debate.

The problem for the government is the Speaker, John Bercow, suggested members would have some “latitude” to discuss the measures the government has excluded from tonight’s motion, but is planning to opt-into.

During the debate, that “latitude” turned into a scarcely veiled criticism by Bercow that “Most of us think a commitment made is a commitment that should be honoured”.

He was referring to David Cameron’s promise to hold a vote on EAW before next week’s Rochester by-election. There ensued a farce where David Davis summed up the mood of the House by telling Bercow “We are debating we know not what”.

Continued calls were made for May to clarify whether the House was actually debating the EAW, and whether the government would take a vote tonight as a vote for EAW.

Bercow clarified that “the vote is on the regulations, not the European Arrest Warrant”, and then the House divided for a vote on whether to extend the current non-debate of the EAW, or have a longer debate which would, presumably, have involved a more direct debate on the EAW.

After reportedly rushing Tories MPs to the House – including the Prime Minister himself – the government passed the motion to continue their shorter debate by just nine votes. 35 Tory MPs rebelled against the motion, seeking a fuller debate on the EAW.

It remains unclear whether May will try to use tonight’s vote as an endorsement for the EAW. Labour’s Chris Bryant has asked whether she will permit a direct vote in the next week, but has so far received no answer.

May2015 is the New Statesman's new elections site. Explore it for data, interviews and ideas on the general election.

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Leicester City's ascent shows how being a good loser can make you a great winner.

Claudio Ranieri wasn't expected to take a team to the top of Premier League. But dignity can earn you second chances.

Dignity isn’t so dated after all. Claudio Ranieri, champion; José Mourinho, unemployed. Dignity, it turns out, earns you second chances. It’s the Machiavels who run out of time.

The story of Leicester City’s Premier League triumph – one of sport’s finest – ended at Stamford Bridge on 2 May when Tottenham, Leicester’s nearest challengers, only managed a draw against Chelsea. In some respects, it also began there. Superficially, Ranieri “failed” during his stint as Chelsea’s manager from 2000 to 2004. Yet he never lost his dignity in one of football’s craziest jobs. He was courteous and amused to the end: the same qualities that helped to make him a winner at Leicester.

People remembered, both inside football and beyond. Ranieri’s sense of perspective and lightness of touch, evident during those hard times at Chelsea, brought him well-wishers in his better days at Leicester. His dignity as a loser has been recast as a benevolent and advanced form of strategy. Let’s hope that it is widely copied.

There is a danger of reading too much into Leicester’s splendid success. A small industry is already specialising in undercutting and puncturing overblown editorialising on “the meaning of Leicester”. Fine. Let scepticism have its moment, too.

But can we agree on a compromise? The romantics must concede that Leicester have a darker side, too. It wasn’t all charm and self-sacrificial teamwork. There was also a good measure of sports science, data analytics and street smarts. The Premier League has not become a laboratory of sporting social justice overnight. Leicester, it is true, also benefit from foreign capital. And the big guns – with their even bigger bank balances – will surely be back, sooner rather than later. History may yet record Leicester’s time at the top as a surprising interregnum in a war between giant dynasties.

Yes, I concede all of that. But will the cynics at least acknowledge some happier truths? First, a central defect of the Prem­iership has been its lack of competitive equipoise. It’s a great show but it always flirted with dangerous predictability.

Even its magical moments, such as Manchester City’s last-minute triumph in 2012, were unlikely only in the manner in which the story unfolded. Goliath beat David – on the day and over the course of the whole season – but it just took him a long time to finish the job. Yet we hailed the story, even though the favourites won, as evidence of redemptive uncertainty. Now, by contrast, we have the real thing with Leicester City’s win: genuine surprise, sport’s most precious currency.

Second, it’s time to wave goodbye to the lazy assumption, increasingly common in modern sport, that there is something intrinsically advanced about nastiness in players or managers. This meme continually creeps into the way we think about success. A manager’s rant is explained away as: “He really hates losing.” A scarcely veiled personal attack on a rival is justified as: “Real winners are all a bit like that.” Sneering contempt is whitewashed away, accepted as a burning hunger to win.

It all adds up, logically and unavoidably, not only to a lame justification of unpleasantness but also an implicit attack on behaving decently. If we say that John McEnroe’s racket-smashing is what makes him a winner, we are subtly belittling his opponent for keeping his cool.

In sport’s professional era, “good loser” has turned from one of the highest compliments into a patronising put-down. Being a good loser used to refer to behaviour when the ball was no longer in play, a virtue unconnected with winning or losing out on the pitch. Garry Sobers, Bobby Jones and Stefan Edberg were good losers. They were pretty good winners, too.

Somehow the notion of being a good loser turned 180 degrees, especially in English sport, which suffers from self-hating guilt about amateur values. It came to describe someone who is literally adept at losing – comfortable with defeat, adjusted to living that way. This accusation was levelled at Ranieri at the end of his term at Chelsea, as he suffered the humiliation of a public search for a replacement. José Mourinho, the chosen one, turned the knife when he was asked why Chelsea were sacking Ranieri. “I was told they wanted to win,” he scoffed. Mourinho voiced a widely held view: in place of a good loser would come a serial winner.

And now? The good loser is still with us, now a great winner, smiling and deflecting the credit. Ranieri almost missed the match that secured Leicester City’s victory on Monday night, because he had flown to Rome to have lunch with his 96-year-old mother. A little too stage-managed? If this is PR, let’s have more of it.

What of the bad loser who knew only victory? Mourinho is casting around hopefully, looking for another chance to mould a dressing room in his image. Yet it’s a risk, isn’t it, to give power to bad losers? And his prospective patrons are feeling risk-averse. The catastrophes of Real Madrid and his second stint at Chelsea, in which Mourinho lost the team, are hard to forget. Bad losers, contrary to the myth, are risky propositions because the earth is scorched when things don’t go according to plan.

Ranieri left Chelsea in good shape, having signed or identified most of the players who would go on to become the core of the team’s glory years. Mourinho, by contrast, left Chelsea in despair, the players seemingly mutinous and losing matches almost by design. Talent is powerful and Mourinho may be back. But it’s time to de-correlate winning and unpleasantness.

Machiavelli had the best aphorisms but he wasn’t always right. Leicester are champions and a good loser wears the crown. How much more can sport do?

Ed Smith is a journalist and author, most recently of Luck. He is a former professional cricketer and played for both Middlesex and England.

This article first appeared in the 05 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred