There is nothing less dramatic than the high-stakes tedium of parliamentary procedure; these sorts of battles have all the panache, verve and appeal of day-old fish and chips. Yet there is drama, of a sort, because resorting to these kinds of tactics for a major policy matter signals a profound breakdown somewhere else in the political system. Normally, in matters of great import, people find some more reasonable way of getting things done than by trawling for loopholes in “Robert’s Rules of Order.”
But then, it’s hard to find a reasonable solution when your voters seem set on the impossible. A majority of Britons may oppose a no-deal Brexit, but one can find the same poll also showing majorities opposing a second referendum — and earlier polls showed that they weren’t any fonder of the only real alternative to those two options, the “soft Brexit” deal May negotiated with the E.U.
Depending on the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, we’re probably in for even more of this technical procedural maneuvering — Johnson threatening to call a snap election, Labour threatening to block it. Everyone searching for a loophole that will obscure the choice unreasoning voters have left them: between indefinite years of economically and politically corrosive indecision, or an immediate separation that will at least be definite, but also definitely very painful for everyone involved.