Sir Thomas More speaks for Sir Geoffrey Cox

“Sir Thomas More” by hape662 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Boris Johnson may think he has managed to sweet talk abstaining and objecting MPs into backing his heinous Internal Market Bill, but some, it seems, remain resistant to his blandishments and see the issue for what it is: an attempt to legitimise/democritise (make the MPs carry the can) the breaking of international law.

Sir Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, is one such and he has made his feelings very clear with the help of the Zimmerman film of Robert Bolt’s fine play, ‘A Man for All Seasons.’

This was Sir Geoffrey’s tweet this morning. It warrants watching a few times. It’s a very clever choice, not only because it perfectly sums up the current situation but because Henry VIII is involved – then and now. In 2020, ‘only’ his powers have been invoked, but Henry’s willingness back then to bend the law to suit his own ends have an unpleasant resonance and relevance right now.

Here is the text:

William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

It is rather delicious, isn’t it? It could not be more apposite.

It could also not be more disturbing. We can still scarcely believe it, but 332 Conservative MPs were quite prepared to throw the law, the good name of the UK and our future as a trading nation straight under the proverbial bus.

Unsurprisingly, the tweet drew plaudits from citizens similarly concerned to see the UK adhere to the rule of law. But there was also cynicism:

Sir Geoffrey might also have quoted this from the same play:

“The law is not a “light” for you or any man to see by; the law is not an instrument of any kind. …The law is a causeway upon which, so long as he keeps to it, a citizen may walk safely.”
― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

I don’t know about you, but I prefer to have that causeway – that causeway which Mr Cummings and Boris Johnson, aided and abetted by sycophants and ideologues, are trying as hard as they may to destroy.

Sir Geoffrey’s constituents might like to thank him for standing up for the rule of law. We need more MPs to stand up against this erosion of decency, integrity and honesty and we need them to do it right now. Enough with the headlong rush to rogue state status. Enough.