I wrote before Christmas, a little ‘tongue in cheek’, a variety of news choices for you to select, as the week ahead looked so unknown. As I write this on Monday, a similar sense of uncertainty is in the air at the start of this Parliamentary week. Will a minority group of disgruntled remain supporting MPs be able to take control of the Brexit process, putting aside centuries of Parliamentary convention? Will the Speaker who has become increasingly erratic on issues of long-standing standing orders, allow his great office to be used to frustrate the will of the electorate? Thank heavens my article wasn’t penned at the beginning of last week. Whilst I might have foreseen an inevitable loss for the government on the draft Withdrawal Agreement (I voted against as it does not reflect any meaningful Brexit), I might not have guessed at the stupidity of the Leader of the Opposition in pushing a vote of no confidence in the government. The outcome of that particular waste of a Parliamentary day’s business was easily guessed at.
I am concerned that Parliament is so out of step with the electorate. I refer to the dramatic line in the Government’s pre-referendum leaflet sent to every household “This is your decision. the government will implement what you decide.” I remind the group of MP colleagues who now think they know best: 498 MPs voted to trigger Article 50 (the departure mechanism in the EU treaties); over 80% of votes cast at the unexpected General Election were for parties – predominantly the big two, who, within their manifestos, gave a promise to honour the June 2016 referendum. The current view of MPs is, in my view, an irrelevance; the decision on EU membership was given to the public, and on this binary issue, putting my own strong pro-Brexit feelings aside, I see myself as a mere agent for the 64% of South Thanet voters who voted to leave. They didn’t vote to leave just a bit, to remain half-in, half-out. If this means, due to intransigence by the EU Commission to offer anything acceptable, that we leave with ‘no deal’, better called a Global WTO Brexit, then so be it and we need to plan.
You will be aware, after being accused of being complicit in election overspending in the 2015 General Election (yes 2015, not 2017) that I was acquitted on all counts at Southwark Crown Court. It was a truly unpleasant experience that wore heavily on myself and family. Despite being formally charged on 2nd June 2017, just 6 days before the general election – I’ll leave you to consider the appropriateness of the Crown Prosecution Service making that call at the height of an election period, I was grateful that the constituents of South Thanet kept their faith and returned me to Parliament with the highest number of votes ever recorded for a Conservative in South Thanet, and 50.8% of the vote. I have been writing widely about it, particularly on the ambiguous nature of election law and how the Electoral Commission, the supposed guardians of all things relating to elections, are patently failing in their functions.
Back to normal? You bet!