Well that’s that, the end to another great Summer, a mixture of ‘what a scorcher’ and ‘what a washout’ but generally memories of Summer weather 2019 will be positive. The appeal of Thanet to visitors continues to grow, whether for a proper holiday or a short visit: really good news for local employment and businesses who I’m sure have enjoyed a bumper year. The Addington Street fair in Ramsgate this weekend was bigger than ever and hugely enjoyable.
Schools will be returning, and what greater present to staff, pupils and parents than the commitment to boost school spending by £14Bn between now and 2023 across improved salaries for teachers and additional funding per pupil in secondary and primary schools.
My ‘Big School’ of Westminster similarly returns this week; one wonders how many of my colleagues will find themselves on the ‘naughty step’ before the week is up as they advance unconstitutional measures to thwart Brexit. Let’s get this very clear: whilst referendums have never historically been the norm under the UK constitution, unlike arrangements in Switzerland, they are increasingly used in the UK for issues as diverse as deciding upon regional assemblies, alternative voting systems, Scottish independence, and yes, finally, on settling the issue of our relationship with the EU. Prior to the 2016 Brexit referendum the government sent a glossy leaflet to every household with unambiguous wording “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” This mirrors entirely the intention of Parliament in the Referendum Act and the extensive debates in Parliament that preceded it. This was not to be an indicative vote, a maybe vote, a subject to vote or anything else. The choice on the ballot paper was clear and unambiguous as well – do you want to remain or leave? This was a time when the usual Sovereign power of Parliament was returned to the electorate; Parliament relegated itself to the second division, and the Sovereignty of the nation, on this issue, was properly given to the voters. Indeed, after a long referendum campaign spanning six months and endless analysis and discussion across all media, a well-informed public made its decision on a high turnout, with leave winning by a margin of more than a million.
It is not now for Parliament or government to do anything but implement the will of the nation. Which leads me on to the false outrage generated about prorogation. We have a new energetic Prime Minister and Executive team with an exciting domestic agenda to advance. This requires new Bills to be introduced. This requires a new Queen’s speech to start the ball rolling. This has happened most years, generally in the Autumn, for as close to ‘ever’ as counts. Additionally, for the last 80 years, Westminster has gone into a 4-week Conference season recess. This prorogation adds just a few days to that normal conference season, returning on 14th October rather than the 7th. It is not a ‘coup’, a ‘shutting down of democracy’ or any other daft term that many want to shout about. It’s normal. What is abnormal is that this last session of Parliament has been the longest for nearly 400 years; it’s gone on for far too long, and latterly has done far too little; it had run out of steam.
Is the prorogation related to Brexit? Predominantly not for reasons above, but the government is duty bound to implement the will of the people on Brexit and must do everything necessary to deliver. With the new timetable there is ample time to keep on discussing Brexit in the Chamber, and ample time after the EU Council of Ministers meeting on 17th October, which will be a crucial last chance for the EU to play fairly and agree to a Brexit deal that benefits everybody.