Labour don’t care about democracy – and they’re stoking division
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BY SUSAN HALL
Would anyone like to join my campaign to have the 1997 General Election annulled?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. I was never John Major’s biggest fan, but I was certain at the time that he would make a better Prime Minister than Tony Blair. With the benefit of hindsight I think it’s pretty clear that I was correct so let’s scrap that unfortunate result. Or, on second thoughts, maybe 1997 is a bit too far in the past. Perhaps it would be more reasonable to go back to 2010. As you might recall the Conservatives gained 97 seats to reach 307 MPs in total. That wasn’t bad, but it was 19 seats short of a majority meaning that David Cameron felt he had little choice but to invite Nick Clegg to form a coalition Government. Wouldn’t it have been so much better if the Conservatives had gained another 50 seats, gained a majority of 64 and been able to govern by themselves?
I know, I know. That’s not how democracy works. In all honesty I agree, which is why I still find it bizarre that there are people who continue to try and ignore the British people’s collective, democratic decision to leave the European Union.
There are, of course, millions of people who voted to Remain in the EU who have always fully accepted that we must leave. Indeed polling by ComRes this week showed 39% of Remain voters believe that the referendum result should be respected. From one perspective this should not be seen as particularly worthy of praise. After all, accepting democratic decisions is really quite a low bar to hurdle over. However as it appears there may well be several million of my fellow citizens who don’t have any respect for democracy, I find myself feeling ever more admiration for those who do.
It is now the official policy of the Liberal Democrats to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit should they gain a majority at the next General Election. It’s possible that this will help Jo Swinson’s shameless Party to gain millions more votes at the next election. That a political party well known for saying anything to get elected might take the tactical decision to gain votes by doing something that most Lib Dem members want to do anyway might not be a complete shock, but at the same time it is genuinely appalling that most Lib Dems – with a few notable exceptions, like the admirable Norman Lamb – seem comfortable taking as extreme a position as “Let’s cancel a democratic vote.”
To be completely clear, the EU referendum is incomplete. We have had the vote, the decision on whether to leave the European Union or remain a member has been made, but that decision has yet to be implemented. Once the UK has left then it would be entirely legitimate for a political party to campaign for a referendum to rejoin. If that party won a General Election with a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum to ask the people if they wished to rejoin the EU then that referendum should definitely happen. But that question cannot and must not be asked until we have left.
To do so would be a betrayal, not just of 17.4 million people who voted to Leave but of millions more who voted to Remain but who respect the result and who wish to live in a country that does respect democratic votes. There should be no revocation and no second referendum until the result of the first referendum has been implemented.
As the likes of Tom Watson, Sadiq Khan and Emily Thornberry make googly eyes at a policy that clearly makes them deeply envious there is a battle within the Labour Party over whether they should officially back Remain. Labour’s current policy – that they would negotiate a brilliant deal and then campaign against it in a new referendum – is a cruel joke inflicted on every Labour MP who has to try and justify it in public.
I believe that the vast majority of the British people are decent and fair-minded. In a General Election they would make clear that they back Boris Johnson to complete our exit from the European Union. That is why Labour and the Lib Dems are willing to play such a dangerous, cynical game. They hope that democrats will grow weary of waiting for the British people’s decision to be implemented. They believe that they can undermine the Prime Minister by forcing him to break his word. That approach will not work.
The majority recognise what is happening in Parliament, they can see that Boris Johnson and his team are doing everything possible to leave with a good deal on 31st October. Nevertheless they understand that democracy demands that if the EU chooses to cut off its nose to spite its face and will not agree on a good deal then we must leave without one. Whatever tactics Labour and the “Liberal Democrats” (When will they change their name?) try to use, eventually there will be a General Election. Jo Swinson’s Party may capture some votes from Jeremy Corbyn’s Party, but I predict that election will go very badly for those who pretend that whether or not we leave the EU is a subject that is still up for debate.
Susan Hall is a London Assembly Member and Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group. Follow her on twitter: @Councillorsuzie