“We live in extraordinary political times. This is a crisis on a scale not seen for decades. And the most extraordinary thing of all? This is an entirely manufactured crisis, homegrown in Britain, created by the actions of a handful of people – Boris Johnson chief among them.
Last week Johnson took the unprecedented step of announcing the suspension of Parliament – a move that rightly outraged the majority of MPs and citizens. No wonder so many thousands took to the streets across the country, including here in Herefordshire, to defend our Parliamentary democracy and stop the coup. It was indeed a coup, albeit without ‘tanks on the lawns’ – it was a brazen, autocratic attempt to seize power from elected representatives, by a prime minister with a wafer thin majority.
It was indefensible and appalling – and those are the words of a Conservative MP!
Johnson has been gambling recklessly all along. He gambled that he could pretend the blockage was the EU, when the truth is that his problem is the division within his own party. He gambled that he could side with the Brexiteer hardliners and force moderates to give up. He gambled with the country’s future by threatening ‘no deal’ – a strategy of catastrophic self harm. Johnson’s gambles have backfired spectacularly.
All other parties have been absolutely united in opposing Johnson’s attempt to silence debate – and a significant number of brave Conservatives have put principle before party, and country before personal interest.This week, Johnson not only lost his party’s majority in the House; he lost his very first vote as PM, and all shreds of credibility as a leader.
There is another way forward. As a country, we have been deeply damaged by this Brexit mess. It’s high time we started looking for common ground and rebuilding our broken politics. That’s a task that goes way beyond Brexit – but first we do indeed need to resolve Brexit.
I believe we are better off in the EU, but I recognise that a narrow majority wanted to leave, more than three years ago now. So what we need now is a compromise agreement – the best possible withdrawal deal – which should then be put to the people for the final say.
I would of course campaign, as I have always done, to remain.
Because Brexit was never our core problem. Membership of the EU costs less than one per cent of government spending. Brexit has left us no time to think about the other 99% of government business – vitally important things like the NHS, schools, social care, and tackling the climate crisis.
Brexit would make things worse in all those areas. We are quite literally fiddling while the planet burns.
Fundamentally the Brexit mess has shown just how broken our political system is. Our democracy is creaking at the seams, in desperate need of fixing.
Here are three positive ideas for starters: change the electoral system so that all votes count equally, abolish the unelected House of Lords, and clean up politics by removing the influence of dirty money. A fairer, cleaner, more grown-up politics would encourage our leaders to act in the long-term interest of the country as a whole, and seek common ground rather than taking extreme positions.
It would enable us to re-set our relationship with the European Union, and finally turn our attention to other things that really matter – starting with the climate emergency.”