Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Broken Promises

I'm adding my few words to the millions already written on the subject of an EU Referendum. I found myself closely following the debate in Parliament on Monday, when over 50 MP's spoke for over five hours, culminating in a late vote.

The debate was triggered by an e-petition reaching over 100,000 signatures, and the motion discussed was this.

"The House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom
  1. should remain a member of the European Union on the current terms; or
  2. leave the European Union; or
  3. re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation".
In case you've missed it, this is how the vote went. Those for the motion, 111; those against the motion, 483; Majority, 372. This was not a surprise, given that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition both said that "the time was not right for a referendum", and they would not support the motion. The Prime Minister went even further and issued a three-line whip, which meant that all Conservative MP's would be required to vote against the motion.

What has angered so many people though, and I'm in this camp, is that there shouldn't have been the need for an e-petition, or a vote in Parliament, because the British people were promised a vote, and that promise has been broken; we have been lied to; trust has evaporated. I'm not normally a lover of the Daily Express, but they have strongly led the cry for Britain to get out of the EU.

Their headline today read, "Scandal over EU Betrayal: MP's cheat us out of referendum". They accused those MP's who voted against the motion of being craven cowards. The Government has not only broken its promise, it is dismissing as nothing the views of the British people, and treating us as if we know nothing. The Daily Express petition calling for Britain to leave the EU received 373,000 signatures, and an opinion poll for ITV News at Ten showed that 68% of people want a vote. Democracy I'm afraid has taken another knock. Cameron should know, that from what I've read, the battle will go on, until the British people have had their say. If the three options in the motion before Parliament were in a referendum, it would give all sides an opportunity to present their case, and to trust the people to decide their future.

Stewart Jackson MP
The night at Westminster was not a total disaster though, as it is worth remembering that 111 MP's voted for the motion. You can see the list of names here. There were 79 Conservative MP's who defied the Whip, plus two Tellers who couldn't vote, but said they would support the motion, making 81 in total who defied their Leader in support of the right to simply let the people decide their political destiny.

This was the largest rebellion over Europe since the UK joined the EEC in 1973, and came about because they saw what the blogger Archbishop Cranmer saw, "The political elite are apparently in perpetual collusion to surrender the people's sovereignty to an unelected and unaccountable government in Brussels". The 111 supporters for a referendum NOW, should be applauded. In addition to 81 Tories, there were 19 Labour MP's who defied their Leader, 1 LibDem, 8 DUP, 1 Green and 1 Independent.

I've never voted Conservative in my life, and I never thought that I would speak of a modern-day Conservative hero, but I find myself doing so, and in no way am I begrudging it. The man in question is Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, who probably encapsulated the thoughts of many MP's. Up until Monday, he was the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In the debate he said, "For me, constituency and country must come before the baubles of ministerial office. I will keep that faith with my constituents and with a heavy heart, I will vote for the motion and I will take the consequences". He was duly sacked. This is the kind of MP I want to see.

While praising the 111, what can be said about the 483 who voted against the motion? They not only colluded in broken promises; they have disregarded the wishes of the majority of the British people to have a referendum. Their decision on Monday the 24th October 2011 will not be forgotten, when the time for the next election comes round.

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