The Richmond Park slaughter

If you think the government is confused when it comes to Brexit, Sarah Olney, the new Lib Dem MP for Richmond Park is in a league of her own, as Rev Peter Mullen explains.

O joy, joy and more joy! Here’s a treat rarer than any blue moon: A radio interviewer with brains, articulate and sharp enough to ask the killer follow-up question to any politician’s fumbled reply. They can’t do this on The Today Programme. But is it perhaps not can’t but won’t for fear that such an intelligent approach might pierce the fog of cliché in which the BBC usually manages to conceal its modus operandi of obfuscation and prejudice?

Sarah Olney, the newly-elected MP for Richmond Park, came on TalkRadio to be interviewed by the very sharp Julia Hartley-Brewer. Julia was noteworthy among radio journalists for her ability to think sequentially and to speak in sentences. From the very beginning, she was on top of her game – which is more than you could say for the flaky Ms Olney.

She began, “When are you going to hold the second by-election?”

The flummoxed Olney stayed flummoxed.

 “I mean, you want a rerun of the referendum on our membership of the EU. That was won by the Leave campaigners with a bigger majority than you got.”

Waffle punctuated by squirming silence.

 “Fewer than 50% of the Richmond electorate voted for you. Leave got 54%. But you want a second referendum. Why not a rerun of this by-election?”

“There wasn’t a clear result to the referendum.”

“Yes there was!”

 A very long silence.

“If you can’t answer a few simple questions, people might wonder if you’re up to the job of being their MP.”

 An even longer silence.

 Enter Olney’s spin-doctor:

 “We have to go.”

 “No you don’t!”

 “Sarah has another interview to do.”

 “But how can she? This time was booked with us”

Exit Ms Olney, pursued by her quavering minder. Leaving Julia to speak the closing soliloquy:

 “She doesn’t feel she’s up to these questions – which is a bit of a shame, isn’t it?”

(If you want to hear this amazing interview yourself, you can listen to it here.)

Remainiacs – a view from outside the bubble

If you are reading this  article, chances are you are a strong supporter of the UK leaving the EU. You were probably active during the recent referendum campaign and have been following every twist and turn of events since the June 23rd vote.

Your friends and family are probably fully aware of your passion for politics and often raise the subject of Brexit in conversation. You watch or listen to the news, read a newspaper and follow a few blogs on the internet. Something crops up about Brexit every day.  It is THE issue of our time.. perhaps.

…..or perhaps it’s time to step out of our bubble for a few minutes.

Less than a week after the Brexit vote, I had to go to London. As I walked down the Thames embankment what struck me was the normality of life. Such snippets of conversation as I caught revolved around all manner of topics but not the European Union. It hardly seemed like we had just seen a radical change to the whole future shape of our country.

And this is precisely the point – the EU has never been a big issue for voters. Ask anyone who has stood as a UKIP candidate in a General Election. It was always a big challenge to convince people on the doorsteps that our very future as a sovereign nation was at stake. A survey by YouGov, taken just over a year before the Brexit  vote, put “Europe” well down the list of voter priorities.

What is more, after four months of intensive campaigning, following Mr Cameron’s decision to  forced the EU to the top of the list,  27.79% of eligible voters  – nearly 13 million – didn’t cast their ballot. Remain and leave campaigners alike emphasised that this was the most important vote the electorate was ever likely to cast. Over a Quarter didn’t bother.

Even among those who did vote, many had an abysmal knowledge of what the EU project was actually about and certainly didn’t view it as a life and death issue. Of course, this was precisely Cameron’s strategy. A short campaign would work in his favour. As we know, his strategy failed. In spite of a campaign in which neither of the official organisations covered themselves with glory, the tireless dedication of rank-and-file leave groups up and down the country managed to convince enough of their fellow countrymen that the EU was sufficiently bad news that they should vote to leave it.

But now the vote is behind us, the level of interest in the EU among our countrymen has dropped dramatically. For most of them, whichever way they voted, the issue is behind them. In a recent conversation with an educated man, he told me that he was surprised that people were still working for organisations like the Campaign for an Independent Britain. He seemed to think we had already left the EU and was quite shocked when I told him otherwise.

The point I am making is that for all the talk of a second referendum, there is just no appetite in the country for going through it all again. John Major is living in a fanstasy world if he really believes he is somehow the “voice of the 48%.” A YouGov poll found that by almost two to one, the electorate believed that the result should stand and opposed a second referendum.  What is more, unlike the Danish Maastricht referendum and the Irish rejection of the Lisbon  Treaty, there is no pressure coming from Brussels.  We ned not therefore worry too much about the recent statement by Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, that she might support a second referendum.

This is not to say that we’re home and dry. There are malign forces seking to undermine Brexit. Thankfully, so far Mrs May has stood firm, but mischief makers like Richard Branson and Mark Carney would love to derail Bredit if they could.

Even within the government, Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, needs to be watched. He has recently claimed that  he is not using the UK’s military clout to get a better Brexit deal. Some informed opinion suggests that on the contrary, he wants to integrate us as closely as possible with the EU’s future defence strategy. This is not acceptable and we will keep you informed with any developments on this front.

In summary, it is clear that further campaigning needs to be focussed on informing and pressurising our MPs rather than on the general public. The better the deal we end up with, the more the guns of the hard-core remainiacs will be spiked and calls for a second referendum stifled. However,  we are still unclear as to what deal Mrs May is seeking,  while opinion among MPs  is divided on all manner of issues. Vigilance therefore remains the order of the day.  The country does not want a second referendum and we need to ensure they do not get one.

What would leavers have done if we had lost?

The spectacle of the Remainers behaving like cry babies in the wake of the Referendum result on 23 June was pretty unedifying. One of my favourite memories from the night came at about 4am when Dimbleby at the BBC cut to the Remain HQ expecting their reporter there to introduce one or two senior Remainers to give their reactions to the unfolding events. Instead the place was empty as everyone had gone home rather than stay and face reality.

Once the disbelief had worn off, the Remainers moved on to blaming uneducated plebs for not understanding the issues, fighting like rats in a sack over who to blame and now seeking to overturn the will of the people by judicial means and in the House of Lords.

Now we see pretty much the same happening over in the USA. The same mix of Establishment figures, intolerant lefties and those living off government funds are reacting to the loss of a Clinton president much as our Remainers did here. Lots of abuse, insults and worse. The disbelief is still rife there, and there have been some very nasty calls for Trump to be assassinated and his wife to be raped.

In both cases the issues at stake were big, very big. So that has led some Remainers to point the finger and say that we Leavers would have behaved the same. Well, as Head of Campaigns at Better Off Out I sat in on some meetings where exactly this question was raised. What would we do if we lost?

Obviously I cannot speak for everyone, but the consensus seemed fairly clear to me. First, we would accept the result in that the people of Britain had voted to stay in the European Union. Second, most intended to take a break and see their families. Third nearly everyone was going to gird their loins and return to the fray.

There is bound to be a new EU Treaty in five or ten years’ time. Assuming that this would include drastic changes, we intended to argue that those changes needed to go to a referendum as it altered the relationship between the EU and UK approved by the people in 2016. Then we would campaign against those changes in the following referendum campaign (again assuming that they were serious enough).

What nobody ever even suggested at these meetings was that we should seek to go to law to overturn the referendum result. Nobody suggested that we should use Parliamentary procedure to slow down or halt the normal day to day business of the EU in the UK. Nor did anyone suggest a second referendum to ask the In-Out question again. Everyone was prepared to accept that we would have lost this battle, then prepare for the next.

It is against this background that we should view the behaviour of the Remainers. They are making little secret of the fact that they aim to overthrow the Referendum result. Using legal quibbles and delaying tactics in Parliament they hope to frustrate the will of the people. And these folk claim to stand for tolerance, inclusion and democracy?

The people have spoken. It is time to get on with it.

Labour finally set to back Brexit

This article first appeared here on the Facts4EU.Org website and is used by permission.

Today the Shadow Chancellor will announce Labour won’t block Article 50

According to a private advance copy of a speech to be delivered later today, Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man John McDonnell will say:

  • “We must not try to re-fight the referendum or push for a second vote and if Article 50 needs to be triggered in parliament Labour will not seek to block or delay it.”
  • “It is time we all were more positive about Brexit, Labour wants to see an ambitious Brexit Britain.”
  • Labour will “embrace the enormous opportunities to reshape our country that Brexit has opened for us.”
If the advance copy of his speech is correct, this marks a major departure from Jeremy Corbyn’s stance a week ago. It also completely destroys the hopes of Remoaner MPs that Article 50 could be blocked in the House of Commons.

In the Commons this isolates the LibDem Remoaners, the SNP, and a small number of dissident dinosaurs on the Tory benches such as Kenneth Clarke and Anna Soubry. Brexit-deniers would then be a small minority in the Commons,unable to thwart any quick Article 50 Bill from Mrs May.

That then just leaves the unelected House of Lords…

The man responsible for last week’s drama has gone AWOL

Gina Miller may count herself lucky to have escaped being burnt in effigy at the traditional Lewes bonfire celebrations on 5th November, but, along with Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, an image of David Cameron, the man responsible for last week’s High Court ruling and its hysterical aftermath was duly consigned to the flames – and rightly so.

It is Cameron we must thank for the Supreme Court now having to determine whether Parliament needs to be consulted over the triggering of Article 50. There was never any doubt about the Scottish independence referendum. Cameron made it clear months before the vote was held that the result would be “decisive, legal, fair, irreversible and binding” and while Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to hold a second independence referendum at some point in the future, no one has sought to challenge the result of 2014’s poll.

Cameron seemed pretty confident the was going to win the EU referendum vote until the final hours before the result was announced, so why was this same clarity not built into the EU referendum bill?  Some people are now claiming that the vote was only advisory although a strong body of legal opinion insists otherwise and that the bill mandated the electorate to make the final decision.  There should never have been this ambiguity. During the campaign, it certainly didn’t feel like we were battling for an outcome that was only advisory. It felt more like a fight to the death which, thankfully, we won.

To prove the point, the Government’s infamous leaflet stated “It’s your opportunity to decide if the UK remains in the European Union” and added “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” On May 17th, just over a month before polling day, David Cameron said, “I am absolutely clear a referendum is a referendum, it’s a once in a generation, once in a lifetime opportunity and the result determines the outcome.” Your author heard the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP state quite unequivocally in Marlow, Buckinghamshire on 6th May that if we voted to leave the EU, David Cameron would trigger Article 50 the following day.

This statement came as somethng of a surprise given the Government’s lack of analysis on how we would leave. A clip has recently been posted to the internet where David Cameron was asked if he would trigger Article 50 on 28th June, and he replied “yes, of course, absolutely.” Such statements don’t leave much room for doubt.

Of course, this isn’t what happened. Mr Cameron resigned and has since left the House of Commons. In other words, he has gone AWOL leaving Theresa May to sort out the mess he left behind, aided, it now seems, by the Supreme Court, who will be deciding next month what will be the role of Parliament in triggering Article 50. We can but hope that the Government will be vindicated.

Mrs May appears confident that this will be the case, ringing Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel the same day that the judges reached their verdict, to tell them that Brexit will go ahead as planned. Nonetheless, this widely-reported reassurance was not sufficient to dissipate an outpouring of anger against the three judges responsible for last Thursday’s verdict and Gina Miller, who brought the action. Mr Cameron’s culpability has largely been overlooked, so completely has his disappearing act removed him from public consciousness.

Now the dust has settled, one thing is clear:- last Thursday’s High Court ruling stops a long way short of derailing Brexit.

To reiterate an important point, the High Court ruling is not the last word. It still remains highly likely that the Supreme Court will reverse the decision. Mrs May may know something we don’t, but even if the government loses this case too, she still seems to have a few cards up her sleeve.

Part of the anger vented against Gina Miller and the judges is borne out of an intense distrust of our MPs and a feeling that they will betray the people and fail to respect the outcome of June’s vote. While it is true that the majority of MPs  supported remain and a few remainers,  such as Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for Cambridge, insist they will vote aganst triggering Article 50 because the majority of their consitutents voted to remain in the EU,  most MPs have accepted the result of the referendum. This is the feedback we have received from both Labour and Conservative sources.

No doubt the above paragraph will elicit a number of comments along the lines of how gullible can one be to believe these so-and-sos, but Brexit has provided a rude awakening for many Labour MPs representing traditional working class areas. It has exposed the huge gulf separating their constituents from the party which once claimed to represent their interests. For this reason, the parliamentary battle has largely shifted from whether or not the Brexit vote should be honoured to ensuring we get the best possible Brexit deal, with the debate focussed in particular on the Single Market. Labour MPs from Brexit-supporting constituencies in particular have faced up to the futility of opposing Brexit.

Of course, Parliament has two chambers and the House of Lords can amend legislation. With the upper chamber being stuffed full of europhiles, press speculation has centred around the possibility of their Lordships wanting a second referendum whereby the public will be consulted once again when the final Article 50 agreement is ready to be signed.

Of course, the Government can simply ignore the Lords’ amendments. David Cameron threatened to use the Parliament Act when they threw out an earlier bill for a referendum in 2014. Mrs May could invoke similar measures to overrule the Upper Chamber here too, especially as her statements have been quite unequivocal:- there will be no second referendum.

Given the sheer exhaustion participants on both sides of the referendum debate felt after June 23rd, we can be quite confident that there is little appetite to go through this gruelling exercise again. Opinion polls consistently show a majority against a second referendum among the electorate too. Let us, however, take a worst case scenario – and it is both the very worst case and very unlikely – if another referendum were to be called, we would be much better placed to win a second time round.

Firstly, we would have the government on our side. Although Mr Cameron’s performance was not seen as an asset to the remain camp, he certainly pulled all the levers at his disposal to encourage us to remain. Leavers were definitely the underdogs, yet we still won.

Secondly, he played on the disunity within the Leave community, including the lack of a coherent exit strategy. This time round, leavers will be defending an exit strategy produced by the government and containing plenty of detail. It may not be the preferred exit strategy of the entire Brexit-supporting community, but with Mrs May insisting thatOur laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster”, “We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration” and “I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here”, it is  quite clear that the final arrangement will see us leave the political project which is the EU. It may be only a holding position, but the main thing is getting out and this is what she intends to do.  It is far easier to work out how we can make Brexit “harder” at a later date than to make our initial escape seamlessly. All Brexiteers can surely unite around this concept.

Thirdly, although many local leave groups have disbanded, the contacts have been made and the groups could easily be reactivated if needed. Last week, I visited one leave group in Kent which has continued to meet and was in no doubt that its members would roll up their sleeves and spring enthusiastically into action if they were called upon to campaign for Brexit meaning Brexit.

Fourthly, the goalposts have moved. Many remainers who insisted that the economy would collapse if we left the EU have changed tack to saying it would collapse if we left the Single Market. In other words, they have inadvertantly conceded that life outside the EU but within the Single Market wouldn’t be so bad after all in certain circumstances. If Mrs May’s deal gives us access to the single market, as we strongly believe that it will, it will be very hard for these erstwhile remainers to row back and reactivate Project Fear.

Finally, the longer the campaign, the more people who will be made aware of the shortcomings of the EU. This is why Cameron decided to cut and run rather than go for a long campaign with an Autumn 2017 ballot. It was slow, back-breaking work to move undecided voters our way and time was not on our side, but in dribs and drabs, between us we changed many minds. The tide definitely moved in our direction as the campaign progressed. I have since discovered a few people in my circle of friends who voted remain but who, I am sure, could have been won over if there had been more time. If we were forced by their Lordships into holding a second referendum at the end of the Article 50 process, we would have two years to put the issue beyond dispute and I have no doubt that we would.

What is more, the EU seems to share that opinion. Unlike the Danish rejection of Maastricht or the Irish vote against the Lisbon Treaty, there are no pressures coming from Brussels for a second referendum. Right from the moment when the result was announced, the principal concern of the EU hierarchy was to prevent contagion.

Some, no doubt, will be glad to see the back of the country which has been the biggest foot-dragger in the EU since the 1970s, but even those who regret our departure seem resigned to its inevitability. At the last meeting of the EU Council, Mrs May was made to feel like an outsider. When she insisted that the UK would play a full role until the moment of Brexit, she was met with silence.  She was given only five minutes to talk about her position on Brexit and one  government spokesman summarised her experience of the Council meeting as “a very odd position…very different…from the one Cameron or Brown or Blair or Major had … She is on her way out and we are on our way out.”

In summary, it is vital not to let last Thursday’s court ruling unduly depress our spirits. Most people on both sides of the channel whose opinions count believe we are on the way out,  come what may. It therefore probably won’t be necessary for us to fight another Brexit referendum, but in this worst case scenario, even our fiercest enemies know that there will be many groups up and down the country like the one in Kent I visited last week who will once again rise to the summons that “England expects every man to do his duty”.


Remainiacs have moved their goalposts!

While the official Leave campaign faced much flak – both during and after the campaign – for giving misleading information, the Remain campaign was no better.

This scathing article exposes their hypocrisy. The author compares current statements from hard-core remainers with the things they were saying during the campaign.  The cusp of the author’s argument is that  Open Britain, which is what the failed Britain Stronger in Europe has now become, is arguing that leaving the Single Market would be a disaster. A few months ago, on the other hand, they were saying that leaving the EU would be a disaster. In other words, adopting the exit strategy they are now throwing their weight behind, would mean there need not be any economic damage from withdrawal. This isn’t what they were saying in the run up to June 23rd.  To quote:-

For top Remainers the EU referendum was never about economics. It was about their craven desire to live in an amorphous internationalist blob where the nation state is fatally undermined and the strongest level of government and identity reforms at the European level. That’s what they wanted but couldn’t say in public. And so instead they falsely equated the EU with the single market in an attempt to scare low information voters and assorted unthinking lefties that voting for Brexit inherently meant economic doom.”

We must be thankful that most remainers, including Labour MPs, have accepted the result of June’s vote but it would be very good news if they were prepared to admit that they were at the time deliberately diverting attention away from the EEA/EFTA option which they are now ardently embracing. From David Cameron downwards, they all knew that this exit route would take us out of the political union, preserve our trade links and – most importantly – be a far more popular option than continued EU membership.

Furthermore, this implicit admission shoots dead any idea of a second referendum. If erstwhile hard-core remainers are admitting that the EEA/EFTA  exit route really isn’t too bad, they would be laughed out of town if they tried to crank up Project Fear again. Thankfully, the goalposts have moved; the debate is no longer about in or out, but rather about the best route out. For this, we must be thankful.

Photo by grassrootsgroundswell