And so, despite all efforts, these last two Parliaments 2015-17, and 2017-19 have not been able to deliver on the 2016 Referendum, and we now face a general election on December 12th with the issue still open.
As I set out in my last update, I voted for the Withdrawal Bill, which would put into law the deal with the EU achieved by PM Boris Johnson. This won a majority of 30, including 19 Labour MPs, the first time since 2016 a deal had been approved by Parliament. However, immediately after this, the timetable for getting it through Parliament by October 31st, the preferred date of the Government (you’d have had to be on the moon to have missed that) was defeated as being too short.
The Government paused the Bill, and had a think about what to do. As we all now know, it took the view that the Bill could not get through this Parliament, no matter how long a timetable, and Jeremy Corbyn finally succumbed to the offer of an election he had been calling for, whilst avoiding, for many months. So we have Brenda from Bristol's best ever Christmas present, another election.
It’s some risk from Boris Johnson. From what I know, what you read in the papers about there being two schools of thought in Government about what to do last week rings true. On one side those who believed that ‘one more heave’ on the Bill would get it done. Then an election could be fought with this bit of Brexit finished, so the country could look to the future, with the PM having delivered the country out of the EU, even though October 31 might have come and gone. This was my view.
On the other side were those who believed that this Parliament would never conclude the deal, and it was better to fight an election with the clarity that Boris Johnson meant Leave with his deal, and any other vote made that less likely, and worse, ran the risk of Jeremy Corbyn as PM, so a pretty binary choice. In all fairness to him, I do not envy the PM the choice he had to make-but he made one.
The risk of this is that the Brexit party will promote its own much harsher version of Leave, and the Lib Dem’s will rally support of all who want to remain, revoke or a further referendum. Labour will remain divided between differing views on what to do about Brexit, and on its Leader. Votes could therefore end up anywhere.
We shall see. My observation, after many years, and standing at every election since 1983, is that the public makes up its own mind about what an election is all about, which sometimes leaves party strategists looking silly after the election. Not that they won’t have an excuse. They always do. However, if I was a Brexiteer, which I’m not, I would not be wholly confident about the outcome, and might have preferred the bird in the hand, which I sought to deliver for you, with PM May’s deal as well as PM Johnson’s deal. As it is I did what I told constituents I would do during the Referendum, and voted in accordance with the manifesto on which I was elected in 2017. But that’s enough for me, as I told the Times Red Box last week.
I wish I could have concluded these updates definitively, and pointed you towards an election choice for the future, still with much to do on Brexit, but with the Withdrawal concluded so we could look ahead on other issues, from the nations security to welfare, from economics to finding a renewed national purpose. Maybe you will make the election about this anyway.
However, I have no more such Brexit updates for you as your MP. I will take a keen interest in where the country goes, and for the avoidance of any doubt, believe that a broad based Conservative Government, focused on the One Nation prospectus advanced by Boris Johnson is still in the national interest at this election.
I stop being your MP at midnight this Tuesday. I will write a final thank you, and goodbye then. In the meantime, thank you for your interest on Brexit matters, however you voted.
Good luck with it.