Product recall


I recently asked my MP, Paul Holmes, whether he would be voting to break the Withdrawal Agreement which he had been elected to deliver. I suspect his reply was similar to most Conservative MPs and it confirms that he has decided to break his election pledge to deliver the Prime Minister’s oven ready deal.

“There has been much speculation about the Government’s commitment to treaty obligations and international law. I believe that some of the commentary has misrepresented the situation.”

It is not speculation that the government intend to break international law, it is a matter of record.

“The end of the Transition Period is fast approaching, and with no agreement yet reached, the Government has proposed a safety net to protect the Union and ensure that the UK’s obligations under the Belfast Agreement are met.”

The end of the Transition Period is fast approaching because the government chose not to extend the deadline, despite it being obvious that the UK will not be ready. The Northern Ireland Protocol is the safety net, which was specifically intended to protect the Belfast Agreement even in the case that no further agreement was reached with the European Union. The Government may have finally understood what it signed up to but however much Paul regrets the Prime Minister signing the Withdrawal Agreement, it is too late. You cannot unilaterally change an agreement between two parties without consequences.

“There is no reason why these provisions should undermine the future relationship negotiations with the EU.”

I wonder if Paul might want to reconsider this risible statement after sleeping on it. Perhaps he has noticed that the EU has begun legal proceedings against the UK.

“Remedying the unintended consequences of the Protocol may breach the Withdrawal Agreement in a limited way but the consequences of inaction could break up the UK. I hope you understand that while I remain fully committed to international law, I have a duty to protect the integrity of the Union – the overriding purpose of this Bill.”

Wow, those are quite some contradictions! If Paul was fully committed to international law, he would vote to uphold it. If he cared about the integrity of the Union, he might start by apologising for his complete lack of scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement before it was signed.

Instead of threatening to renege on the fantastic oven ready deal Paul was elected to deliver, the government could still protect the integrity of the Union by reaching a comprehensive deal with the EU which respects the wishes of NI, Scotland, and Wales, which have so far been completely ignored.

Before the election Paul said,

“For me, it is a question of integrity and honesty. I am the only candidate in this election who will deliver on the referendum result and get Brexit done.”

We’re still waiting Paul.

State of the Union


Well.

If there was any doubt about why Paul Holmes was dropped in as the Johnson candidate for Eastleigh, there isn’t any more.

Strangely MPs seemed to be debating an extension to the transition period even though the deadline for extending it has already passed, and Paul’s contribution, which he tweeted about, was similarly detached from reality.

“We are here all over again. The ability of SNP Members to focus on their narrow-minded, party interests at a time of national importance is becoming legendary.”


The SNP has a way to go before they can compete with the Conservative party’s world-beating track record of focusing on narrow-minded party interests.

This is a time of national importance, with a great many more lives at stake as winter approaches. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on improving the government’s handling of the current public health emergency, the Conservative Prime Minister decided to waste time, money, and effort on a self imposed deadline that the country will not be ready for. The oven ready deal seems to have been substituted for a no deal Brexit which is certainly not what the majority of people voted for in Eastleigh, Scotland, or the UK.

“If there was ever a sight that shows why we must protect the Union, it was the vision of a Labour party that could not be bothered to show up, with SNP Members behind those Benches. If the Labour party ever has the opportunity to form the next Government, it will be at the price of a referendum on independence to get the SNP onside. Conservative Members do not back that at all.”

I would be very interested to know why Scotland should even need to ask permission to have an independence referendum, when the UK was able to hold the EU referendum without asking.

“The SNP has not changed much in not respecting referendum results. It lost the 2014 referendum, and yet it pursues that agenda, with no thought to getting on with the day job in Scotland. SNP Members lost the 2016 referendum, but they are now trying by any means necessary to thwart the will of the British people.”


The SNP may or may not have changed much since 2014, but plenty of other things have changed. Most obviously, as a result of the 2016 referendum, the UK has left the EU. (Just to clarify that once more, given the accusations of thwarting, the UK has already left the EU.)

It’s also now very clear what Scotland’s place in the Union is.

“This debate is once again a thinly disguised attempt by SNP Members to undermine democracy—nothing else. The irony of that is not lost on me.”

The current Prime Minister unlawfully shut down parliament in a blatant attempt to undermine democracy—nothing else.

“If they voted for a deal when they were offered one—three times—we would not be here today.”

I’m not even sure what Paul is complaining about here. Is he complaining that, like the current Prime Minister and large numbers of Conservative MPs, the SNP didn’t vote for Theresa May’s bad deal?

We would not be here today if David Cameron hadn’t gambled the country’s, and his party’s, future to settle an internal political argument.

“Knowing them, however, we probably would be.

Like any good Unionist, I read the newspapers north of the border. In these difficult times, we all have to spend a few more hours at home, and humour plays an increasingly important role in making sure that we can all get by, so you can imagine my reaction, Mr Deputy Speaker, when browsing The National, I found the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) was quoted as saying that Scottish taxpayers were “footing the bill” as the UK prepared to leave the EU. Indeed, without a hint of irony, SNP Members are trying to claim that they would somehow save money by being out of the Union and part of the EU, when we know that public spending in Scotland is 17% higher than the UK average. Treasury figures, verified by the House of Commons Library, show that per head of population, Scotland receives £11,200; England, £9,200; and my constituents in Eastleigh, £8,600.”

I’m not entirely convinced putting a border in the Irish Sea is the action of a good Unionist. I seem to remember Theresa May having quite strong views on that before the current PM made a sudden u-turn to sign the EU Withdrawal Agreement at the last minute. (Hopefully Paul stands by the international agreement despite comments from one of the previous Brexit secretaries.)

It seems somewhat ironic to be complaining about SNP Members saying they would save money by being out of the Union, when that’s exactly the claim made on the side of a bus in the EU referendum.

“I will always lobby for resources for my constituency, but I accept that that difference is the price that my constituents pay because we are stronger together—and we are stronger together as one United Kingdom.”

I wonder if Eastleigh constituents accept that is a price is worth paying.

“We are stronger together culturally, with our shared history, and we are stronger together economically. It was this Government who introduced the coronavirus job retention scheme, which has protected the income of 630,000 people in Scotland. It was the Government of the United Kingdom who have supported 146,000 self-employed people through the self-employment support scheme, and it was this Government—the United Kingdom Government—who have provided over £2.7 billion to the Scottish Government for rates relief, small business grants and grants for businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector.”

That’s all very nice but it makes no difference if people in Scotland choose independence. It’s not up to Paul or me what people in Scotland want, and I’m sure they would know what they were voting for.

“We need to ensure that we are prepared for Brexit and that our borders are fit for purpose. That investment will help us to maximise the opportunity created by Brexit as we continue to trade with our European partners and to forge new and exciting trade deals across the world.”

Paul seems to be confusing one small part of the ongoing cost of administering a border with more friction, with an actual investment. He is also somewhat vague about what the opportunity created by Brexit is. Eastleigh’s previous MP was unable to explain what the benefits of Brexit were when I asked, and I doubt Paul ever will either.

“While the SNP like to reject referendum results—the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) said that it was a narrow gap, but I do not think that 10% is a narrow gap—I take the expression of my constituents’ will seriously. It is a shame that the SNP do not do that for their constituents. My constituents in Eastleigh voted to leave the European Union, and I will support the Government as we make good on our promise to leave the EU and seize the opportunities presented by global Britain.”

Just to clarify, here’s some of what Eastleigh constituents voted for over the last few years:

  • 2015 – Five years of Mims Davies as MP and David Cameron as PM (something about not wanting chaos if I remember correctly)
  • 2016 – To leave the EU (54% which polling showed had dropped to 49.3% by 2018)
  • 2017 – Five years of Mims Davies as MP and Theresa May as PM (something about being strong and stable)
  • 2019 – Five years of Paul Holmes as MP and Boris Johnson as PM (something about being oven ready)

We’re getting used to being disappointed; we didn’t even get Mims for the full five years! At no point did we vote for any specific Brexit, and certainly not Brexit at any cost.

The Conservative party has never respected the referendum result, or sought to build a consensus on a new relationship with the EU. Instead they have treated the referendum, the UK, and particularly remain voting Scotland with utter contempt.

As for promises, the Prime Minister made very clear promises to EU citizens during the referendum campaign which has not kept. Similarly, Paul Holmes made a commitment to EU citizens in the last election campaign which he has so far not kept either. The way EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU have been treated by the government since the referendum is beyond shameful.

The increasingly likely no deal end to the transition period at the end of the year is nothing like what was on offer in the referendum.

“The SNP should focus on the day job to fix the lack of educational attainment that harms Scottish children; to fix their dire record in government and public service; and to stop the political gimmicks.”

It would be nice if Eastleigh’s MP could focus on his day job instead of complaining about Scottish MPs representing their constituents, or complaining about decisions made by local politicians. There’s a likely second wave of Coronavirus coming, and the country needs to get ready for Brexit at the same time.

“We deliver; they delay.”

This would be funny if the government’s ongoing dither and delay in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic wasn’t causing thousands of unnecessary deaths.

“It is time to get Brexit done, and I will vote against the motion this evening.”

Brexit wasn’t done by last Christmas, and it won’t be done by this Christmas. We have however already left the EU, and there isn’t anything MPs can do to delay the end of the transition period now even if they wanted to. Let’s hope we don’t all come to regret that.

 

Ready for emergencies


I’ve just been catching up on the @AddisonsUK tweets and realised I had meant to share my kit for International Addison’s Day so, only slightly belatedly, here it is!

I should mention that it’s still less than a year since I was diagnosed, so I’m quite likely to have got some or all of this wrong!

The first thing I got was a keyring tablet holder which has been brilliant so far. (The only things I remember to take with me anywhere are my keys!) I use one compartment for my lunchtime and afternoon doses, which makes it obvious if I forget either of them. There’s a second compartment with a few spare doses just in case, which fortunately I’ve only needed once so far.

I keep the rest of my kit in a hospital bag, with spare clothes, a wash kit etc. So far I haven’t needed any of it but it’s all in one place ready to go.

The emergency injection kit is from Addison’s self-help group shop, with some spare steroids thrown in.

The folder has my hospital discharge notes, diagnosis, and prescriptions in, in case I need them.

And finally, not really Addison’s related, a power bank to charge my phone. Having been stuck in hospital last year, I definitely appreciated being able to stay in touch with the outside world, and it was only for a week!

Any tips for things I should add would be awesome!

Move along, move along


Well my MP has replied (below) regarding the government’s ongoing quest to undermine its own authority.

On the plus side he did say he wouldn’t have made the same decisions as Boris Johnson’s adviser. That shouldn’t be surprising because most of the country was also much more responsible and didn’t make the same poor decisions. Perhaps the government needs better advisers.

Unfortunately the rest of his reply had nothing to do with my questions, just continuing to promote the defence offered in the unusual press conference. Even so he did concede that the government’s actions have threatened to undermine their own public health rules.

Sadly that was the end of the email. Just follow the advice when some people don’t have to. No commitment to do anything to repair the damage, and not even a call for the government to apologise.

He was even more dismissive on Twitter when I pressed him on what he might do to remedy the damage done.

“You can find the rules on gov.uk as you know well. So look there.”

I had been hoping that Eastleigh’s new MP might be more willing to stand up for his constituents when the government gets something wrong than our previous MP but if he can’t even do it in the middle of a public health emergency with overwhelming public support, it’s hard to imagine he ever will.

“Dear James,

Thank you for writing to me about the situation surrounding Dominic Cummings and the public health guidelines during the difficult times we have faced during the COVID-19 crisis. 

I have over the last few days faced some hostile criticism for not instantly providing my view on whether Mr Cummings should have resigned from his position, but I do not believe in giving my opinion with half-assessed facts. I wanted some time to look into this myself with all of the evidence and information that I could garner. Over the weekend I have raised this issue extensively with the Government, sought to establish the facts, and put your views across robustly.  

I know that the last few months have been tough for everyone in the country and in the Eastleigh constituency. Over the last few weeks my team and I have assisted thousands of people in need of urgent help, in clarification of the guidelines, or to access support for their families or businesses, and we have always done our best to do this as efficiently as possible. I know that you and your family will have had to make many sacrifices as you have followed the guidelines that Government has clearly set out. You have done the right thing and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so responsible.

On 24th March at the daily televised press conference, in response to a question about what parents should do if they are both sick with COVID-19, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenny Harries advised the public that “clearly if you have adults that are unable to look after a small child, that is an exceptional circumstance.” This was, if I have established the facts correctly, a week before Mr Cummings travelled to County Durham. His explanation for undertaking his lockdown in County Durham is the welfare of his young son, and he isolated with his family for 14 days. It is also clear that Mr Cummings did visit Barnard Castle, and he has now given a full account of his actions and his reasons for doing so.

Whilst I have sympathy with this, and it appears to be consistent with Dr. Harries’ statement, I accept the criticism that this is at the very limit of what the guidelines permitted and is likely to be highly controversial. I can also say to you that I would not have taken these decisions myself in these circumstances, and that these rules now need to be clarified so that others do not misinterpret them.

Though I well understand much of the anger there is about this at the moment, bearing in mind the sacrifices we have all been asked to make, I do strongly oppose the behaviour of some who have sought to harass and intimidate Mr Cummings and his family. There is no justification for it. This does seem to have been part of Mr Cummings’ calculation when he decided to travel to Durham.

I have been contacted by a large number of constituents on this matter and I want you to know that I have read each of your emails and considered your views carefully. Many people have legitimate concerns about what has gone on, and so do I.

Though I believe his actions were motivated solely by the desire to protect his family, I believe that Mr Cummings has made errors of judgement, and I would have responded differently given the guidance that Government has issued.

I don’t think that the handling of this situation over the last 72 hours has been the Government’s finest hour, and I believe that the questions posed to Mr Cummings should have been answered earlier. I have raised both your and my own concerns about his conduct and will continue to do so over the coming days.

This is my assessment of the situation as it stands, and sadly I do think that this situation has undermined the wider messaging around this public health emergency. However, the fact remains that we need to continue to follow the health advice to keep people safe. Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

Kind regards,

Paul”

Stay elite.

Taking the country for fools


My MP has been relatively proactive at helping constituents with government advice during the Covid19 pandemic so, due to poor judgement by a government adviser and some jaw dropping ministerial tweets defending that lapse in judgement, I emailed Paul Holmes earlier to ask him to clarify the rules. (See below.)

Since then the Prime Minister has also, very publicly, defended behaviour which clearly goes against the rules and displayed a shocking lack of common sense by someone who should have known better.

I have been incredibly lucky so far, with a good employer and no close family or friends being seriously ill, or worse. Nevertheless, things haven’t always been easy, and there is no end to the pandemic in sight.

We have all made sacrifices in order to protect one another and the Prime Minister is taking us for fools by not apologising for the behaviour of his adviser.

What’s worse is that his, and his ministers’, attempts to defend a clear breach of the guidelines, puts us all at risk at a critical point in tackling the virus.

I sincerely hope he considers his position carefully.


Dear Paul Holmes,

I know you have made efforts to communicate help and advice to your constituents during the Covid19 pandemic so far, including working closely with the local council, which I appreciate.

Unfortunately a large number of your colleagues, including ministers, have chosen to undermine the government’s own rules by defending an adviser who has broken those rules.

The defence offered is offensive. My wife and I have worried a great deal about how we would look after our daughter should we become ill. My wife has only recently been contacted to tell her she is extremely vulnerable, and I was diagnosed with a life threatening disease last year, but we have still never considered driving any distance to put family members and others at risk if we did exhibit symptoms.

This is a particularly critical point in tackling the virus as the government tries to ease restrictions. The rules in this phase are necessarily going to be more complex than the previous stay at home message and it is difficult to see how we are meant to take any new rules seriously when the government does not appear to be serious about enforcing them.

The country can ill afford another distraction now after delays and distraction at the beginning of the outbreak look likely to have caused many unnecessary deaths.

Please could you urgently work with the council and other organisations in Eastleigh to publicly clarify what the rules are when someone in a household exhibits Covid19 symptoms, and what support and resources are available to them in case they believe that travelling to another location is justified.

I realise you will be under immense political pressure to put your party first, however I would also like you to consider following your neighbouring colleague’s example in speaking out and ask the government why it considers that different rules should apply to government advisers.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

James Taylor

Stay safe.

Tactical Torment


It’s hard to believe* but we should be in the final year of David Cameron’s second term as Prime Minister. Just think how bad it could have been if we’d voted for chaos with Ed Miliband. We would never have had Theresa May’s strong and stable government for a start.

How we vote matters. Voting matters. If you ignore everything else in this post, please vote carefully.

This general election is not an average election, and not just because it’s third time we’ve been asked to choose our representatives in the last five years. MPs had just passed a Queen’s Speech setting out some bold new domestic agenda. They had also begun debating the legislation required to leave the EU with an agreement.

This is the second time Mr Johnson has got in the way of leaving the EU. He was one of many Conservative MPs who prevented the UK leaving the EU at the end of March.

Whether or not you support Brexit, the fact we have not left the EU yet is important. Until we leave the UK can unilaterally decide to remain in the EU on our current terms. Once we leave, we have no leverage at all. We’ll be a 3rd country attempting to negotiate a new trade agreement, which will require unanimous agreement of all the remaining EU members. Expect to hear about fishing rights, level playing fields, more about Irish borders, and probably even Gibraltar. There’s also a deadline we’ll be counting down to, because of course there is.

Brexit will not be done. It will finally have started, and even then nothing will change until the end of the “implementation period” however long that ends up being. If you’re already bored of Brexit, and who isn’t, the next few years are going to be even more annoying.

So who should you vote for? Obviously I can’t tell you that, but here are some thoughts about what the options are in Eastleigh. Things might be very different where you are.

If you still want to leave the EU, your choices are limited because the Brexit Party aren’t standing in Eastleigh. That leaves two options:

  • If you voted to leave the EU because you wanted to help the NHS, or if you wanted to leave the political union but keep close economic ties, then Labour are probably the best option. Labour is promising to negotiate a closer relationship with the EU but they are planning to give people the final say, so Brexit is not guaranteed. Unfortunately Labour is currently predicted to come third in Eastleigh and they are not supported by the Brexit supporting tactical voting sites.
  • If you want to leave the EU at any cost, then the Conservatives are probably the best option. Be warned though, Mr Johnson is probably lying to you. There’s a good chance he’ll extend the transition period and, with a big enough majority, he may end up negotiating a softer Brexit than he’s currently promising. He’s unlikely to cancel Brexit completely, but who knows for sure. Even so, they have been endorsed by the Brexit Party candidate who pulled out, and are the recommended party on Brexit supporting tactical voting sites.

If you want to remain in the EU, you have three choices in Eastleigh:

  • The most pro-EU parties are the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats. Both have campaigned to remain in the EU and support a final say referendum. (The Liberal Democrats have also said they would revoke article 50 if they win a majority.)
  • Labour will renegotiate with the EU and are offering a referendum on the result of that negotiation.

All the pro-Brexit sites support the Conservatives and all the pro-EU tactical voting sites support the Liberal Democrats in Eastleigh.

It’s probably worth mentioning that tactical voting is about picking a candidate with the best chance of achieving a particular outcome. It doesn’t mean they will win, or that you like that candidate, or that their party has any other policies you agree with.

In the case of this election, it’s essentially about choosing the least worst option for your desired Brexit outcome.

You might not agree that the chosen candidate does have the best chance of winning. You might even be right but that won’t matter unless you can convince all the, fiercely independent, tactical voting sites to agree with you. (There really isn’t time for that unless you have some very very convincing evidence!)

That just leaves the tricky bit. Do you vote tactically? It’s worth noting that Eastleigh isn’t high on the list of places that tactical voting is likely to change the result. Having said that, the previous Conservative MP, Mims Davies, left rather suddenly and not in the most transparent way possible. Her replacement hasn’t had long to establish any credibility, so it’s not a huge leap to think his vote share will be lower. There is a small chance that tactical voting could influence the result here, but it will be very very close if that does happen.

If you’re reluctant to vote tactically because of any of the manifestos, Brexit is likely to continue to fully occupy any government. Just look at how much of Theresa May’s domestic agenda survived.

If you dislike the election campaign of the pro-EU tactical candidate, you’re not alone. They’re all fucking awful. The Brexit Party managed to help the Conservatives but every opposition party seems to spend most of their energy attacking each other.

If you like a different candidate, or dislike the tactical candidate, thats unlikely to make any difference when they get to parliament. In Eastleigh, none of the candidates has been an MP before anyway, so there’s no way to tell how good, or bad, they’d be.

If you don’t want to vote for the party that invaded Iraq, or introduced tuition fees (also Labour), or supported the Conservatives in coalition, or whatever past failure sticks in your memory, then just imagine how much blame there will be to go around if we fail to stop a catastrophic Conservative Brexit.

If you worry that tactical voting hides how people really want to vote, you’re right, and it will until we get a fair voting system. This is not the election to try and prove a point about how bad first past the post is. Join the Labour party, and get them to support PR instead!

All in all, it’s a shit choice. Democracy should be better than this but it isn’t, and it’s likely to get significantly worse if the man who unlawfully shut down parliament wins the election.

* Not as hard to believe as anything the Conservative party claim obvs.

Respecting the referendum


After the government announced it would be ending freedom of movement abruptly on the 31st October, I asked my MP Mims Davies about the referendum pledge to automatically guarantee the same rights for EU citizens after Brexit.

June 1st 2016:

There will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK.

These EU citizens will automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and will be treated no less favourably than they are at present.

Vote Leave

Boris Johnson

Priti Patel

Michael Gove

You may recognise the names. The prime minister and two cabinet colleagues. It’s a pretty clear pledge, which is not compatible with the current settled status scheme.

Mims had made her own pledge on citizen rights so I thought she might be willing to help.

Here’s her reply, impressively ignoring the premise of the question:

Dear James,

Thank you for your recent email, further to our communications over Twitter. I hope you are well and do thank you for your energetic engagement.

As you rightly say, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK – as well as the rights of UK citizens living in the EU – is a matter that I have taken incredibly seriously, raising questions in Parliament, meeting with constituents both in Parliament as well as locally in the constituency, as well as meeting with Ministers on their behalf. My team have also supported constituents through the new settlement process and as ever will be there to continue that work.

The Prime Minister recently gave an unequivocal guarantee to the 3.2 million EEA and Swiss citizens and their families living and working in the UK that under this government they will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain here. I was very pleased the new PM did this swiftly and it was greatly welcomed.

This month, the Minister of State for Security, Brandon Lewis MP, made clear this Government’s continued support for EU citizens, writing the EU Settlement Scheme offers them the security theyrequire, enabling them to continue living in the UK after we leave the EU, with the same rights to work, study and access benefits and services as they have now. The secure online status granted to them under the Scheme will make it quick, easy and convenient for them to evidence their rights at any point in the future.

As you know, the UK is leaving the EU on the 31st October, however, deal or no deal, EEA and Swiss citizens will have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. This process is quick and straightforward, and I do welcome the Government is putting significant resources into ensuring that those that haven’t already applied to the scheme do so and if required supported through the process.

I will also be providing a full update on my website & on my Facebook – together with attachments and useful information.

Kind Regards,

Mims

Mims Davies MP

Member of Parliament for Eastleigh

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA | 020 7219 6853 |www.mimsdavies.org.uk

If true, it’s great that her team is helping people through the application process. There obviously wouldn’t need to be an application process if her government was respecting the referendum. Perhaps they’ll also be able explain how the new settled status is less favourable than the current rights of EU citizens, if their settled status application is successful of course.

Despite endlessly preaching that we cannot pick and choose, and that we must respect the referendum, it appears picking and choosing is fine if you’re the ones who made the promises to win the referendum in the first place. Message received.

MPs can stop a no deal Brexit, but they won’t


There has been much talk of how difficult it will be to stop the new government crashing the UK out of the EU without honouring our international commitments.

As things stand, our new prime minister has declared that he is abandoning the deal the previous government he was part of agreed with the EU at the end of last year, and in particular the commitment we made to a backstop a year before that. All this despite having no mandate to do so, either through a general election or referendum.

There are still likely to be several ways to prevent a no deal outcome and, just to spread a bit of optimism, here’s one which might work.

Alarm signal. Penalty for improper use.

Photo © 2013 Les Chatfield (CC BY 2.0)

Time for parliament to actually take back control; here’s how.

Step 1: Keep Parliament Open

Incredible that this even needs saying but parliament needs to avoid being shut down by the latest PM with totalitarian tendencies.

I’m hoping this is actually borderline paranoia because it would be really really stupid to try and shut parliament out of the most far reaching constitutional change facing the country in my lifetime, especially when its stated position is that no deal is unacceptable.

If you’ve watched the history channel, you know that shutting down parliament doesn’t end well.

Fortunately MPs have already put some measures in place to reduce the chance that the PM will be able to abuse his powers. There is also a CrowdJustice campaign that is taking legal action to prevent parliament being suspended.

Hopefully step one is the easy bit!

Step 2: Vote of No Confidence

Enough trying to seize the order paper for the day, or hijacking legislation, the government is treating parliament and the country with contempt, and it’s time to do something about it.

Unfortunately my understanding is that a vote of no confidence must be tabled by the leader of opposition. (I’m sure it’s not quite that clear cut but he could table one if he could be bothered.)

The problem is he was so keen to start the summer break that he forgot he was meant be tabling a vote of no confidence. You would think he would have set a reminder or something given Labour policy is to have a general election. At least I think that’s their policy, it’s kind of hard to tell.

Anyway, assuming the current leader of the opposition is still unwilling to help, we need a new one. Labour aren’t going to elect a useful leader any time soon, so we need a new official opposition, which is going to require a lot of MPs to put the country before their party, and their careers.

Enough MPs need to switch from their current party to a “National Unity” party for it to be large enough to take over from Labour as the official opposition.

Ideally they would come from all parties, but the majority will need to come from Labour a bit like a supercharged independent group mass resignation. They could even just rename the party formerly known as Change UK (again) if that would help!

Unfortunately step two is where this plan fails. Too many MPs still seem to fail to grasp just how serious thus is, even the ones saying it’s serious. Still, here’s the rest just for fun.

Step 3: Form Government of National Unity

Assuming the no confidence motion is carried, MPs must form a new government of national unity in two weeks to avoid parliament being closed down for a general election. (That would be bad because you know who would still be in charge as the article 50 extension runs out.)

This requires enough MPs to have confidence in the newly formed government of national unity, either with even more MPs moving to the new party, through coalitions, confidence and supply agreements, or a mixture of all these.

Step three also has zero chance of happening. Sorry, this is supposed to be full of British optimism, so onward to the tricky bit!

Step 4: Stop No Deal Brexit

Unlike the post-fact government which has just forced it’s way in to number 10, a government of national unity needs to remember it does not actually have a new mandate and must not therefore over reach.

The most it should do is prevent a no deal Brexit and provide the country the time and space to choose what happens next in a calm and reasonable way.

Remember, Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson pledged that “After we Vote Leave, there won’t be a sudden change that disrupts the economy…. We won’t rush into it. When we do make changes we will make them carefully.” It’s about time we stopped rushing to crash out into a legal limbo at the end of October for no good reason.

There are a few possible options:

  • Pass the WA and get all required legislation through to safely enter the transition period (requires a new session of parliament)
  • Hold a referendum (requires agreement on the question to ask etc. Good luck!)
  • Revoke article 50 (the best way to start over with clear heads)

Note: the first two options will need the EU to agree another extension.

Almost there!

Step 5: Call a General Election

Having prevented a no deal Brexit, we’ll quickly need a new government with a strong mandate to confront the huge political debt left over from the last few years. (Sure, you could have had chaos with Ed Miliband, but that would have been so dull.)

Well I never said it was a good plan, but at least it didn’t involve The Queen! Have you got any better ideas? Someone must have!

Whatever happens next, every MP will be responsible.

Being pragmatic


Apparently the government is worried about spreading misleading news:

Just because a story is online, doesn’t mean it’s true. The internet is great, but can also be used to spread misleading news and content. Make sure you know what you’re sharing. Don’t feed the beast. (Cabinet Office)

Maybe they’ve been reading my MP’s Brexit updates. Her latest update isn’t an improvement…

Well it’s been another bumpy week pushing the Brexit process along in a leaky Westminster, and from my inbox, more than at any other time, it’s crystal clear that this Parliament’s inability to find a route by which it can support a smooth, orderly and timely exit from the EU is harming our democracy.

Parliament had been trying to find a compromise solution to allow a smooth and orderly exit, and found several which were closer to a majority than Theresa May’s deal, despite the government’s efforts to block the process.

As Eastleigh’s MP, I’ve always recognised that MPs on ALL sides need to be pragmatic – if we are to move forward towards negotiating our future trading relationship, and that’s why I’ve supported the Withdrawal Agreement agreed with the EU27.

Pragmatism is clearly now a euphemism for agreeing with Theresa May, who hasn’t changed her red lines since she made them up, and hasn’t changed her ‘deal’ since November.

If MPs across the House had chosen to do the same, by now we would have left the European Union and be doing exactly that.

Out of interest, what do you think an MP’s job is?

Instead, MPs, in particular this week led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, are pushing through Bills within just ONE DAY in order to try and thwart Brexit.

I agree that they’ve left things a little late but rushing the article 50 extension bill through doesn’t seem exactly surprising after the Prime Minister only requested a short extension despite the previous vote on requesting an extension. Also, it doesn’t ‘thwart’ Brexit at all, which I’m sure you realise.

If Ms Cooper and others were so intent on preventing a No Deal Brexit then they should have supported the negotiated Deal – it’s clear that their actual end goal is to drag, disrupt and frustrate the process in the hope that we never leave.

Threatening MPs with no deal to force them to agree a deal which they, rightly, believe to be bad for the country hardly seems pragmatic. At least they are trying to prevent no deal; there was a time time when you were concerned that the opposition wanted to “crash economy into No deal & blame this on Govt” which was far fetched even then.

Other MPs, led by the Liberal Democrats and SNP have taken a separate route to thwarting Brexit, instead choosing to push for a ‘Confirmatory’ formerly ‘Peoples’ Vote – a move supported almost exclusively by those who wish to reverse the result of the 2016 Referendum and ensure that we remain in the EU.

You really don’t seem to want to allow people to have a say on whether the deal negotiated by Theresa May meets their expectations. That would be slightly odd even if there wasn’t an impasse in parliament but, under the circumstances, it seems like a perfectly pragmatic solution to the current problems.

If a Second Referendum was held, I do believe it would be even more divisive than the first and only add to where we are now. People want us to do our jobs and deliver for them. It’s a very fair ask! I know people do still feel strongly on either side too and I appreciate and understand this. The division and current lack of cohesion can’t be taken lightly.

Holding the first referendum on Theresa May’s deal may well be divisive but that very much depends on how it’s conducted. If politicians started being honest about the trade-offs we face, and stopped framing the ongoing democratic process as thwarting the will of the people, or a betrayal, a referendum may well provide the space needed to bring most of the country back together. It’s certainly better than threatening the country with endless cliff edges to get your own way.

So, I have voted for every option by which I feel could lead to a timely exit from the EU – delivering on the result of the 2016 Referendum and to try to move us forward.

You have done a good job of supporting the deal we agreed with the EU, which only Kenneth Clarke did better at.

Recent by-election results have shown the impact that the inability to deliver Brexit is having on our democracy, with the number of people using their vote visibly reduced to around 30% in some areas – this comes on the backdrop of the EU Referendum which saw close to 80% of the people in our area turning out to vote.

Treating democracy with contempt probably doesn’t help turn out. Our first past the post system is another issue, especially when neither of the two main parties differ significantly on a subject as significant as Brexit. Even so, it will be interesting to see what happens in the local elections.

Yesterday I had many constituents visit Parliament for a chat and a tour, and it was clear overall that they want us to get on and deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit as soon as possible, and I shared this with the Prime Minister when I met with her again yesterday evening.

Have you started keeping track of constituents Brexit correspondence properly yet? If you’ve not already seen it yet, quite a few of your constituents signed the petition to revoke article 50. It’s a pity you missed the debate.

The Public has rightly run out of patience with those MPs who simply wish to and choose to continue to delay, disrupt and then choose not deliver on their promises to the electorate. There is a plague on all our houses by these actions, and our democracy, one of the world’s greatest, will surely suffer as a result.

I would agree that people are entitled to be frustrated about the prime minister’s track record of unnecessary delay. She wasted a huge amount of time calling a snap election after triggering article 50. She only finally managed to agree a deal with the EU in November last year, which MPs were then not given the opportunity to vote on until months later. She keeps on delaying and running down the clock, which she started without an agreed plan even within her own cabinet.

Remind me which promises that were made in the referendum campaign will be delivered by Theresa May’s deal. What about in the event of no deal? Our democracy is suffering already and only a significant change in behaviour will begin to repair the huge damage that has been done.

That is why I will continue to work towards delivering on the EU Referendum Result, and help the Prime Minister to move our Country forward.

How? By voting to leave ‘on time’ regardless of the consequences? By refusing to compromise to get an alternative deal through parliament?

I know that some constituents have concerns over the current discussions between the Government and the Official Opposition, however, we do not choose the Leader of the Opposition.

My only concern is that they are just for show. The government should have been working across party lines since the beginning, and certainly since you lost a majority in the snap election.

I think it is right the Prime Minister works across Parliament to try to seek a consensus, but I do very sincerely like many others do find this hugely difficult due to the history and associations the Leader of Opposition has on record of being engaged with.

To be fair it must be difficult working with the prime minister given her history of broken promises.

Yet delivering on the outcome of vote cast by my constituents both in June 2016, as well as in the General Election in June 2017 is what this Government must do and can never stop trying in this and if we can find common ground it will be a welcome miracle!! But it may deliver again different challenges. We will see! GULP!

Those outcomes were a narrow majority to leave the EU, and your party losing its majority. The prime minister still seems to be having difficulty accepting either of those things.

But to conclude for this post- something brighter-There is hope and opportunity beyond leaving the EU and by Parliament delivering on the Referendum result – we have so much to gain!

Such as?

MPs must now chose to believe in a Global Britain in the way voters have entrusted their belief in us.

Good grief, we were Global Britain. Leaving the EU is not going to make us any more global, and leaving without meeting our international obligations will be incredibly damaging to our global standing.

If not, our democracy runs the risk of being damaged beyond repair. The stakes for all Parties are high – with the public now just seeing us as a whole delivering nothing but heightened divisions and ongoing damage.

The stakes are high but the biggest risk at the moment is a prime minister who is almost out of control.

It’s high time for this whole Parliament to do much better – as sincerely it is in the National interest.

I couldn’t agree more! It’s time for all MPs to step up.

Contempt of democracy


My MP. Mims Davies, recently emailed her latest Brexit update to Eastleigh constituents but if, like me, she didn’t send it to you, don’t worry; it didn’t say anything new. In fact, despite my response to her last update, it contains the same specious claims as before: control, borders, money, citizen rights, jobs, etc. I guess she didn’t read my letter.

It would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious, unfortunately it looks like Mims is going to carry on spreading the same misleading alternative facts as the prime minister until the bitter end. It’s this complete contempt for democracy that has got us in to the current mess and, whatever happens on the 29th March, it’s not going to end well.

Both leave voters and remain voters have legitimate concerns about democracy and respecting the referendum, and both are right to feel aggrieved because we have all been treated with utter contempt from the very beginning. Starting with David Cameron’s reasons for giving us a referendum.

If you think the EU referendum had anything to do with a genuine concern for what the country wanted, ask yourself why there wasn’t a referendum on something the country actually cared about before 2016. For example, austerity, or the NHS.

No, David just wanted to solve a problem he had with the Conservative party, and protecting the conservative party has featured just as strongly in the self inflicted crisis ever since then.

Having called for a show referendum it would have been nice if MPs had taken it seriously but unfortunately they proceeded to treat the whole thing with just as much contempt as the prime minister had. No need for a threshold on such a constitutionally significant question because it’s just advisory. That turned out well didn’t it.

Happily we don’t need to say too much about the actual referendum campaign, suffice to say it was universally awful.

And the result of trying to unite the Conservative party was a toxic narrow victory for leaving the EU, which looks like it has successful divided the country for a generation. It’s also worth noting the result is unsafe but since it was advisory, who cares?

Things looked bad, but even at this stage David could have built a sensible consensus on the way forward that truly respected the narrow win for leaving the EU. Dave? Dave?

Oh.

David Cameron outside number 10

Photo: Open Government Licence v3.0

Things really took a turn for the worse when Theresa-totalitarian tendencies-May moved in. Respect for democracy? Don’t make me laugh! From the outset, this was her chance to get rid of all those pesky foreigners that she’d been failing to keep out for her entire career.

Obviously triggering article 50 without a plan and calling a snap election makes perfect sense. Who wouldn’t give up their best (only?) leverage and waste a good chunk of the subsequent two year deadline just to lose your majority?

Having made these unforced errors, the contempt for democracy shifts up a gear. She hasn’t once behaved as if she lost her majority. In attempting to ram her own personal Brexit through, she has trampled over parliament at every opportunity. Mostly successfully to MP’s great shame.

Talking of shameful MPs, my MP is now essentially voting to leave the EU on 29th March with no deal. I would really love to know how she thinks this is in anyway a good thing for the UK or her Eastleigh constituency.

She still talks of 17.4 million people as if that number still exists, rather than being a fleeting coalition of people projecting their own vision of leaving onto the blank canvas of the leave campaign. What she’s actually doing is fuelling that belief that democracy is frozen in time in 2016 and must be respected at all costs, rather than being an ongoing process. It’s a dangerous illusion that will surely fail when people realise that none of the promises made in 2016 have been respected.

No one voted for the kind of Brexit that we’ll get if we leave the EU on the 29th March without honouring our international obligations.

Since MPs have so spectacularly failed to do their jobs over the last two years (obviously with some notable exceptions) it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go back to people with the options that are actually available.

Sadly Mims is not the only one to characterise a referendum on Theresa May’s own personal Brexit deal as a Second Referendum. Perhaps she’s confused because MPs have already had two chances to vote on the deal, but the rest of us haven’t even been given our first opportunity to provide our informed consent. In the unlikely event that the people voted to remain in the EU at this stage, how is that in any way disrespectful of the people in 2016? Or was the snap election disrespectful? It’s hard to keep up on what is democratic and what isn’t.

None of this is going end well, whether we eventually leave the EU or not. Thanks to a persistent pattern of contempt for democracy by a large number of people in the UK, including my MP, the mother of parliaments is not looking well. I fear that it’s almost too late to save her.