Martyn Richard Jones
Brussels Saturday 22nd June 2019
In 2016 the UK held what was offically known as the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, a non-binding consultation with the people of the UK on the question of the UK leaving or remaining in the EU.
51.9% of those who voted supported the UK’s exit from the European Union.
Now, let’s put aside for one moment that the referendum act was badly drafted, ill-considered and seriously-flawed, which it clearly was. The options were imprecise; the lack of thresholds was absurd (for example, a simple majority is not appropriate for a referendum); and, the reasons for holding the referendum were far from sure – it really didn’t address the simple questions of:
- To what ends? And,
Let’s also put aside the exaggerations on the one hand and the downright lies on the other hand, as there were.
Let’s also put aside that all of this meant that the referendum campaign and vote was far-from democratic, which it was. By its very nature, a referendum or any election that is plagued with a massive display of lies, deceit, half-truths, manipulation and innuendo cannot possibly be considered democratic.
Now, let’s assume – by ignoring reality – that the consultation was the result of a clean, democratic and informative campaign, in which the leave camp won 60.9% of the vote. A clear indication of the majority public sentiment.
Now imagine that the government negotiated with the EU and the best deal that they could agree on was the one that Theresa May finally struck. That was – whether you like May or not, and at the margins of the macho charlies in the Tory Party – the best Brexit deal on offer.
Now, some questions for all MPs:
- Do you, as an MP feel that the country will be better off or worse off with all of the possible Brexit options?
- Do, you as a Labour, SNP or Plaid Cymru MP feel that the workers of the UK will be better off or worse off with all of the possible Brexit options?
- Or do you now feel that leaving the EU would be bad for the country and bad for workers?
The bottom line is simple: if MPs think that something is not in the best interest of the country then they have the right and more importantly the duty to stop it.
There is no sacred imperative for MPs to respect “the will of the people” as expressed in a referendum or consultation. The only votes that should really matter to MPs are the votes taken in the House of Commons and the votes in General Elections and By-Elections.
MPs in the House of Commons are not duty bound nor morally bound to respect any other vote, save also those for the parliament of Scotland, the Welsh Sennedd, Stormont in Northern Ireland and UK wide municipal elections.
What is the basis for the assertion?
In Edmund Burke, in a speech to the Electors of Bristol, 3rd November 1774, said:
“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion … Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests, which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”
Sir Winston Churchill writing on the Duties of a Member of Parliament, put it this way:
“The first duty of a member of Parliament is to do what he thinks in his faithful and disinterested judgement is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain. His second duty is to his constituents, of whom he is the representative but not the delegate. Burke’s famous declaration on this subject is well known. It is only in the third place that his duty to party organization or programme takes rank. All these three loyalties should be observed, but there in no doubt of the order in which they stand under any healthy manifestation of democracy.”
Thirdly, in section three paragraph six of the Duties of Members (House of Commons, UK), we find the following:
“Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents.”
Simply stated, MPs are representatives not delegates, and parliament is sovereign.
So, why do politicians and much of the media mislead the public by insisting that the will-of-the-people must be respected?
For various reasons, but what is most surprising is that in doing so they:
- Ignore the duties and rights of MPs
- Ignore the fact that the referendum act itself was fundamentally flawed
- Ignore the fact that the referendum campaign was palpably anti-Democratic in terms of disinformation, lies, manipulation and funding irregularities
- Ignore the fact that what many people now know is quite different to what many people imagined in 2016
- Ignore the fact that any sort of Brexit will leave the UK and its workers worse off than remaining in the EU
The positions of the PM and the leader of the opposition are clear, and they are at odds with reality. They are playing party politics, putting party over country. And the same goes for far too many MPs; their bums on House of Common’s seats, before party and well before country.
That’s not a good look.
Many thanks for reading,
Until next time.
Martyn Jones at goodstrat.com – The Good Strategy Company