There has been much anger and recrimination this week in the world of politics and the use of inflammatory language came under the spotlight during Boris Johnson’s deeply divisive speech to the House of Commons. His constant use of the word surrender and terms such as traitor bandied about by his ERG MPs and the Brexit/Tory press echoes the kind of language used in death threats to MPs around the country, MPs who either support a peoples vote or have voted against the government. Even MPs such as Antoinette Sandbach have had death threats and abuse simply for opposing a no-deal Brexit having voted for Theresa May’s Deal on every occasion.
Let’s just get rid of the “both sides argument”. It’s absolute nonsense. Only a few months ago Anna Soubry was harassed by a group of men who surrounded and followed her shouting at her. She was prevented from speaking at a rally recently because of threats.
There have been several incidents where street campaigners for the #PeoplesVote and pro EU movement have been verbally and physically abused. 2 personal friends of mine alone have had to endure such incidents and we have seen various other cases caught on camera. Pro EU group SODEM, have campaigned outside the House of Commons for 2 years but it has only been since just before Christmas when far right groups started to appear in small but vocal numbers when we have seen these kinds of incidents against MPs and even journalists start to ramp up.
This group of men and women also, having fashioned themselves with little self-awareness on the french Gilet Jaune movement, were filming themselves having a go at people, getting in their faces, trying to provoke, then using those videos to raise money for themselves, winding up a small group of people vulnerable to their messages into parting with hard cash and using all those terms, traitor, nazi, etc for that end. This all echoes the language used by a man who did in fact murder an MP because he didn’t like what she had to say. No wonder MPs now have panic buttons in their houses.
However, thankfully, all these acts are committed by a very small number of people who are in effect massive anti-democrats despite their protestations to the contrary. The overwhelming majority of people coming to our street stalls are on the whole polite and respectful even when they disagree passionately with us. They recognise we are exercising our democratic right to campaign for something we want to change.
The biggest irony is these other anonymous cowards who throw bricks through windows or write poison pen letters are angry because MPs are doing the very job we pay them to do. The people are not 17.4 million people who put a cross against a binary option in what was, legally speaking, just an opinion poll in 2016. This is a complete nonsense and I am extremely tired of the use of this number to try and silence us. It will not. The people are #66Million and the job of Parliament is to scrutinise and approve, or not, legislation which is in the best interest of the 66 million. ALL the people regardless of what or who they voted for. Their interests are protected by their MPs who are chosen to listen and research the evidence and understand it and vote accordingly, not to to be their delegates.
Something else undermines the 17 million argument. In 2017 the public saw fit to remove the Conservative majority. This was an indication that they did not approve wholeheartedly of Theresa May’s approach and red lines. If they had they would have returned a Tory majority wouldn’t they? Yet we ended up even more confused about what the will of the people was, not less. But Theresa May pressed on regardless and here we are with a multiple of people claiming they know what the will of the people is. Who knows what people voted for, it changes with every day which passes if you listen to the ERG and the Poison Pens all of whom love to move those goal posts.
So what can we cling to? We can rely on our democracy which allows groups like those of us in the Remain Movement to campaign peacefully to make the arguments that are at the core of our unity. We campaign for what we believe is in the interests of 66 million but we do so by following the rules, by making the arguments that make sense, by using evidence, by lobbying our representatives. We campaign in good faith and peace and yes in passion too but never in violence.
But there is something else we must cling to. We must continue to support our parliament in trying to find the best route which is in the interests of the entire population. We must stop dividing the people and most importantly, politicians must stop dividing the people and we must encourage them to this end. Their job is to put the good of their entire constituency foremost in their decision making process.
There are many, many MPs who are now doing their jobs properly. They are scrutinising the executive, an executive who now wants to overstep its authority in order to bully them into following it’s will – not the people’s will, the ERG will. Yes parliament voted against May’s deal but this is because considering everything, they deemed the deal was not right. Even the ERG voted against it. This is not a parliament blocking brexit, this is a parliament doing it’s job. If what the executive is trying to do threatens the well-being of their constituents their responsibility is to stop this, not enable it, and it doesn’t matter what their constituents voted for or whether they voted at all in 2016.
If the executive are unable to offer an acceptable brexit route, that means the executive’s solution is poor, below par, substandard. Politicians should be able to carry out parliamentary business in light of this without fear of danger so they can serve us all. They should also be able to do that without commentators like Brendan O’Neill appearing on a BBC news programme inciting riots for Brexit. They should be able to do that without being pursued down the street by threatening men representing Leave means Leave. Even as I write this, the radio plays the voice of men talking up the idea of rioting by people who voted leave. This has no bearing on the reality around the country. Remain events attract 100s of 1000s of attendees with no trouble and no arrests. Leave rallies attract a few thousand at most, often only a few hundred, and the only violence has been seen from a tiny proportion of men and women of violence in their fringe groups. The country cannot be held to ransom by this tiny group of extremists. Likewise we as campaigners should be able to work using the rules and all democratic means in the interests of 66 million, which is the abiding emotion that binds us and drives us, without fear of abuse.
If MPs, whose full time job it is to study and understand the detail of proposed legislation cannot actually agree which version of Brexit is in the interests of their constituents after 3 years, this begs the question “Is there a brexit which is good for their constituents?” If they still can’t agree on that, they must be allowed to determine a path or mechanism which will resolve that question, taking into account the best interests of the entire population, preferably and unfortunately a referendum. On the other hand if we allow MPs to be bullied or frightened into voting or supporting a particular piece of legislation by government which will damage their constituents and the country, that will be the day democracy dies.
The people are #66million.