For an unintended 2 month period now between my first blog post and this one, I have exercised with every fibre of my being, the restraint not to write about Brexit. I knew the second I put pixels to screen, all that would follow was some emotional flurry of anguish and a stubborn millennial unwillingness to move on. However, I could never avoid the topic entirely. The historic nature of the event and its importance to our everyday lives warrants it the attention it so annoyingly receives. What eventually lifted my Brexit restraining order was the opportunity to rationally highlight and critique something very real about the current circumstance of our political representation. As I’m writing this, the vote has just been cast in the Commons granting Theresa May the power to trigger Article 50. The numbers? 498 for and 114 against. It would be naive of me to suggest that this paints a picture of a newly born, pro-Leave House but there has been a disappointing reluctance by Remain MPs to provide an effective vocal opposition, in support of the 16 million British citizens who wished to remain a member of the EU.
Firstly, let me elaborate on that last point. The LibDems are deserving of significant credit for being the only major party to openly oppose the triggering of Article 50 and for, well, actually defending what 48% of the country voted for (I discount the SNP here as their motives were primarily focused upon Scotland). The obvious issue, as we have seen consistently with the LibDems, is their poor track record in gaining seats. Their influence is limited. The Article 50 vote may well be a small boost for their membership, given Corbyn’s betrayal of all common sense, but I fear their ‘real opposition’ campaign will do little to contend the overwhelming, if somewhat reluctant, commitment by MPs to move forward with exiting the EU. Herein lies the fundamental issue facing Remain voters: 73% of MPs at the time of the referendum voted to Remain, alongside 252 constituencies, representing 16,141,241 voters. What these people explicitly voted for is now only represented by approximately 18% of the House of Commons, a total mismatch.
I will not overlook the nature of the referendum. The Leave/Remain ultimatum only allows for one binary response, so I do not expect any kind of magical amalgamation of consequences. However, I shall be very forthright in saying that the referendum should not have been binding. I cannot help but feel that more compromise could have been made from inside the EU and that Leave voters would have been far better appeased than those of Remain, given the drastic constitutional ramifications of leaving. Thus, the referendum could have stood as a measure of public opinion, most likely leading to Cameron’s end and thus ushering in an administration with a focus upon reforming EU constitution in line with voters’ sentiments. I apologise for how pathetically retrospective that is but I wanted to clear up why I feel Remain voters’ political representation is of personal vital importance at this time.
Back to the future. Labour appears to have aligned itself with the Tories (not even in a Blairite kind of way), on the basis of Jeremy Corbyn’s Farage-like distaste for European elites. Yes, it could well be argued that if Labour didn’t vote in favour of the motion that they would be ignoring the will of the majority and therefore would be unlikely to win the next GE etc. etc. But this is Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party – they are unlikely to win the next GE. You would think on that assessment, rebellious MPs (of which there are a considerable number), would vote on their principles rather than on the false likelihood of an election victory. Corbyn displayed little hesitation in jumping aboard Theresa May’s ‘will of the people’ bandwagon, the perfect slogan for any PM wishing to ignore the requests of almost half of the electorate. Leading Labour MPs were forced to follow. Or just resign, as appears to be the trend.
Labour cabinet resignations over Corbyn’s three-line whip have only served to hasten the gradual deterioration of front line support in the Commons for ardent Remain voters. The combination of these issues, for myself and I suspect many others, has put Labour out of the frame as a party representative of our interests. A very impassioned and unfortunately, much needed speech by Nick Clegg on Tuesday, shone a spotlight on the contrasting efforts of Labour and the LibDems to support the nation’s young people. Clegg accused the Tory government of outright neglecting the wishes and demands of 18-24 year olds, of whom an enormous 73% voted to remain. He’s right. There could not be a bigger elephant in any smaller a room. Theresa May’s ‘Global Britain’ speech in January made no mention of what Brexit would mean for young people. None. The PM’s relentless head-in-the-sand approach to young voters on the matter, marks a failure that will only manifest deeper rifts between herself and them (us!).
Moving forward, as we must, my hope is that those MPs who voted to Remain will fight more brazenly for a Brexit that recognises the will of the 48%, as well as that of the people who voted to leave. Such a number deserves an equal measure of regard.