Why did 12 Sussex MPs oppose Parliamentary Democracy?

Group PhotoThe important vote that took place last Wednesday in the House of Commons involved all 16 Sussex MPs. Four of them voted to ensure that there would be an Act of Parliament before Brexit proceeds and twelve opposed this. Thankfully the national vote reversed the Sussex result. The fact that Vote Leave which claimed its purpose was to return sovereignty to the British Parliament opposed this amendment is very strange but it is even more disturbing that 75% of our MPs have followed this anti-democratic line. All Sussex residents have a right to know why a mere quarter of their MPs voted to give sovereignty to Parliament and the rest opposed this, despite being well paid Members. There is a powerful case for attempting to unite the nation following the divisive referendum of June 2016, amendment seven was surely a good place to start. I oppose our departure, but believe if we are to leave, that all MPs must have a say and a vote, my friends at work who wanted us to leave also believe that any departure needs to done in accountable manner because in part, that is why they oppose our membership of the EU. What is now needed is a clear explanation from the Twelve MPs who voted against amendment seven as to why they chose to reject Parliamentary Sovereignty and deny their constituents representation in such a process. It is perhaps understandable that a Government wants the freedom to do things quickly and on the hoof, avoiding scrutiny, but it is Parliaments role to demand a more accountable and considered approach than the Government wishes for. Throughout the six hour debate on the amendment only two Sussex MPs chose to speak or were able to do so. Caroline Lucas explained how damaging the actions of David Davis had been on the lives of ordinary people as he kept on changing his public statements and approaches. Nicholas Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill responded to a Labour MP with the simple sarcastic statement “Oh yeah right!”

Over many months since the referendum Theresa May and David Davis intimated and even promised in public that they would give Parliament a vote on our departure. When amendment seven demanding a proper Parliamentary Act was tabled Theresa May spent time with her MPs reinforcing the promise to give them a vote. The problem with such promises is that if they were honoured, they could nevertheless end up with a rushed vote literally minutes after the agreement was made to which very little scrutiny would apply. A formal Act of Parliament will give MPs time if they can be bothered to do so to listen to their constituents, which is another level of the promised return of sovereignty in the Vote Leave bag of goodies.

In any event promises on Brexit have so far proven to be very slippery. As the Government prepared for negotiations and prepared to issue Article 50, they promised to listen to the public. Indeed they told their colleagues this was taking place. Lord Brooks stated in October 2016 in the House of Lords “earlier today we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, that he is running around the country attending meetings. I understand that many departments, Ministers and officials are holding meetings on Brexit around the country. The noble Baroness could state to the House that the Government are prepared to publish a running report on what meetings are taking place on Brexit, who is involved and what are their subjects” Sadly no such meetings took place in Sussex as far as I or any of my friends are aware. This makes an even stronger case for our Sussex MPs to support amendment seven. David Davis made a series of statements regarding the 58 assessments of our departure that had been made by the Government prior to the negotiations. Then he admitted that no such assessments had been made. However he claimed that an 850 page impact analysis document was created to assist the Brexit team. Then he conceded he and Theresa May had not read any of it, but it was made available to MPs to read in a secure room. Up until the 12th December a total of 40 MPs and Peers had bothered to look at the document, one of them, claimed it was no more comprehensive than Wikipedia and another that it was probably not made public because it was so lightweight. It is not yet known if any of these 40 MPs and Peers include any of the 16 Sussex MPs, perhaps now we can call on the rest of them to speak up and say a bit more than “Oh yeah right!”

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An Institute in name only

iea logoA news report yesterday has called into question the naming of a lobby group think tank which was formed by Daniel Hannan, my MEP. The operating name chosen was the Institute for Free Trade or IFT. Daniel apparently should have known better as apparently the ‘Use of the title is protected by law and reserved for established organisations “that typically undertake research at the highest level, or are professional bodies of the highest standing”. It can be used only after permission has been granted by Companies House and the Secretary of State for Business.’ Apparently if Daniel and his chums don’t change the name, they may be fined for describing the organisation as an “institute” without permission. As the report goes on to point out, it is not just Daniel who should be embarrassed over this, as Boris Johnson allowed the IFT to hold its public launch event at the Foreign Office in the Map Room and guests included Cabinet members Michael Gove, Liam Fox and of course Boris. Apparently ‘The registered name for the IFT avoids the word “institute”; instead the organisation calls itself the Initiative for International Trade Ltd. Companies House said any company that was trading under the title needed permission. It said it was aware of the IFT’s use of the term and would be contacting the company.’

If the criteria for the use of the word Institute is bodies “that typically undertake research at the highest level, or are professional bodies of the highest standing” then one would expect that this assessment is not carried out just once at the beginning of the process. The example that comes to my mind is the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Formed in 1955 it may well have passed all the relevant tests at the time and been fully approved of by Peter Thorneycroft who was the relevant Minister at the time. However it has now fallen into disrepute and indeed I wonder if the formation of the IFT is intended to allow the IEA to return to focusing on economic matters that are not biased towards Brexit as the IEA has been for the last decade. So the question in my head is how does one challenge the criteria for the use of the word Institute in the name of the IEA? It is carrying on as a charity even though it has broken the rules of charities by being deeply political and refusing to disclose its funding for what is a political lobby group. Now this information above has come to light some of us need to challenge its right to be called an Institute.

If anyone wishes to question my judgement regarding the iea in terms of its lack of professionalism, I once received a tweet from Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs referring to me as “Another smug, whiney, ill informed, statist, “know it all”, pompous, up themselves, utterly pathetic, left wing lunatic” Whilst other people may agree with Mark’s analysis, it seems unprofessional to make such as statement in public.

A postscript came from someone on twitter who shared this link to this indepth and fascinating blog on the history of Think Tanks and in particular the IEA.

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A career by any other name

Farage1It is true that some people work for the whole of their lives in one role or for one employer, while others like myself do not. However as someone whose longest role in my own working life was 13 years I feel it is possible to have several careers in one working life. Nigel Farage may not consider himself to be a career politician, he has after all spent 17 years of his life working in the City of London before he became my MEP, however he has been a member of two political parties with only a short break ever since he left school (first the Tories and then UKIP from 1993) as well as being my MEP for 18 years (soon to be 19 years). He was leader of his party for a total of 10 years. If this is not a career it is hard to see what else anyone would call it. The truth is that after 18 years as my MEP I have never had a single piece of information about what he has done through my door, he has ignored every tweet and facebook message I have ever sent to him, and his attendance in the European Parliament has been very limited. I would certainly not suggest he has been a good MEP, but few people apart from Nigel would argue that he has not achieved a career.

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A man lacking integrity or self awareness

Philip DaviesThe legacy of most MPs outside their constituency, unless they make it into Government is relatively modest. However the man pictured here is a depressing exception. His opposition to those seeking equality for society is well documented as is his consistent line on opposing private members bills over many years using the anti-democratic technique know as filibuster. As techniques go it is entirely legal but entirely anti-democratic as it denies Parliament votes on matters that Davies may oppose, but which other MPs may wish to support. Opposing proposals in Parliament by voting against them provides total accountability, opposing them by talking until it is too late for a vote is as close as Parliament can get to being bullied by one or two of its members. On Wednesday when Parliament was debating amendment 7 Mr Davies decided to speak up about a subject that he should understand very well. He chose to accuse Dominic Grieve of trying to ‘overturn and frustrate that meaningful vote’ It is perhaps not surprising that Dominic Grieve laughed, although in one sense this is too serious to laugh at:

Does the hon. Gentleman not concede that there was a meaningful vote on 23 June 2016, when people voted to leave the European Union? The problem with the amendment tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) is that it could be, and no doubt is designed to be, used to try to overturn and frustrate that meaningful vote? [Interruption.] My right hon. and learned Friend laughs, but it is a shame he does not have the courage of his convictions to admit that that is what his game is. If people in this House use that amendment for those purposes, the backlash from the British public will be like none seen before, and he should beware of that consequence.

Perhaps one day Philip Davies will realise how lacking in integrity and self awareness he currently is. Until then the residents of Shipley are left represented by a deluded individual.
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The Brexit-Tears are pouring out

Julia v2The vote last night in Parliament was of course a minor point in a much bigger process and anyone who either supported Amendment 7 (as I did) or who opposed it (as the tweets here display) knows that there is a long way to go to achieve either an effective exit from the EU or a possible alternative approach that gives us as a nation as many of the objectives as the Vote – Leave Campaign promised, that are realistic or achievable, but possibly without the full trauma of a hard Brexit. The whole point behind Amendment 7 was simply to formalise a promise of Theresa May and David Davis to give Parliament a full and proper vote on the outcome from the negotiations that Theresa and David are cack-handily trying to carry out. When the Tory Rebels stated they intended bringing this forward and voting for it Theresa apparently reiterated that she would give Parliament a vote. No one believed her and frankly that is why the tweets such as by Julia Hartley Brewer exist. However the headline in today’s Daily Mail states “Just as the newly confident Tories inch ahead in the polls, 11 self-consumed malcontents pull the rug from under our EU negotiators, betray their leader, party and 17.4m Brexit voters and – most damning of all – increase the prospect of a Marxist in No 10”  Of course the 52% of the voters who voted for Brexit back in June 2016 before many of the lies were revealed (on both sides of the ‘debate’) may well now vote differently today, and even then the vote was on a knife edge. It is for this reason that I have written numerous postings suggesting that we hold a second referendum so our position is clear and unambiguous. However to see that knife edge result in the Commons albeit with the miniscule majority in the other direction should be seen as a way of Parliament reflecting the 16.7m voters plus those who did not, or could not vote in calling for the very thing that Vote Leave argued for. Indeed that is why the nonsense from people such as Montgomerie and Hartley-Brewer and the Mail need exposing. The vote last night gave Parliament the very thing that Vote Leave called for – Parliamentary Sovereignty. Anyone who argues otherwise is a traitor both to Brexit and to Democracy and should, if a Politician, step down from their position as a matter of urgency.

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It is vital that amendment 7 is supported

sovereigntyIn the debate taking place today over the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, the amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve is the 7th Amendment and is referred to as Parliamentary Approval of the Final Deal. It seems hard to imagine why any MP, or indeed any Democrat would argue that such an amendment is a poor piece of reform. However in searching for the wording of the amendment on the internet I came across the website for Mary Robinson who is MP for Cheadle claiming:

“The Government has promised that there will be frequent reports to Parliament during the negotiations and that the final deal will be put to a vote in the House of Commons and the House of Lords before it is concluded. Parliament will be able to accept or reject the deal and I expect this vote to take place before the European Parliament votes on the agreement. The Government has also made clear that there will be a significant amount of legislation passing through Parliament during the process of exiting the EU. Parliament will be able to debate, scrutinise and vote on these important decisions meaning that MPs will have their say at every stage.
I do not believe, however, that giving Parliament the power to send Britain back to the negotiating table would be helpful. It would undermine the country’s negotiating position and deliver a worse deal.”

So Mary and some of her colleagues apparently believe that to officially promise something makes sense, but to put it into law weakens our negotiating position. This is stated without any explanation of why the law of our land and the sovereignty of this country are not important enough to ensure that Parliament and not the Government should be in control of what goes on.

It is clear to me that when Vote Leave argued for doing so to regain our sovereignty, that this was surely an argument for Parliament and indeed our other elected institutions to make decisions on our behalf, not for a small number of MPs and Peers who are selected to serve in the largest party but who are accountable only to their party, and not to the nation as a whole. When Chris Grayling stated “I want us to live in an independent sovereign country. I want us to take back control of our democracy.” on 31st May 2016, he was surely arguing for Parliament, not the Government of the day to have sovereignty? The same should be try for Mary Robinson and indeed the whole of Parliament. It is vital that every Democrat in the House of Commons votes for Amendment 7 and all those who vote against resign tomorrow morning for having failed their constituents.

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Japanese Commuters must be envious

trainThe unexpected news that the trains in parts of Surrey have been upgraded by Govia Thameslink Rail must have created a great deal of envy in Japan. After all it was only ten months ago that Chris Grayling told MPs: “I have already told the Japanese transport minister that, although he has good trains on the suburban network in Tokyo, our trains from are better and that he should buy some for his network.” However the commuters in Surrey are not very happy as they are now being forced to pay a 12% increase in the cost of their season tickets that cover the route affected. The 12-carriage Class 700 Thameslink trains have been introduced to 17 services on the Southern route between Littlehampton and London Bridge via the west coast and Hove, and between Horsham and London Bridge. A spokesman for the rail firm said the trains are 50 per cent longer, offering 1,300 more seats a day : “GTR is modernising the network with new trains, upgraded infrastructure and new ways of working to create faster, more frequent journeys across the network. “This will help address the huge growth in passenger numbers which have doubled in just 12 years on services into London. “As part of this we are introducing new longer Thameslink trains and more frequent services at these stations from May to create quicker, seamless journeys across central London, with a new interchange at Farringdon for Crossrail and the Elizabeth line.

The cost of extra infrastructure is clearly high and the money has to come from somewhere, however in businesses where footfall doubles in 12 years, one would assume that the increased numbers would go a long way to covering all of the costs. Clearly extra passengers makes extra demand on the system such as the need for longer trains but in most settings, the greater the number of customers, the lower the cost of running the business. Any investment in trains will surely be counterbalanced by future fares? As the chart above shows our fares are already the highest in Europe, but there was no comparison to Japaneses fares so perhaps they pay even more for the trains which Mr Grayling believes are less comfortable than ours!


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