‘We will grind the business of government to a standstill’. This was no idle threat from the Lib Dems, who are determined to scupper the Government’s plans to enact the verdict of the EU referendum. It was uttered by Lib Dem ‘Chief Whip’ Tom Brake, who is also my MP. Embarrassed by his Brexit-voting constituency, Tom has been at the forefront of Brexit resistance, with his ‘Vote Leave Watch’ surveillance on those extremists who voted for British sovereignty. Now Tom must face his voters, who may not appreciate being cast as tub-thumping bigots.
To call an early general election was a bold move by Theresa May. We don’t praise her enough: she has worked wonders after stepping into the breach of the dramatic vote to leave the EU and David Cameron’s inglorious departure. Somehow she has bridged the chasm in Tory ranks, isolating the few outspoken Europhiles such as Anna Soubry. Instead of passively pleading for calm and compromise, Theresa has set the agenda: managing the menace of Nicola Sturgeon, and the tumult of the court judgment in favour of rich foreigners against the will of the British people. ‘Take back control’, we Leavers demanded, and in Theresa there is no doubt who is in charge.
With perfect timing, the Evening Standard letters page on the day of the announcement had another Brexit-bashing missive by our Tom. People didn’t vote to leave the single market, blah, blah…Apparently we are heading for ‘economic chaos’, despite all indicators to the contrary, while suffering from ‘diplomatic humiliation’. As urged by European leaders, the eventual Brexit terms must be presented to the people, rather than being passed by elected representatives at Westminster. Funny how that Gina Miller case for parliamentary sovereignty is no longer useful for Remoaners. These 100 words of Lib Dem obstructiveness show precisely why Theresa was right to act.
The Conservatives are expected to win a clear majority, but the Lib Dems are reviving as a political force. Their leader Tim Farron is constantly on the airwaves, often as first comment on a government policy. The EU-biased BBC sees the Lib Dems as the main opposition, and the voice of the sensible half of the country. As the general election is a direct result of Brexit controversy, it was Tom Brake who immediately followed Theresa May’s declaration on news bulletins.
The Lib Dems are excited, predicting a substantial recovery. Exasperated with Jeremy Corbyn, Labour voters are wavering. Undoubtedly some recently-won Tory seats will fall to the ‘yellow peril’, particularly in the South West. But if Farron thinks this will be a national version of the Richmond by-election, he is setting his sights too far. Unless a gaping hole is burst in the Tory ramparts, voters will opt for stability and sure purpose. Wreckers will be exposed for what they are.
More fundamentally, the election will tackle the great divide that commentators of all colours have observed in Britain. This will be a battle between David Goodhart’s ‘Anywheres’ and ‘Somewheres’. Theresa May speaks unashamedly for middle-Britain, including the much-maligned masses who read the Daily Mail, who identify as C of E, and whose patriotism guided their vote in the EU referendum. These are the ‘Somewheres’, while the cosmopolitan ‘Anywheres’ who dominate the establishment, academe and much of the media deride the backwardness of the country beyond the multicultural cities.
When Douglas Carswell won the first seat for Ukip, his constituency of Clacton was subjected to a notoriously condescending disparagement by Matthew Parris in The Times. Forget these places, Parris suggested, for they are populated by ignoramuses stuck in the past. Such sneering contempt has been magnified in the EU fallout, and the nadir was a recent front-page of the New European, now edited by arch-Remainer Alastair Campbell, which presented Skegness as a parody of Brexit xenophobia. All this hate crime we hear of, while unbridled snobbery and inverse racism are given free rein.
Let the people of these towns, long neglected by the liberal establishment, have their final say on the likes of Campbell, Blair and Clegg. Let the Lib Dems argue EU good, UK bad. And let Tom Brake insult his own constituents. This election will expose them as anti-patriotic reactionaries who do not want a good deal for Britain. For the good of the country Brexit must really mean Brexit, and in Theresa we trust.
(Image: Lib Dems)