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Why I’ll be there in Parliament Square


IN AN amusing piece in the Telegraph Allison Pearson castigates Lord Heseltine (was there ever a man with a greater talent for being on the wrong side of the argument?) for decrying today’s celebration in Parliament Square as divisive. As she says, it’s all very muted compared with the ten days of state-sponsored partying after our joining.

I will be there, although I thought long and hard about it.

I spent my youth in the Army, much of it in Germany very close to the Iron Curtain. This represented the barrier between free liberal democracy and the rule of law in the West, and the ruthless authoritarian dictatorship of the Kremlin in the East. Occasionally one did a border patrol and could end up staring into the eyes of an Aufklärer – one of the East German Army’s elite soldiers, trusted to operate in the strip of land between the actual border (marked with posts) and the Iron Curtain (comprising several bloody great fences) – possibly at a distance of less than one metre. Interesting.

At other times, dressed in civilian clothes, one would look at one’s wartime deployment position and plan the battles one would face should World War Three kick off (we were constantly ready to deploy at six hours’ notice – something that we practised repeatedly). And a few times a year one would drive back to the UK on leave, catching a ferry to Dover. Seeing the white cliffs always gave me a warm feeling – a sort of mild version of ‘There’ll Always Be An England’.

Which is why I, like so many who voted to leave, have found the chicanery of parts of the British establishment and politicians seeking to subvert the referendum so very, very distressing. Did it mean that I wasted my youth defending parliamentary democracy? Is the UK’s concept of the representation of the people and the rule of law a myth? When did the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’ become a rubber stamp for the dictatorship of the SW1 elite? When did propaganda replace journalism? When did hysteria trump rational debate? When did it become quite so hard to understand the word leave?

Most of my acquaintances who voted to remain were as dismayed as I was by the bizarre, often nonsensical journey that we have been on. The premise that Westminster and Whitehall know best died with the banking crash in 2008, if not before. Like me, they were shocked to discover that Cameron had banned the Civil Service from making any contingency plans – and even more disappointed that it had accepted such a stipulation (surely the Civil Service has a duty of good government above all else?). Like me, they were sceptical of many of the forecasts that the government machine produced. Like me they were bewildered by the antics of some of the judiciary. Like me they have concluded that there is something rotten in the heart of Westminster.

Like me they are delighted that, at last, we’re getting on with it. We share concerns about how it will all pan out, but that concern remains tempered by the knowledge that this country’s private sector is the match of anywhere and it is us, in the private sector, who make the UK a global player. Yes, the implementation fiasco has shown us some failings in government. These are fixable.

It’s taken three years too long, but finally our apparatchiks have accepted the instructions of the electorate – who are both their paymasters and their only authority. The Blairs, Campbells, Grieves, Letwins, Heseltines and Gina Miller (who did pay her legal bills?) have been put back in their place; our democracy is working.

And I bloody well will celebrate that.     

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Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell
Patrick Benham-Crosswell is a former Army officer who has spent the last 30 years in commerce. He is the author of Net Zero: The Challenges, Costs and Consequences of the UK's Zero Emission Ambition. He has a substack here. He is the Reform Parliamentary Candidate for Swansea West.

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