Part of Backbench Business — [34th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 24th October 2011.
Yes, I would agree with that. As I believe we all recognise, there is generally a profound cynicism about the political process, not just in Britain but across western Europe. In this country, there are specific reasons for it, but tonight we have the opportunity to restore a bit of trust in the political process. I disagree completely with the three-line Whip being imposed by all the parties. When the leadership of all three parties acts in that way, it tends to foment that cynicism.
One of the great truisms of British politics is that when people move from this side of the House to that side of the House they tend to change their views on Europe pretty rapidly. That has fomented cynicism about the political process. Conservative Members have a chance tonight to restore a bit of face by being consistent in their views on Europe. I was not unanimously loyal during my previous eight years in this place when the Labour party was in government—I voted against my party about 84 times. When I went into the Government Lobby, my then Whip, whom I shall not name, greeted me by saying, “Voting Labour again tonight then, John?” I therefore speak as someone who has rebelled in the past and paid the price for it.
Many Conservatives—I am not talking about the Liberal Democrats because we expect them to be inconsistent—said things about Europe when they went before their selection committees and their electorates and people now expect these things to be upheld tonight. People expect us to be consistent. I suspect that an awful lot of Conservative associations and an awful lot of Conservative voters in those constituencies will applaud Conservative MPs who vote for this motion in the Lobby tonight.