Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I am very much looking forward to voting tonight and to the debates on universities, education, immigration and the economy that will take place in the Chamber during the next two years. I truly feel that, as a result of this referendum, we as MPs and Parliament as an entity are closer to the people now than we have ever been. I believe that they will watch those debates and follow what we are talking about. We will be responding to a mandate that has been given to us by the people. I, for one, am looking forward to the vote tonight.
I cannot speak in this debate without responding to the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, because he called for a second referendum. Does anybody remember the hon. Gentleman calling for a referendum in 2010? His party leaflets and posters said:
“It’s time for a real referendum”.
They also called for a referendum on the alternative vote in 2011. They lost that referendum, and they lost the most recent referendum. They had the best of three, and it is time for them to stop calling for referendums.
The hon. Gentleman spoke with passion, in the same way that he spoke with passion about tuition fees. I must just say that, as we are speaking in the Chamber, the news is breaking that some Liberal Democrat Members are going to abstain, some are going to vote for and some are going to vote against. He has divided his party of only nine MPs in a far more efficient manner than the Labour party. Well done—what an achievement with nine MPs.
That brings me to the Labour party. I have a better example than the one used by my hon. Friend Sir Gerald Howarth. In 2005, 9.5 million people voted for Mr Blair to lead a Labour Government, but 17.2 million voted against. More people voted for Brexit than voted for the Labour party to be in government in 2005. The point is this: some Opposition Members who served as Ministers in that Government and voted for the referendum are going to vote against the result and the mandate given to them by the people. That is slightly rich coming from Members who served as Ministers in a Government that achieved only 9 million votes. Did anybody call for a second referendum then? No. Did anybody refer to the rule of law then? No, of course not, because the people of this country respect a democratic vote.
I apologise for my tone, Mr Speaker, but it was with some dismay that I woke this morning to the news that a former Prime Minister had tried to skew and influence the outcome of the referendum by attempting to have the editor of the Daily Mail removed from his post. I say this with a degree of shame: a leader of my party allegedly attempted to manipulate and distort the freedom of the press—not the editor of The Guardian, the editor of the Daily Mirror or a paper that subscribed to his world view, but the editor of the Daily Mail. I find that so distressing, because it brings into relief the way that those who could did wield their power to try to achieve the result they wanted: from The Guardian’s and the IMF’s fantasy doom-and-gloom projections, to Mr Carney’s inaccurate forecasts and Obama’s back-of-the-queue threat.
I caution those thinking of voting against the Bill tonight to be careful what they wish for and to be careful of wishing for second referendums. I think the people—advocates of free speech, a free press and a powerful democracy—would view their wishes dimly.