Early Parliamentary General Election

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:07 pm on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Jim Dowd Jim Dowd Labour, Lewisham West and Penge 2:07 pm, 19th April 2017

The follow-through is to do whatever we can to get rid of a Tory Government as soon as we can. That is always the case. It might not work, but that is up to the British people in an election. It is their choice.

In saying why I think this position is inevitable, I want to pay a minor tribute to Mr David Cameron—late of this parish. When the history of this country in the early part of the 21st century comes to be written, he will have probably one of the most prominent roles in it, and it will not be a particularly glorious tribute. Decisions that he took will, over time, damage this country immensely.

I remember serving on the Public Bill Committee on the original European Union (Referendum) Bill, which was known at the time as the “Wharton Bill” after James Wharton, who picked it up from No. 10. I remember sitting in the Committee one evening and the then Prime Minister David Cameron actually came into, I think, Committee Room 7 or 8 and sat in the Public Gallery simply to pay obeisance to the hard right wingers of the Tory party who were on that Bill Committee. I have never seen or heard of a Prime Minister faced with such ignominy as having to pay obeisance to those to whom he is in thrall. Of course, he gave them the guarantee of an in/out referendum. He did not say, “I am going to renegotiate the terms of our EU membership and then put it to you.” He said, “I am going to renegotiate the terms and then have an in/out referendum,” and this is the consequence.

Mr Cameron will go down as one of the most damaging Prime Ministers, but prominent none the less. He has not just jeopardised the whole future of the United Kingdom as a trading nation and in our relationship with the European Union; he has jeopardised the future of Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, and people have all kinds of views on that. It was he who granted the referendum that set in train the dynamic that has, frankly, destroyed the Labour party in Scotland and given the Scottish National party the prominent role it enjoys today. He also jeopardised our relationship with the Republic of Ireland and, as Mr Dodds mentioned, put at risk the very stability of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

All those things add up, and the damage done will be with us for decades. The people who pay the greatest price, as others have mentioned, will be the young—the next generation, and those who come after. It will permanently damage this country. I will vote for the general election, but it will not change anything. The landscape will essentially remain much the same after the election, and it all follows from the calamitous decision of last June to leave the European Union. I understand the party political reasons for calling the election, and there is a certain amount of sanctimony and hypocrisy here today. Politics is neither science nor art, and it is certainly not religion. People do things for their own political advantage, and every Prime Minister has always done so.