European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Independent, North East Bedfordshire 3:44 pm, 4th September 2019

I have listened to the hon. Gentleman involuntarily for most of the years that I have been here—most, not all, because I went to campaign for him in his by-election of 1984. I have no wish to hear from him voluntarily. [Laughter.] Let me go on.

Thirdly, let me end where I began, as the Independent Member for North East Bedfordshire. I do not complain at the removal of the Whip—voting on an issue of confidence, I accept the rules—but I say to my colleagues: just think how this looks. Last week, the Conservative party lost Ruth Davidson and George Young in the House of Lords resigned the Whip. This morning, we lost my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Clarke and my right hon. Friend Mr Hammond —who made the economy we were cheering just a few minutes ago. What are people going to think about what we have left and what we have lost? Some will have been very happy at the fact that some have been purged—purged. A few weeks ago, one of our colleagues retweeted an article in The Daily Telegraph that looked forward to the purging of remoaners in the Conservative party. That was disgraceful. I say to my colleagues, if we are being purged now, who is next? Watch a film called “Good Night, and Good Luck”, and you will take my point.

This may be the last substantive speech I make here as I am not standing again—and who knows when the election will come? I will leave with the best of memories of this place, friends and colleagues on all sides. The obsession that my party has developed may have sought to devalue my past as a friend of the EU, of our sister centre-right parties, and of many friends, and it may have curtailed my future, but it will not rob me of what I believe. I will walk out of here looking up at the sky, not down at my shoes. [Applause.]