Early Parliamentary General Election

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 8:52 pm on 4th September 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 8:52 pm, 4th September 2019

This attempt to dissolve Parliament is a desperate and utterly cynical move, and I am delighted that it has been made clear tonight by all the Opposition parties that we are not falling for it. The Prime Minister can own his own horrendous mess. He is trying to smuggle out this no-deal Brexit during an election campaign, and that is what makes it so vital that no election happens before there is an extension of article 50—before it is agreed and, crucially, before it is implemented as well.

I notice that the Prime Minister has scuttled off. He cannot even be bothered to listen to the debate on his own motion on something as important as a general election. There are numerous reasons why many of us want to get rid of this cruel and callous Government. Believe me, I am one of those who absolutely wants to do that, not least because this is a Government who are not only doing nowhere near enough to tackle the climate crisis but actively exacerbating it with fracking, fossil fuel subsidies and so on. This is also a Government who have the arrogance to claim that a no-deal Brexit will just be “bumps in the road”. How dare they? They might just be bumps in the road to those on the Front Bench who have the luxury to be insulated from the impacts of a disastrous no-deal Brexit, but for most of our constituents a no-deal Brexit spells real disaster, not bumps in the road. The mere fact that the Government could use that phrase suggests just out how out of touch they are with their own constituents.

A general election on the Prime Minister’s terms right now is a trap. It will not resolve the Brexit crisis. Elections are rarely fought on one issue alone, and first past the post is notoriously bad at reflecting the true views of the public in the seats that are won. If we are to break the Brexit deadlock in Parliament, the people must lead the way. The Prime Minister regularly asserts his commitment to the will of the people, so why is he not prepared to listen to what people want now, specifically on Brexit, and go back to them in a second referendum—a people’s vote? That is how we resolve Brexit, not by proroguing, dissolving, dodging and obfuscating.

I have one more important point about how the people of our country have been let down by successive Governments. The status quo is intolerable for a huge number of people. Brexit laid bare the extent to which our governance structures are derelict. The social contract is broken. The power game is rigged. The 17.4 million people who gave the establishment such a well-deserved kicking in 2016 were right and reasonable to be furious—we need a powerful commitment now not even to try to go back to the way things were before 2016—but that means tackling democratic failure as well as economic failure. It means redistributing power as well as wealth.

If the Government were genuine about being on the side of the people, they would be honest enough to own the complete chaos that they have managed to create. They would put country before party, back a citizens’ convention to revitalise our democracy and explore proposals such as a codified written constitution and a fairer voting system, so that people’s views are properly heard. Let us at last have a democracy that puts people at the heart of it. The Government would also finally provide a categorical assurance that they will respect this House and the democracy that we do have, and not seek to avoid it in any way or try to avoid implementing the Bill that we have just voted on tonight.