Principles of Democracy and the Rights of the Electorate

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire 4:28 pm, 26th September 2019

My hon. Friend is right. SNP MPs and MSPs are on record as calling Scottish Conservatives traitors because they do not back SNP lines, and as saying that if we do not vote with the SNP we are somehow betraying Scotland. I do not think that that is true, and it is certainly not the rhetoric that we would choose to use on this side of the House. As I look across the Chamber, I see several SNP Members for whom I have the utmost respect, and I know that they do not use that language; but some others do. Indeed, there are Members in all parts of the House who probably need to review their use of language, both in this place and online.

I was making a point about proportions and how they are represented. Why should that 45% figure be presented to us, while the 42% who voted in Clackmannanshire, in my constituency, to leave the European Union are completely disregarded? Why is the 45 threshold so much higher than 42? It is completely arbitrary. It is the choice of a political party, the whim of a politician, to choose one percentage over another, and I do not think that that is good enough in a modern democracy. We need to respect the individual vote as much as we respect an individual life and an individual himself. Their vote is worth just as much in Clackmannanshire as it is in Bristol, Cheltenham, Cardiff, or anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and we need to respect that.

Let me finally deal with my greatest concern and what is, I think, the greatest challenge to liberal democracies: nationalism. It can be of any hue, whether it is Scottish nationalism, English nationalism, Irish nationalism or American nationalism. Whatever guise it decides to take, nationalism is one of the most regressive political forces in modern politics and in the 21st century. The First Minister of Scotland experienced that when she went to Germany to receive an award. Elif Shafak said to her that, despite the different connotations, nationalism could never really be benign.

I was lucky enough to attend a meeting of European young leaders. Among them was the inspirational leader of the Liberal party, which had just won the elections in Catalonia on a unionist ticket, conveying a message of trying to unite Catalonia and unite Spain and take people forward. I think that that is an incredibly positive message. Something very clear came out of that meeting, and it stands for Donald Trump as it stands for any other politician. Nationalism is simply a manifestation of a set of ideas that are intended to divide people into “us” and “them”. It is a presentation of simple answers to incredibly complicated questions. It is not good enough for our constituents, and it certainly not good enough for the United Kingdom in the 21st century.

This issue is also important because what is said in the House, what is said online on Twitter and Facebook, and what is said in print overlaps, and spills over into everyday life. I had to raise a point of order in the House once because a member of my staff who was alone in my constituency office was threatened by two people claiming to be nationalist supporters, saying that if Scotland became separate, she would be hanged. Furthermore, that same staff member, when she was in her local Co-Op buying her almond milk, was told to go back to England. The person in question who challenged my staff member was very surprised when my staff member was able to inform him that she had been born in Namibia but raised in Stirling.