European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:57 am on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Conservative 11:57 am, 5th September 2019

I thank my noble friend for that encouragement. I turn now to a matter addressed to my own party, which will possibly produce more agreement opposite. The so-called Cummings purge is a major political blunder. These blunders happen at the end of a sequence of earlier blunders. You can watch how earlier mistakes and errors, blunder after blunder, lead to a point where, suddenly, there seems no choice and the new folly is committed. The new folly of my party is to reduce its membership by 21 and exclude two ex-Chancellors, an ex-Deputy Prime Minister and my dear friend Sir Nicholas Soames. I just hope it will pass. I hope Rory Stewart’s view that this will pass is right, and that they are restored to the party. This is again part of the Manichean tone in which matters are presented, when everything is either right or wrong, in black and white.

Delay of the Bill will solve nothing, although it seems a way out. In another three months, we will be back to exactly where we were before. The referendum so beloved of the Lib Dems, even if we get it through, will not solve anything either. An election is bound to come sometime, but I say to my noble friends that, whether it comes or not, normal times will never return. We are living in a completely different digital age, in which populism is in power. Both parties—mine and the great Labour Party—will have to reunite and change on entirely different terms. Neither can build on the basis of the old dogmas. If that is the one lesson that emerges from this unhappy situation, let us at least take account of it.