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Early Parliamentary General Election Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:34 pm on 30th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury Conservative 5:34 pm, 30th October 2019

My Lords, I strongly support the Bill. Parliament is currently deadlocked; we need to break free from this political paralysis. The country—and above all, business—needs stability and certainty. By the way, to echo the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I hope that the Bill sounds the death knell for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. Above all, and this is the main point I want to make this afternoon, I hope that this election will restore confidence in representative parliamentary democracy. We had a Scottish referendum in 2014, a general election in 2015, a European referendum in 2016 and another general election in 2017. And the result? Paralysis, uncertainty and at times a very toxic political atmosphere. I see this election as a real opportunity to clear the air.

We have to understand that this election will not be a single-issue election. No election ever is or can be. It is voters who decide what an election is about, not the politicians. All of us who have trodden the streets and knocked on doors know that there are a thousand reasons and more why people vote for a particular party or candidate. For example, there will no doubt be some natural Labour supporters who will vote Lib Dem or Conservative just to keep Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street—there may be quite a lot of them. There may also be strong remainers who will, in the end, vote Conservative because they want Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister. Only the voter knows why he or she voted the way they did; nobody else really does, and we should not pretend to know.

I say this because occasionally some noble Lords try to reinterpret an election result by saying, “I know that’s how people voted, but you know, they didn’t really vote for this to happen, or that to happen”. The only evidence of what people voted for will be the election result itself and the MPs who are elected. It is then the job of each Member of Parliament to honour their election promises and to represent the interests of their constituents: the voters will have delegated to their MP the responsibility for taking these complicated decisions. This is how effective parliamentary representative government works, and if that is what we want—and I believe it is—then it is goodbye to referendums. Please, no more referendums.