Individually Members of Parliament may remain polite, even friendly and collegiate with one another across the great divide (which is more than can be said for some families and friends outside Parliament), nevertheless the scenes in the Commons in the early hours of Tuesday morning were shocking, with those of us proceeding to hear the Queen’s speech read by her Commission in the House of Lords, jeered by those remaining in the Commons, who then sang that socialist anthem The Red Flag whilst the Queen’s speech was being read.
My correspondence reveals that the division in Parliament is just as pronounced in the New Forest.
Some of my constituents remind me that the Referendum of 2016 was only ‘advisory’ and that I should not take the result as binding instruction. My response is always to say that I am inclined to abide by the ‘advice’ that my constituents gave me in that referendum.
This issue of an ‘advisory referendum’ however, goes to the heart of the question now dividing the nation.
In terms of pure constitutional theory my correspondents are correct: Parliament is sovereign and is not bound by any expression of public opinion, even when given in a lawfully and properly organised referendum.
Practical political realities are rather different: Parliament and Government clearly indicated to the voters that the issue of EU membership would be settled by the outcome of the 2016 referendum.
Most voters, whichever way they voted, were prepared to accept that.
What has so angered the nation and prolonged the agonising process is an ‘establishment’, so over-represented in Parliament, and determined to reverse the decision that we made in 2016.
From the very start this ‘fifth column’ has sought to undermine the Government’s negotiations by signalling to the EU that concessions were unnecessary because any agreement would be rejected in Parliament. The intention has been to prolong the process, exasperating and boring the public in equal measure, until the authority of the 2016 referendum is sufficiently eroded.
This really is now a question of Parliament against the people. It is too soon to know which will prevail. Were Parliament to succeed in preventing BREXIT, the damage to our democracy would be profound. We would awake and find ourselves in a different country, a country where democracy had been defeated. Many would not trouble themselves to vote again, the process having been proven to be pointless.
The stakes are very high indeed