You might remember that, a little while ago (on the 1st July), I wrote to my local MP. I didn't have all that much to say, but I felt I needed to say something to my elected representative in the wake ongoing shambles surrounding the referendum to leave the EU.
Technically, I think he's supposed to reply within a couple of weeks, but I've written to Ken before, and what he lacks in promptness, he more than makes up for in considered response. I'd far rather have a late response from someone who clearly read my original email than one who responds quickly with a boiler-plate answer.
Anyway, here's what he had to say:
Dear Mr Swisslet,
Thank you very much for your recent e-mail, after the disastrous result of the referendum. I am sorry for the extended delay in replying, I received literally hundreds of e-mails after the result of the referendum. I am glad to find that you and I have identical views on Britain's membership of the European Union. I also agree with you that the referendum campaign was quite nasty and not very informative, particularly on the Leave side but sometimes on the Remain side in the national reports in the media.
The referendum is not binding. I think that MPs should vote according to their judgement of the national interest and the interest of their constituents. Unfortunately, most MPs on all sides paid lip service to the supposedly democratic nature of the exercise and vowed that they would obey the expressed will of the people.
I am in a rather exceptional position in that I am a life-long pro-European. I publicly opposed the idea of a referendum and, as you mention, my constituents voted almost 60/40 in favour of remaining. I will probably vote against an Article 50 application ending our membership, but there may be only a few eccentrics in the House of Commons in that lobby.
More significantly, none of the Brexiteers at the moment have any clear idea of what they want to do next by way of actual change to our economy, trade, migration and other arrangements with the EU. A flood of legislation and regulations will probably have to be put before Parliament over the next few years, implementing changes. I do not see how any referendum on membership can be an instruction to any MP on how to vote on these practical consequences. I will certainly do my best to try to contribute to mitigating the disaster that this decision on the 23rd June might otherwise cause.
The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke, CH, QC, MP
I've never voted for him in the 17 years or so I've lived in his constituency, but at least we clearly see eye-to-eye on this one. It's a little dispiriting (albeit realistic) to see him accept that he would be an 'eccentric minority' voting against Article 50 in the House of Commons, but it's also comforting to see that he shares my frustration and will be doing everything he can to try to make things as good as they possibly can be. The irony of our current position, of course, is that we're likely to ultimately end up trying to negotiate our way towards what we already had.... and we'll be bloody lucky if we get anywhere close to it this time around.
I had long conversations about Brexit on Facebook with a friend of mine before the referendum - he was in favour of voting out. He's just come back to me today and said "I still believe this country will be bigger and better outside the EU....it's just a shame those trusted to sort it out are making a mess of things...". I don't want to criticise him for a vote honestly cast, and I'm not one of those people who thinks we should keep having referendums until I get the result I wanted, but at the same time, it's impossible not to think of something Obi Wan Kenobi once said: "Who's the more foolish: the fool or the fool who follows him?"
They don't make'em like Ken any more, more's the pity.
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