We are simply in a mess. Both of the main political parties appear in the grip of the extremes of British politics, we are in danger of leaving the EU without any deal and meanwhile important pressing issues are not being properly addressed.
One of the joys of the summer recess is the return to the constituency – out of the Westminster hot house and into the sane reality of life in Broxtowe. As you know MPs continue to work through the summer (allowing for a holiday just like most people), it also offers us the time to do some thinking.
Before discussing my own party, it is important to consider the state of the Labour Party which is in the grips of a very disturbing row about anti-semitism. The vast majority of Labour’s members support Jeremy Corbyn who has at best, a rather unhealthy association with anti-semites, is widely criticised for failing to stop the rising tide of abuse against Jewish Labour MPs and has pitifully failed to adopt the internationally recognised definition of anti-semitism. When one of the most respected of MPs, Dame Margaret Hodge, calls her leader a racist anti-semite we should all recognise today’s Labour Party is indeed in the grip of the hard left and attendant supporters. Whatever your political views, every democracy needs a strong and competent opposition which holds Government to account. That need is even the greater given we face the most important decision we have taken since World War 2, namely leaving the European Union. Labour is simply failing to be that Opposition and it is surely only a question of time before the more moderate Labour MPs, members and supporters face this reality and leave to form a new movement.
With a heavy heart, I admit my fears that my own party is in danger of a similar decline towards the extremes. I swiftly add Broxtowe Conservatives remains a sane and sensible island in some increasingly choppy Tory seas. Just before Parliament rose for the summer we debated two important pieces of legislation. After almost two years, the Prime Minister and her Cabinet had finally settled on its vision of our future relationship with the EU after we leave next March. The so-called Chequers Agreement was widely and largely cautiously welcomed by British business and the majority of Conservative MPs. Mrs May asserted her authority, restored collective responsibility and made the case for a Brexit deal that met most of the needs of our manufacturing sector. The subsequent White Paper set out a plan designed to secure hundreds of thousands of jobs by keeping trade with the EU “frictionless” which means that goods would not experience delays at our border with the EU. In my view the White paper was far from perfect as it failed to address the needs of our service sector (80 per cent of our economy) and frankly, I never thought the EU would accept the Government’s overly complicated and bureaucratic customs plan. But the White paper was certainly a significant step in the right direction and accordingly I was all set to give my full support to the Government. Some of my colleagues, those who support a “hard” no deal Brexit, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, decided otherwise and a led amendments to one of the Bills which were designed to undermine, indeed scupper, the Chequers Agreement. At the first sign of trouble from Jacob and his European Research Group (ERG), the Prime Minister backed off and accepted their amendments. In so doing the Prime Minister effectively destroyed the Brexit plan she had so determinedly argued for and won support for, in her Cabinet.
It was a very disturbing moment and in my view revealed that it is Jacob Rees Mogg, not Theresa May who is “running” our country.
Make no mistake, those who argue so vociferously for a hard “no deal” are not only breaking the promise they made to Leave voters that we would get a deal (which would actually make us better off after leaving the EU!), they know the adverse consequences of “no deal” on our economy. No deal means the return of custom stops and delays which will seriously harm the “just-in-time” supply chains that have made our manufacturing sector so successful.
Please do read the speech I made in Parliament which explains in detail what “just in time” means and how many “hard Brexiteers” admit in private that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost though they believe it will be worth it in the long run. With few exceptions you can be sure these “no deal” Brexiteers will not be losing their job but they are more than prepared for others to suffer that fate.
As I said in the meantime important issues are not being addressed. In the last two weeks I have met a number of constituents with genuine complaints that our police have failed to investigate fully serious allegations. On Tuesday I discussed at length, the continuing problems of drug dealing in Stapleford and associated criminal activity of a small but significant group of youngsters in the town. There is now real and concerning evidence that knife crime is now a problem in parts of Broxtowe. There has been real and justified anger that complaints of burglaries and damage to cars in Beeston and Chilwell were not swiftly dealt with by our local police. The same complaints of a lack of response were echoed this weekend as residents around the park on Ilkeston Road in Stapleford called the police after travellers parked up illegally.
Our new Inspector, Simon Riley is making changes and I believe a marked improvement in policing in Broxtowe. But – I do not believe our police have the resources they need and it is genuinely heart breaking that years of investment in early years’ intervention, initiatives and cross agency workings appear to have had little or no impact on preventing our children turning to gangs, violence and drugs. Our prisons are not working and instead of reforming and rehabilitating offenders they appear to be honing their criminal skills.
And it has to be said – at a time when we need to invest more in policing, the prevention of crime and rehabilitation of offenders our country is in real danger of casing such damage to our economic prosperity by leaving the EU we will simply not have the money we need to fulfill the first duty of any Government – to keep its people safe.
I have said it in Parliament and repeat it to all my constituents. We simply can’t go on like this. Whatever deal or no deal Theresa May achieves the people of this country have a right to have a vote on it. A growing number of people are now supporting a peoples vote and I would urge you to check out the campaign and join us.
In any event, those of us who have always occupied the centre ground of British politics need to face up to the reality of the direction of travel of the Conservative Party and the firmly parked up position of the Labour Party.