We need a general election

Rebecca Hanson in today’s Times & Star

Libdem conference speaking autumn 2014

Dear Sir,

As an IN campaigner who spent many hours on the streets of Workington and Cockermouth listening to voters, I’d like to offer two reflections on the EU referendum and some suggestions as to how we might move forward.

Firstly, many OUT voters did not have a clear vision of what they wanted after an OUT vote.  Those who did had visions which were wildly incompatible with each other. Some wanted to get rid of the common market.  Others considered it essential.  Some wanted to get rid of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Others wanted higher wages and better employment conditions.  Some wanted to get rid of foreigners, whereas others didn’t.  Many were very angry that they had no clear alternative to the EU to vote for.

They were right to be angry.  David Cameron behaved recklessly and selfishly when he called this referendum.   He should have allowed and encouraged his MPs to debate Brexit thoroughly but he knew this would mean that either the party would reject having a referendum and some of his MPs would move to UKIP and develop proper post Brexit policy people could vote on, or they would embrace Brexit, they would develop post-Brexit policy within the Conservative party and he would lose some of his MPs to pro-EU parties.  Either way we would have had a clear alternative to EU membership to vote on.  The fact we have ended up in a complete mess is down to his decision to prevent honest debate in his party.  His put his pursuit of power before the national interest.

The second theme I noticed was that no OUT voter I met had understood how the EU operates to resolve trade disputes and prevent their escalation.  It seemed that people who had known about and considered this issue had become IN voters.  Again I blame David Cameron.  He should have explained these important issues to voters instead of patronising them by presenting them with simple arguments to which he thought they’d respond.  Because he didn’t talk about important issues, we’re left in a situation where Brexiteers won the referendum without developing a coherent alternative to essential EU policies such as trade dispute resolution.

Our MPs now need to put their country before their own interests and before their petty in-fighting.  They need to call a vote of no confidence in the government that will lead to an emergency general election.  The main parties can then set out their manifestos to include a second referendum or not.  A coherent vision of ‘out’ should be developed either by UKIP augmented by Tory MPs who move to it or by the Conservative Party.

If a second referendum is called, both sides should present the issues at a much deeper, and therefore more honest, level.

I would recommend that IN voters consider joining the Liberal Democrats.  I’d never previously been interested in the EU (as many people in Cumbria know I’m passionate about education policy), however you learn a lot about other issues by being a member of a party where there is constant lively and critical debate between people who are passionate about building an inclusive and fair society but who understand that this can’t be achieved without a strong economy.  I’m glad I understood the EU sufficiently well to be able to assess the credibility both of the arguments and of the individuals presenting those arguments.

Rebecca Hanson, Cockermouth





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