In 1997, like many others, I was not happy that Tony Blair became Prime Minister. But I did not start campaigning for a so-called ‘people’s vote’. We had another vote in the 2001 general election and again in 2005. Both times my side lost but still, I didn’t call for a ‘people’s vote’.
In June 2016, the British people were given a say on our future relationship with the EU through a simple ‘in/out’ referendum. We chose to leave. The numbers who voted or the margin of majority are irrelevant. The question was put, and the answer was given.
It should come as no surprise that in a contest, some people will be disappointed with the outcome. We should not dismiss their concerns but should, instead, try to be as accommodating as possible, while staying true to the referendum result.
Since the referendum, those who want to remain in the EU have deployed every tool in the box to overturn the result. They have tried in public and in Parliament to frustrate the will of the people. They have suggested that the result was unfair, dishonest, or illegitimate. The latest attempt to thwart the result is to campaign for a second vote— dressed up as something the voters have asked for. What concerns me is the risk this cavalier attitude poses to our democracy from a group of people who simply cannot accept the will of the people. We mess with our hard-won freedoms at our peril.
The UK does not have a written constitution. We do not have clear guidance about when referendums should be used. Therefore, a dangerous precedent harmful to Britain will be set by a second referendum.
One of the arguments deployed by remain voters is to claim the referendum was advisory. In theory, that is accurate but, in this instance, not. The then Prime Minister, David Cameron, could not have been clearer. In the taxpayer-funded leaflet, which he sent to every home in the country, it reads, “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide”. Parliament has a duty to do just that.
The People’s Vote campaign does not represent the people’s voice. Our parliamentary democracy does. We have been refining our democracy since Magna Carta and the freedoms we have enjoyed for more than 800 years did not happen by accident. We have protected the rights and freedoms of the British people, frequently against the odds and many people sacrificed themselves so that we have the luxury to argue, debate, and decide on what is best for the country.
One of the things that makes this country great is our democratic process. While we all like to complain about our elected politicians, we know we can trust them to honour the laws and conventions that keep us safe and free.
What message will we, politicians, send to the British public and the world if we tear up that which we have fought and shed blood for in order to pander to those who cannot accept the result of the referendum?
Given the mandate entrusted to us by the British people, politicians must stay true to the referendum result, it is our duty and anything less is a dereliction of that duty to our constituents and to the country.