Yesterday was another big day and as always there’s a lot of spin afterwards. Let me tell you about it from my perspective.
Government tabled two motions, one asking permission for his deal to pass followed by another asking for permission for no-deal to pass. I tabled mine and Phil Wilson’s amendment for a confirmatory referendum against the second as we felt MP’s wanted to focus 100% on the deal first, then move on to the question of a referendum.
Only two amendments were selected, mine and Oliver Letwin’s which was against the first motion.
At the moment when the Speaker called out my name at the start of the session to announce the amendment had been selected, I really felt the weight of the situation. A million people were gathering outside parliament, MPs from all parties have been working so hard to deliver this.
I should say at this moment that I never expected to be in this position. I was a very new MP at the time of the referendum and was still learning the ropes. As Brexit unfolded and a group of us worked to find a way through – traveling all over the place to understand the issues – I saw my role as an apprentice. I was learning about parliamentary process, about how to build support in parliament, and as much as possible the workings of different political parties and the EU itself. It’s been quite a journey.
But the reason so much support has built behind ‘Kyle-Wilson’ is not (however much I’d like to think it so!) because of me and Phil, it’s because of the strength of the idea itself. We can look back at history to the moments when fantastic salespeople in politics sold bad ideas, but far more often are the times when great ideas prevail despite circumstance.
I know some of you like to know what it’s like to be an MP at times like this so I’ll say something more about how I felt yesterday. If I’m asking a question or doing an intervention in the Commons I don’t use notes of a script. I think it has more impact that way and it’s a more natural exchange when you can look directly at someone when you address them. The Commons is a terrifying place and I’m not afraid to admit it, and notes are very helpful in case your brain goes crazy in the heat of the moment. But if I’m doing a speech then I always have used notes and sometimes a script, simply because I want to stick to time and be very precise with my wording.
As I was approaching yesterday I sat in my office to draft my words and every time I started it just felt wrong. I tried to deny it because of the terror it would invoke, but I knew I cared so much about this I just needed to stand up and say what was in my heart, to make my case according to the mood of the Commons in that moment. Every time an MP said to me ‘have you done your speech yet?’ I just said ‘yes, did it ages ago’ with rising panic inside! I walked into work at 7am and passed a huge queue of people lining up to get into the public gallery. I saw the stage being built in parliament square, and tried to put it out of my mind. As the Commons filled up and MPs squeezed in, and chants from the crowds outside got louder, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t have streaks of terror running through me!
And then the debate started. It didn’t take long before I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I genuinely feel that most MP’s are simply trying their best to find their way though this really difficult period. Angry and polemical rants close people down to engagement. So I wanted to make my case as simply as possible and explain that we are being as consensual as possible, and offering a solution that is broad enough to carry a clear majority of MPs, even those with differing views of Brexit.
Its not up for me to decide if I pulled it off, but I can say I tried my very best and I know that’s exactly what most of you want from me at times like these.
I argued that Theresa May delivered a deal and said it was the will of the people. The Boris Johnson has delivered a different idea (leaving behind any relationship with EU regulations which means an end to vast swathes of British manufacturing, plus a new border dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK) and he says his deal represents the will of the people. Both deals can’t represent the will of the people because they’re different! But there is a way of judging the will of the people: ask them.
There was another unexpected bit to the speech which caught some attention, and that was my comments to Theresa May. I was called to speak directly after her and towards the end of her speech she said that MPs who voted against the motion were ‘con artists’. Well as you can imagine this incensed everyone and was really poor judgement in my view. So I looked straight at her and as calmly as I could said that people would think a con artist was a prime minister who said ‘no prime minister would ever agree to putting a border in the Irish Sea’ and then voting for it a few months later. I asked her for more humility.
The Letwin amendment passed. There’s a lot of nonsense about what that does, so let me tell you. It very simply said that we couldn’t leave the EU until the legislation has passed through parliament. This is what the prime minister has said he wants, it’s what parliament has said it wants. But what Boris Johnson didn’t want as a law to underpin his promise – I wonder why? I need to be really clear, this amendment is not a ‘delaying amendment’. It will only delay departure if the prime minister can’t honour his promise. Therefore it will be his fault, not ours.
After losing, Boris Johnson then pulled the motion down to prevent the amendment completing its passage. He then pulled the second motion and the vote on my amendment.
So I want to be crystal clear on this: the only reason we haven’t had votes on Boris Johnson’s deal and a referendum is because Boris Johnson stopped us from doing so. If he hadn’t, today we would have had resolution on both those things. The reason for the delay is simple: Boris Johnson, not parliament. Progress is being blocked by him, not MPs, because we were there and ready to go.
I have no idea what happens next. Government have tabled the exact same motion again tomorrow, but they could withdraw it at any time. The Speaker could refuse it because government aren’t allowed to keep telling the Commons to do the same thing time and time again until it gets the answer it wants. Or they could bring forward the final Brexit deal legislation (if they’ve written it yet). Or they could do nothing! Whatever he does I’m prepped and ready to go and when it’s right we’ll have the vote on ‘Kyle-Wilson’.
And what about the Queen’s Speech? Remember how they dragged the Queen to parliament because it was really important for us to do it at that precise moment? We’ve not even had the votes on that yet, they were scheduled to be on Monday and Tuesday. It’s a total mess and I truly believe that this game playing, spin and bullying will be viewed by history for what it is. But right now there’s a lot out there and I’ll let you make your own minds up, but you know where I stand!
You can watch a clip of my speech here: http://bit.ly/2BGLNBl