The following is my weekly column published this morning in the Argus Newspaper: Last week in Parliament had all of the hall marks of the End of the Beginning of our efforts or perhaps their efforts to leave the European Union. At last after 19 months the House of Commons began to debate how we will leave and where we would go next, assuming that we do actually depart. As the week began with the 99th Remembrance weekend it seemed slightly strange to read reports of David Davis ending the week in a speech to German lawmakers and business leaders explaining to them “putting politics above prosperity is never a smart choice.” Sadly unlike 99 years ago at the end of World War One or even 72 years ago at the end of World War two, the level of statesmanship available to us in the current Government or opposition is at a very low level. Indeed in the case of David Davis a bit of self-awareness would be helpful.
As part of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill debate in the House of Commons I spotted two speeches or comments that emerged relating to the link with the World Wars. They both came from people who believe we should depart from the EU, one on the right and the other on the left of politics. It is perhaps no surprise that I found one more sensible than the other. Bill Cash spoke on Tuesday and explained to his colleagues “We have just had Remembrance Day. I simply want people to reflect for one moment on the fact that those millions of people who died in both world wars died for a reason. It was to do with sustaining the freedom and democracy of this House.”
I don’t disagree that many of those who died did so for a reason. Sadly it is too easy to take hold of a political concept and attach it to the actions of men, women and children who are no longer able to speak up for themselves. Explaining why men who were recruited to fight for their country chose to go and gave their lives is far too complex to be described in a simplistic and politically loaded soundbite. Despite our vital role in World War 2, British Deaths as a proportion of our population were relatively small compared to many other nations across the World. In World War 1 the British deaths were much higher than in World War 2, but again they were exceeded by deaths of people from other European nations. Bearing in mind that the catalyst for Remembrance Day was Armistice and at that point in our history, few of those who had taken part of the War were entitled to vote, it is in poor taste to suggest that the British men and women, who died, did so for reasons connected with the House of Commons. As Cash refers to the Millions who died, he is clearly looking far beyond the British nations, our total losses were 1.5m in both wars. This then suggests he thinks that Europeans amongst other died for the democracy of the House of Commons. I doubt that this is the case, but perhaps if he believes it to be the case, it is now time for the House of Commons to lay down its prejudices and political desires and do what it can to ensure that we have Peace in our nation and our Continent. This may be better served by using the Referendum and subsequent debates to demand that the EU is reformed in a meaningful manner and that rather than following through on Article 50, we actually tear it up in order to find a new way forward across Europe and the rest of the Globe.
The other contribution came from Frank Field who came up with a suggestion which resonated with my piece here, last week. Field stated: “I wish to express disappointment with the Government’s strategy and their handling of the situation. I do not think it has the sense of importance, drive or coherence that the issue merits. I have argued, publicly and privately, that anyone who seriously compares this historic event to our fight for survival in world war two would follow the move that Churchill made on taking over from Chamberlain, when he established a war Cabinet in place of the existing ramshackle institutions. ….I think we need a Brexit Cabinet. It should be small, and the Opposition should be offered places in it…. We should try to act in the national interest” and then “we should try, difficult as it is, to put aside partial affections and concentrate on the national issue”
This seems to me to be much closer to what our nation needs now than the comments by Bill Cash.