The start of any week is potentially challenging or exciting depending on a range of factors, some of which can be well outside of one’s control. Today has all of the potential to be very exciting for our nation as a whole and for local communities; albeit one that raises an enormous set of challenges that some people will not welcome. According to the legislation and Parliamentary decisions that are in place, Theresa May is obliged to return to the House of Commons with a plan B for our departure from the EU. However at the end of last week Rory Stewart revealed on BBC Question Time that she is not going to do so, which did not come as a big shock to many people I know. He told us she is instead planning to make a statement which in the overall set of delays and failures by our Government over Brexit, is not exactly the worst action she has carried out, but it does set the scene for our role as citizens and voters. His statement came a few hours after Kevin Brennan MP had asked Andrea Leadsom “this House wants to rule out a no-deal Brexit. When is the Leader of the House going to give us an opportunity to do just that?” and her response was “a competent Government have to continue to prepare for all eventualities. That is just the reality” It is perfectly clear that our Government is far from competent and as Tim Durrant of the Institute of Government explained on Radio 4 a few hours later, there will not be adequate preparation in place by the end of March, and the work that is now underway by Civil Servants transferred from many other departments will seriously derail many of the other Government policies and procedures.
Because Politicians like Andrea Leadsom want to retain control of the nation that pays them well to do so, the serious risk is that today’s statement by her boss will simply demand more time and claim that things will happen over the next two months that have not been achieved over the last 31 since the referendum. But assuming that the same numbers of MPs who demanded that a plan B would be brought to the House today, have the guts and coherence to layout their next set of demands today, the need for our involvement as electors will begin to emerge. The two Labour MPs who are behind one of the crucial proposals are Lisa Nandy (Wigan) and Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) so they represent the North and the South, London and the rest of the Nation. Their proposal for a Peoples Jury to be set up is entirely consistent with the idea of Citizens Assemblies and indeed the precise nature of what they propose will no doubt be shaped by others if MPs have the courage to back these ideas. The critical issue is that it will enable people from outside of the Westminster bubble to come up with ideas that the political parties have so far failed to identify or may even not be supportive of. The challenge for the two main parties is that their funders have very clear sets of ideas and they cannot ignore these, whereas a peoples Jury is open to all ideas and concepts. There is a strong argument for any such mechanism to be able to take into account the views of young people as well as of those of us who are not so young, of different areas and different social groups, of businesses and also workers in various sectors. This will help to take seriously issues such as that outlined by Gillian Keegan, the MP for Chichester who last week stated “In the real world, businesses up and down the country are extremely disappointed….short-term investment decisions are still on hold or going against the UK…protecting just-in-time supply chains, on which my constituents’ jobs depend, must be at the heart of any solution”
Along with the Assemblies or Jury approach, another clear demand that Parliament needs to make today is to establish a fresh referendum which will enable our nation as a whole to determine the way forward. This will clearly need to take into account the vote in June 2016, so that if we are to remain in the EU, after all of the ideas that have been debated and discussed since then, that we do so on different terms to what our current arrangements are, but that we are entitled before the March deadline which clearly now needs extending, to review the tough decision our nation was asked to take nearly 3 years ago with very little clarity or accurate information.