On the 1st April a debate took place in Westminster Hall regarding three petitions that have recently been signed by significant numbers of people. The one that has the largest number of signatures by some margin is the revocation of Article 50 which as I write this blog has reached 6,068,278 which is the largest number of signatories on any petition since the petitions were first introduced in 2010 including several I have personally set up which struggled to get to 100 signatures! The debate that took place last Monday was organised by the Labour MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne, Catherine Mckinnell. She opened up the debate with a few words that included this statement “with just under two weeks to go until the next deal or no deal deadline, we find ourselves through the looking glass, debating potential Brexit outcomes here in Westminster Hall at exactly the same time as colleagues in the main Chamber deliberate the ways out of this ludicrous situation. A national conversation should clearly have been led and listened to by the Prime Minister right at the start of this historic process, rather than one being commenced against her will just before midnight on the Brexit clock.”
It is hard to disagree with such a meaningful statement, that what was needed once the referendum took place and the incompetent Prime Minister who had allowed the referendum to take place in the way in which had led to so many levels of conflict and lies from both campaigns had resigned, that a national conversation to explain what was possible in a real set of options and that asked what led people to vote as they did was critical. Even the Conservative Party and Government promoted the concept of listening to people across the whole nation on numerous occasions, and yet so far have done nothing to deliver on any of these promises. For this reason the opening comment by Catherine makes sense. On the other hand later on Craig Mackinlay who is the Conservative MP for South Thanet stated “Has this petition not shown clearly what the People’s Vote is about, and made its veil drop? One could argue that the People’s Vote has no grand ambitions such as, “Let’s have democracy,” because this has nothing to do with another vote; it is about revocation. Will the hon. Lady now be honest and say that what she and others have been supporting through the people’s vote is revocation, not some grand democratic rerun of a vote?”
Now of course for Craig to ask a question of a handful of people who like him work in the House of Commons this sounds like a good starting position but in fact outside of Westminster there are 7,880 people in his constituency that have signed the petition which he sounds rather critical of. One wonders if Craig should get out of the place of comfort and start the process of asking why 7.7% of the population of his constituency did sign the petition. After all Catherine Mckinnell has clearly listened to some of the 7,570 people who have signed the petition in her constituency which represents 8.2% of the population. Sadly apart from Craig, there was only one other South East based MP, John Redwood who spoke in the debate and his comment was simply to rubbish a prediction made at the time of the referendum which is not exactly worthwhile promoting.