The General Election had to go ahead

Tragically, this General Election campaign has been like no other. Two cowardly terrorist attacks in two weeks in Manchester and London led to stoppages in the campaigning as politicians joined with the country to mourn and grieve. The attacks also caused fears that the General Election may have to be cancelled amidst a greater security threat.

This possibility in my opinion was rightly quashed by the Prime Minister in her statement after the attack who confirmed the General Election would go ahead as planned. This decision could be seen as highly controversial, but I believe it is the only decision that the Prime Minister could make.

Sentiments of this sort will have been more eloquently expressed by many before, but is worth repeating. Quite simply we cannot let the terrorists win. It does not mean that we cannot hurt or even that we cannot be a little scared, but it does mean that we cannot let the attacks define our lives. We have to carry on and we have to get on with our lives. That is our way of showing the terrorists they will never win. The concert in Manchester was a fantastic step in this direction and the country going to the polls this Thursday will be the clincher.

Over the next few days we as a country are going to have to ask some difficult questions. This could take us into some tricky places and the debate should be handled with care, but the debate we will have about security is a debate that we must have. Questions about police cuts and their impact on safety, deals with foreign countries as well as whether it is right for politicians to share platforms with certain individuals are fair game. The first job of any aspiring Prime Minister or government is to keep its citizens safe. It is now up to the respective candidates to show how they can achieve this.

These last few weeks have been difficult for most in this country. The attacks have been attacks on our way of life and that is particularly painful. However now is the time to stand together. We have to unite. Voting on Thursday is a part of this. Democracy, the right to vote and the right to openly debate the way forward and determine our future are precious gifts which we are lucky to enjoy. The value of this will never be understood by those seeking to destroy us. Therefore I urge you, in fact I implore you go out and vote on Thursday and show we will carry on.

A sensible Brexit deal

Although Parliament has officially broken up for the summer, the debate about Brexit continues to heat up as MPs head for their summer holidays. The current momentum appears to be moving towards the Chancellor’s position of accepting the need for a transitional phase after Britain’s formal exit from the European Union. This transitional phase could see Britain stay in the Single Market and Customs Union for a limited time period as the final stages of a trade deal are negotiated and business adapts to the new environment.

This apparent change in direction and policy from the Government is a direct consequence of the recent General Election. It is wrong to claim, as some do that the result of the General Election was an uprising against Brexit, but it is also wrong to claim the Government can continue as if nothing has changed. The new parliamentary arithmetic does impact on the type of Brexit the Government could hope to get through Parliament. This indicates the Government is going to have to compromise.

The benefits of a transitional phase are clear. It ends the prospect of a cliff-edge Brexit and reduces the danger of a ‘no-deal’ solution, and in doing so limits the possible economic consequences. This level of compromise would appease some of the more moderate Remainers in Parliament. It would also help provide businesses with clarity, whilst accepting their argument that they will need time to adapt to the new climate. Furthermore, the additional time period could be vital in thrashing out the final details of a satisfactory trade deal between Britain and the EU.

This gives clear ground to ‘Remainers’ but may worry the ‘Brexiteers’. Therefore, in order to highlight the referendum deal is being respected, then there must be a clear end date to the transitional phase when Britain formally cuts all ties with the European Union. A transitional phase cannot be used as an excuse to stay in the European Union indefinitely. A transitional phase which ends before the next General Election which is scheduled to occur in 2022 would appear to most a sensible time limit, which gives the Government time to deliver on their Brexit promise and for business to adapt.

A transitional phase will not please everyone. The most ardent Remainers will never accept the referendum result, while the most extreme Brexiteers will reject the need for any negotiations with the European Union. However, this sort of agreement could appeal to moderate Brexiteers and Remainers who want to make Brexit work.  With the evidence showing this is where most of the population lie, expect this solution to gain more and more traction in the immediate future.

Bercow under pressure

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has always enjoyed a tumultuous relationship with the Conservative Party. This relationship further soured when Bercow used his position as Speaker to signal that he would not be in favour of President Trump addressing Parliament. This delighted the opposition benches but caused a stir on the Conservative side and has led to back-bencher James Duddridge tabling a motion of no-confidence in the Speaker.

The role of Speaker is vitally important in the House of Commons. The Speaker has a duty to act impartially and respect all sides in Parliament. The Speaker will also represent Parliament across the world and the country and must be respected. Bercow has successes to his name including making Ministers more accountable and introducing long overdue modernising reforms. However if the Speaker is not seen to be impartial and is believed to have overstepped his mark then the position must be in doubt.

This is not the first time John Bercow has found his position in jeopardy. In 2015 Conservative MPs led by William Hague attempted to introduce secret ballots on Speaker elections which would have made it easier to remove a Speaker. This move was defeated by 228 votes to 202 as Tory rebels voted against the whip but was a clear sign of the historic discontent there was on the Conservative side towards Bercow and his supposed lack of impartiality.

The pressure on Bercow has further intensified with video footage seen by the Daily Telegraph showing Bercow’s position on the EU Referendum. The footage shows Bercow stating that he voted to Remain in the EU referendum and casts doubt on whether Bercow can be relied upon to maintain a neutral stance in any future EU debates.

Bercow did overstep the mark in making the comments he did about Trump, and the video footage seen in the newspapers will not have helped him. They have cast doubt on his impartiality and have caused Parliament unnecessary problems. The controversy could easily have been avoided given President Trump has yet to ask to address Parliament. Given that Bercow still commands support from Labour and the SNP it is hard to envisage Bercow losing a Parliamentary vote. Should, though enough Tory MPs vote against Bercow (could be up to 150 according to reports) then Bercow’s position could become untenable.

For some opportunistic Tory MPs who have long disliked Bercow this could provide the perfect opportunity to remove him and could well prove a costly mistake from the Speaker.