What ye sow, so ye shall reap – MPs must moderate their own language and behaviour

What ye sow, so ye shall reap – MPs must moderate their own language and behaviour

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Thursday 10, January, 2019

TIME FLIES when you're having a referendum or two. It's hard for me to imagine it was over five years ago that my former boss Nigel Farage was heckled and locked in a pub I Edinburgh’s Canongait by thugs. Yet as the former treasurer for UKIP in Scotland I saw events at first hand.

Firstly the mob was not overwhelmingly nationalist. There were members of the far left of the Labour Party there and executive members of Edinburgh University Students Union. The visit was of course completely legitimate and the mob's behaviour was appalling.

It happened during a peculiar time in UK politics. It is very rare that UK politics finds parliamentarians in direct conflict with the public. They are meant to represent us and we are meant to ensure they do, and no more. The power to make our decisions is very much devolved.

Referenda of a constitutional nature in a parliamentary democracy have turned out to be antagonistic, and our democracy has been degraded. It is easy to label MPs traitors and citizens as fascist, though not equally so. Being representatives MPs really should know better and have brought about a response of their making.

The shadow chancellor calling for Tory MPs to be hounded at every opportunity ends up permeating the whole of national discourse. MSPs turning a blind eye to the bullying, egg throwing and kettling of Iain Gray, Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran means it will carry on and escalate further. Treat adults as children and they will behave like children. Calling leavers dumb, racists or fascists and some will respond accordingly. None of this is edifying, all of it can be avoided.

Politicians act by certain rules and conventions. Their whips bully them, intimidate them, their press offices make unsubstantiated threats and insults and as long as it stays in-house we all seem to accept it.

This is where Project Fear and the smearing of voters has come from. Rather like jellyfish from the Red Sea invading the Med through the Suez Canal, such antagonistic politicians were released onto a British public that simply does not behave in that manner. They handle the public as they handle their opponents, and now the public fight back as they would against any other man or woman who attacked them.

Direct democracy and representative democracy will always struggle on the same plain in the same area. MPs simply have not accepted the pleb-shift, for want of a better phrase, in matters concerning our national sovereignty. Like a free bus pass, what is given easily is not so easily recovered.  Some of these MPs have continued with the same tired tricks they have always used. They smear, they try and salami slice their way with polite language to overturning the public vote. Tee hee hee aren't they so clever?

Yes, like a public schoolboy with a peashooter landing on a Normandy beach. That sort of being clever. 

The general public have their fears and insecurities. They have a lot to lose and little way often of recovering what they lose. There has always been a sense of it being one rule for some and one for the rest.

Cameron brought these two worlds crashing into each other and I still don't think MPs realise this. I don't think so many MPs are fundamentally bad, but they are fundamentally wrong in how they interpret the voters. 

It will upset many but this has to be said. One week before the European referendum a MP was murdered. A nutter? Yes, but not any random nutter for if we are honest a nutter who was also her constituent. That cannot be dismissed as random. Nor can her behaviour on the Thames against Brexiteer fishermen legitimately demonstrating their concerns. 

None of the above must ever be interpreted as fair motive for any crime let alone one such as murder. That said we do ourselves no favours ignoring such behaviours. Some members of public can and maybe again will strike back against politicians according to the new rules – or lack of them – as they see fit. This is dangerous. Spectacularly dangerous.   

When MPs play games to subvert a democratic vote, snickering as they do, boasting of being rebels and deciding what we did and didn’t vote for I shudder. When members of the public challenge MPs directly in public it can become very ugly and no doubt frightening. 

It must be for politicians, as rulemakers, to decide how far down this rabbit hole they wish to go. Do we cancel all direct democracy as flawed? Some would have it happen all over again. Really? Do we carry on with this malignant hybridoma of politicians being our equals, but sometimes more equal than the rest? 

David Cameron brought us to this by agreeing a Scottish independence referendum that never had to happen and that left us with a division that continues to blight us and snuffs out all dignified discussion of policy. May we need a new party clean of all this to punch through and make a fresh start of it? 

The legacy David Cameron boasted of was bringing in Gay Marriage. The truth is by granting referenda and then not preparing for them, we have been left divided and untrusting of each other as this island has known in centuries. The wisdom of Solomon has been inverted. Putting both halves of the baby back together will need a miracle. 

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