A snap general election will essentially be a proxy referendum on Brexit and may not resolve it, writes Ian Murray.
I write this column on a Wednesday morning and such is the current fast-moving nature of politics that it is often a little out of date by the time it appears in print. That will not be the case this week as we have reached a crescendo in Parliament.
Boris Johnson got his way on Tuesday. He got the Brexit General Election that he has craved since he became Prime Minister. Since the day he took office, it has been part of his plan to run a “people versus Parliament” campaign. Despite having opposed several Brexit deals himself, he will blame everyone except the cheerleaders of his own project for it not proceeding — the European Commission, Parliament and sometimes even the civil services and judges.
But while this may have been part of his strategy, not all of us were willing to fold into it. I relish an election, but we did only have one back in June 2017. I strongly hold the view that it is in the national interest to get Brexit resolved first. If the PM wants to consult the public again on Brexit and let them decide, why not consult them on the specific Brexit proposals the Government is championing? That is the right thing to do. A snap general election will essentially be a proxy referendum on Brexit and may not resolve it, when we should be talking about all the other issues that are important to the public from climate change to our neglected public services.
People’s Vote was not dead
That is why I was so furious earlier this week when the SNP and Lib Dems decided to play with fire and dangle the carrot of a snap election on 9 December. I was taken aback for two reasons.
The first being that the leader of the SNP was on TV just days before arguing that 12 December was “too dark, too wet, too cold, and too dangerous”. How can three days earlier be any better?
Secondly, the Lib Dems claimed their reason was that the People’s Vote was dead. It isn’t. They threw it under a bus for political advantage.
I have been working cross-party on the numbers for nearly a year with my close colleagues who brought the “Kyle/Wilson” confirmatory vote compromise. We were tantalisingly close.
It only lost by 12 votes back in April. Even the People’s Vote campaign themselves said it wasn’t dead.
That left the PM with an opportunity to push for his 12 December poll. I still think Labour should have remained resolute to try to resolve Brexit first, but the train had already left the station with no brakes and resistance was not really a realistic option.
I tried to add amendments to give 16-17-year-olds and European nationals the right to vote but they failed. I also tried to change the date, get that People’s Vote and protect MPs’ staff who may lose their jobs just before Christmas. The Government railroaded it through.
Get ready for bad puns
So, a Christmas election it is. I have been re-selected as the Labour candidate for Edinburgh South and that gives me the opportunity to thank everyone for their kind wishes last week. It is not something politicians often get the chance to do. I was more than touched and humbled by the response I received, especially from residents who vote for me but don’t normally vote for my party. I have always put the people of Edinburgh South first no matter who they voted for or if they voted at all. That’s my top priority. I’ve always been on their side. That sometimes means I go against my party, but anyone who slavishly follows a party line against the wishes of their constituents is not doing their job properly. I will continue to put Edinburgh South first. Full Stop.
Helen Martin from the Evening News wrote a lovely piece and I want to publicly thank her for that. I may even be able to persuade her to put her Christmas cross in the correct box.
I will be campaigning hard in the coming weeks so I hope I can gain the confidence of the voters of Edinburgh South again, but I’m apprehensive a December election will bring out the worst puns. If I win, I will wish everyone a Murray Christmas and then try and stop Brexit in the New Year! Oh, please stop.
Ian Murray is the Labour MP for Edinburgh South