Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon and co deserve credit for their courage – Ayesha Hazarika

Nicola Sturgeon, Vince Cable and Caroline Lucas are the only leaders to have shown any courage on Brexit, but backbenchers like Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey have also shown their mettle, writes Ayesha Hazarika.

Wednesday night found me sitting in a cold, blustery tent on College Green outside Parliament on LBC’s Cross Question show, hosted by Iain Dale. It’s a bit like Question Time, but people call in to yell at you.

I was on with Labour’s shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth and a vice-chair of the Conservative party, Paul Scully.

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We were all trying to process the vote to block a no-deal Brexit and predict what would come next, while eating a lot of Haribo sweets – appropriately designed for small children.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireScotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

As you can imagine the calls came thick, fast and were furious.

Angry Brexiteers were denouncing British politics, decrying the end of democracy and saying that the whole of Parliament was a disgrace.

I would normally be inclined to agree, but if you really look at how the Brexit shambles has unfolded, blame lies squarely at the Russell and Bromley-clad feet of our Prime Minister and the executive, not backbench MPs.

She has bungled this endeavour from day one. She disappeared into a bunker at Number 10 and the only people she tried to negotiate with were her hard-line Brexiteers in the ERG, which was always going to be futile.

There was another way. She should have strained every sinew to reach out across the political divide, involve our regions and nations and include trade unions and business.

The art of the deal in politics is to bring people in, make them feel like they have ownership of the project and flatter those giant egos to allow them to claim some credit.

But May chose not to do that.

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Instead, we have had more than two years of Tories talking to Tories, vacillating between war and appeasement. It’s important to note that the Labour leadership has also failed to cover itself in glory by doing as little as possible to intervene.

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For once, Jeremy Corbyn has been present but definitely not involved, and history will judge him harshly.

Caroline Lucas, Nicola Sturgeon and Vince Cable are the only leaders who have showed any courage on Brexit.

Talented, experienced MPs on both sides of the House of Commons grew fed up of this dynamic and decided to do something about it and take back control, to coin a phrase.

Since last Autumn, MPs from different parties and traditions have been quietly coming together to work out how to wrest control from a Prime Minister who refused to take the horror of crashing out with no deal off the table.

This week, they did. Labour’s Jack Dromey and Conservative Caroline Spelman are political rivals but also neighbours in the West Midlands.

Dromey has Jaguar on his patch, Spelman Land Rover. They could see what was coming down the track for their constituents who depend on these factories.

There are many others too including Yvette Cooper, Dominic Grieve, Chris Bryant, Anna Soubry, Oliver Letwin, Hilary Benn and Nick Boles, as well as MPs from the Liberal Democrats and SNP who have beavered away behind the scenes, trying to find consensus and building vital parliamentary bridges to try and prevent national, political and economic catastrophe.

They may pay a heavy price for their brave actions at the next election, but they have made history and they have made Parliament great again.

I salute them.