Politicians must rise about party issues and remember that we serve our constituents and the country when taking historic decisions about Brexit, writes Christine Jardine MP.
Today could be one of the most significant in British political history.
Even as I am writing this article, indeed as you are reading it, the situation is changing and there is little certain we can predict about how the next few days will unfold.
The Government seems intent on an early election that will make avoiding a no-deal Brexit impossible.
The opposition – and in that I don’t just mean ourselves in the Liberal Democrat Party but also Labour, SNP, Plaid, Green, Change and Independent MPs – want to ensure that we can guarantee we avoid no-deal, before we agree to that election.
We are confident, as other parties may be, that an election would be good for our party.
But at this moment in our history we need to put the needs of the country first and ensure we negotiate the next few critical months, and avoid potential disaster, before thinking about electoral success.
I am sure that to many of the public it is a mess. Believe me, I agree.
In normal times, the number of political headlines we have seen each day would be considered a lot for a week, possibly a month.
Colleagues who have been in parliament for decades tell me that they have never known anything like it. Parliamentary conventions are being torn up left, right and centre.
To kick off, even before we had returned to take our seats, the Prime Minister announced that he was going to suspend or ‘prorogue’ parliament. Silence the voice of the people by putting their elected representatives on mute.
The purpose of this most cynical move was to prevent MPs passing legislation to stop us crashing out of the EU without a deal.
But even as he stood up to begin his assault on parliamentary sovereignty, the Prime Minister found that his wings had been clipped.
The Liberal Democrat victory in Brecon and Radnorshire meant that over the summer the Conservative majority had been reduced to one.
As Boris Johnson began to speak one of his own crossed the chamber, taking with him the Government’s majority. mid-Prime Ministerial statement. You have to give the current First Lord of the Treasury credit. He wasn’t satisfied with that.
If anyone was going to destroy his majority it was going to be him.
So he removed the whip from 21 Tories – from big hitters like former chancellors Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, even Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames, who had shown the temerity to disagree with him. Of course, he would never havedisagreed with Theresa May. Oh no wait. He did.
But having skewered his own party, it was then perhaps no surprise that on Wednesday the Government lost.
A Bill designed to prevent the UK from leaving without a deal, demanding that Johnson instead seeks an extension to article 50, passed.
But the drama didn’t end there. The Prime Minister put forward a motion to call an early general election, which failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
So that is how we got here. Poised on the edge of an economic cliff surrounded by constitutional chaos and an absence of leadership.
But how we got here, to be honest, I am less concerned about than how we repair it, re-establish our international reputation and, above all else, avoid the potential catastrophe that a no-deal Brexit would be.
When I was elected to represent Edinburgh West two years ago, I went to Westminster knowing that Brexit wold loom large on the agenda.
The election had, after all, been Mrs May’s failed attempt to win an increased majority, and mandate, for her plans for leaving the European Union.
But there were other issues that I wanted to address both for my own constituents and for the country as a whole.
Medicinal cannabis was always high on that agenda so the opportunity to get the laws changed and help children like Murray Gray to get the life-changing treatment they deserve is one I shall always cherish.
I was approached early by WASPI women desperate for some respite from the injustice that has created hardship for more than three million women at a time when they had planned to be enjoying the pension they have contributed to throughout their working lives. That is one of the many things which has not received the attention it deserved because so much of our time has been swallowed up by the Brexit debacle.
Similarly, climate change, the economy and immigration, have all been pushed aside to make way for an all-consuming debate on an issue which is not just damaging us now but has the potential to blight our future for generations. And that can be the only justification for allowing it to have dominated our parliamentary processes for three years. We have to get his right.
If we fail to do that, it may not ultimately matter how much time we donate to trying to tackle climate change.
Finding ourselves outside the EU without the trade deals and bargaining power we have enjoyed for 40 years may make any attempt to invest in change or social improvement immensely more difficult.
And without that healthy economy, we may not have a need for an immigration policy which attracts the workforce we need to overcome the problems created by a declining demographic.
If ever there was a day for politicians to rise above party differences and remember that we are there to serve our constituents and our country, it is today.