Thursday, 2 February 2017

Article 50 and the role of representative democracy – Graham Allen explains why he voted against.

A faded postcard from my pinboard taken when Graham Allen was the Prospective Parliamentary Labour Party Candidate for North Nottingham (he was first elected in 1987). With him is Dennis Woodward, who replaced me as Labour's then Portland ward county councillor in 1985. I was the Party's ward agent from 1983 until 1997, for a total of eight elections. Susan took the photograph and it remains one of my favourites. We used the Old Basford level crossing footbridge all the time because it was (and remains) a great location. The text on the back advertising Portland Branch Labour Party advice surgeries is undated, but it has to be after Graham's selection and before he was elected, so it has to be c.1986.

I have known Graham Allen for a long time and have fond memories of the years I spent working with him. I was present when he was selected by the Constituency Labour Party to fight Nottingham North and he had a moment straight out of Fame is the Spur by Howard Spring, except Graham held a miner's Davy lamp above his head — not a sabre taken from a dragoon at the Peterloo massacre. My Susan spent countless hours with him, taking photographs as he went around the constituency campaigning at every opportunity. He is a great champion of local democracy and there have been other posts in BeestonWeek about Graham.

Yesterday (1 February 2017) he posted an entry to his website 'How I will be voting on the Article 50 bill', part of which I reprint below. My reason for wanting to share this with you is that Graham's take on Article 50 trumps that Anna Soubry and Jeremy Corbyn. Over the years Graham and Jeremy have often been outsiders, voting together on too many issues to list here. I suspect Graham is too much of a libertarian for Jeremy. Since I describe myself as a libertarian socialist, I find it easy to support and champion the views of Graham.

Right now, read and cheer!

'Despite the Prime Minister’s speech of 17 January, we remain in the dark about many aspects of the government’s intended approach. Of course, there is a need for some discretion when approaching negotiations with the remaining EU Member States. But it would be possible to provide far more information than is currently available without compromising the confidentiality ministers need. And even if we were given a clearer account of what will be the opening move of the UK, that does not tell us how the position might change in response to discussions with our EU counterparts.

That is why – in line with my responsibility to represent my constituents – I will not vote for a bill authorising the activation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union until they and I know what the government has in mind; how it intends to keep Parliament and public informed about how negotiations are developing; and consult with representatives in Westminster at key stages throughout the process. It is not about ignoring the referendum result, but about ensuring a democratic input into the process of leaving as it unfolds.

A recent pamphlet by Andrew Blick has noted how a parliamentary colleague of mine, talking about referendums in 2002, insisted that ‘We should not ask people to vote on a blank sheet of paper and tell them to trust us to fill in the details afterwards… [r]eferendums need to be treated as an addition to the parliamentary process, not as a substitute for it.’The name of the speaker was David Davis, then an opposition spokesperson, now Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. It is important that we do not write out for him the blank cheque he warned us about. Principles of representative democracy require that we draw up a detailed contract.
It is a shame that it took Gina Miller rather Parliament itself to take a case to the Supreme Court, to remind a feeble Parliament of the mythology that it, rather than the Executive is sovereign. But we now have a chance to exercise that sovereignty in a meaningful way, rather than have the executive continue to use us as a rubber stamp.'

You can also see and hear Graham's contribution to the Article 50 vote debate by clicking on this link.

1 comment: