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Time for change

Lord Digby | Published:

‘ALL POLITICAL careers end in failure.’

British Prime Minister Theresa May reacts as she turns away after making a speech in the street outside 10 Downing Street in London, England, Friday, May 24, 2019. Theresa May says she'll quit as UK Conservative leader on June 7, sparking contest for Britain's next prime minister. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant). (24750050)

These words of Enoch Powell some 50 years ago have never seemed more pertinent than right now. Last Friday, the issue of Europe claimed its fourth Conservative Prime Ministerial victim: Margaret Thatcher and the Heseltine/Howe revolt; John Major and his ‘bastards’ presenting a split party to the electorate; David Cameron and the 2016 Referendum ... and now Theresa May.

The most successful election-winning party machine in the history of global democracy, the British Conservative and Unionist Party, is in meltdown.

On the basis that ‘oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them’, it is difficult to imagine how it could be made easier for Jeremy Corbyn to be given the chance to turn the UK into Venezuela in short order.

But the EU election results on Sunday have revealed many developments that go beyond the probably terminal problems of the Tories.

The country is split straight down the middle on the question of Leave/Remain and nothing that has happened over the past three years has altered that. Neither the efforts of the Remain-based establishment saboteurs nor the valiant attempts of May to get a deal over the line have basically changed opinion. The stunning performance of the Brexit Party and the equally impressive showing of the Liberal Democrats shows that. They both had a clear, understandable message – Remain or Leave – and the electorate responded.

The UK has just held its second referendum (whatever some may say) ... and it has solved nothing. Britain is a divided country. There is no answer. Whatever they say, the side that (narrowly) lost another vote just wouldn’t stop campaigning. They would not honour the result; divisions run too deep, are too entrenched.

‘Stay in the EU and reform it from within’ is a view that has its followers seeking compromise. It disregards the simple fact that it will never reform.

It is not in Germany’s interest to reform and what Germany wants, Germany gets. Don’t blame the Germans for this – they pay the EU piper so why wouldn’t they call the EU tune?

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The Brexit Party’s 29 MEPs is the largest group in the whole of the EU Parliament. The Lib Dems will send 16 MEPs to Brussels (and Strasbourg, once a month to please the French at a cost to the people of Europe of £250m. every year!). These are significant numbers that should send a big signal around Europe.

Parliament has let the people down. The two-party system has been revealed as not fit for purpose. Both Labour and Conservative parties have tried to face two ways at once. They have tried to please everyone and have ended up pleasing no one.

It is breath-taking to see the sheer arrogance of believing anyone from any party can renegotiate a deal with the EU. Has anyone asked them?

Corbyn has shamelessly put the UK’s best interests a poor second as he has used every opportunity to force a General Election for the sake of party not country.

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May has displayed poor judgement, poor negotiating skills and poor leadership which no amount of stoicism and a laudable commitment to public duty can excuse.

There needs to be substantial and urgent reform in the UK’s electoral system:

  • Break the grip of the two major parties which are both prey to hijack by extremes who then abuse the brand and system to pull the country to polemical division.
  • Have direct elections for a Prime Minister who would then be forced to create coalitions in the Commons to get legislation through. Personality politics? For sure, but we have it already in reality frankly so why not make the system fit the electorate’s wish? The country would benefit from a huge widening and deepening of the talent pool from which to draw a leader, not just from time-serving party apparatchiks who’ve spent time climbing the greasy pole.
  • Fundamentally reform the House of Lords. Slim down its membership of 820 to 300. Make it reflect the country not the parties.
  • Bring in a form of proportional representation in elections. ‘Safe seats’ and ‘you could put a sheep up in blue/red and get it in’ should be consigned to the failed dustbin of psephological history.

Make no mistake; if nothing is changed, then the events of the past few days will simply happen again... and again.

It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. Well, the UK is going mad – maybe that is the reason.

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