Bernard Ingham: This Brexit argy-bargy reminds us about freedom of speech and its value to democracies like ours

Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons.
Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons.
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WHAT is there for us to be proud to be British about in the Great Brexit Bunker we all inhabit these days?

Well, you may think I am carrying my New Year resolution to look on the bright side far too far in citing freedom of speech.

But let us not be weighed down with all the supposed humiliation this nation has suffered by still being in the European Union we were supposed to leave last Friday.

Humiliated or not, we are a shining example to the world through our blessed ability to hold and express views and generally to demonstrate peacefully in support of them.

The thought police may be having some success in other areas – notably race, religion and gender – but elsewhere we remain gloriously free to say what we like, with poor old Theresa May unfairly copping most of the abuse.

It may look untidy and anarchic abroad but the so-called civilised French have nowt to shout about. Nor for that matter has Western Europe in its almost slavish support of an unelected Brussels Commission’s vindictive approach to Brexit.

We Brits, from Mr Speaker, the Biased Bercow, downwards, may make orderly government damn near impossible. But somehow we muddle through with few bones broken.

There is one other bonus from the Brexit ballyhoo. It signals a warning to us all that we cannot count on retaining this freedom. Let Jeremy Corbyn – and, worse still, John McDonnell – anywhere near No 10 and it will be forfeit.

These Marxists do not believe in democracy, only the dictatorship of the proletariat with some of the proletariat – them – more equal than others. It is not scaremongering to say that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm are in danger of becoming a reality in this sceptred isle if we do not have our wits about us.

This is the harsh reality stemming from Parliament’s refusal to back the PM’s proposed settlement for a third time. It is fair to say that nobody knows what will happen to break the stalemate.

The danger is that the people, angry at Parliament’s failure to lead us out of the EU, would let Corbyn’s mob in if it came to a general election. This is notwithstanding the fact that our totalitarian Opposition has deliberately frustrated our EU departure in the hope of forcing us to the polls.

Of course, the Tories have not helped with more than half their MPs determined to Remain and the large minority demonstrating their Brexit purity at every turn. But this minority has progressively been recognising the error of its ways as the Parliamentary voting shows. It is Mrs May’s admittedly flawed agreement or indefinite subservience to Brussels.

It should also be clear to the dimmest denizen of darkest Westminster that a new Tory leader, a general election or continued uncertainty over Brexit will solve nothing.

It is only when we are out of the EU that the body politic, freed from the endless argy-bargy of Brexit, will be able to bring back a modicum of purpose and drive to the governance of our nation.

I do not despair of getting there – preferably without a £39bn divorce settlement – always assuming that Speaker Bercow is not a total idiot.

Of course, we should have a regular litany of “I told you so” woes by the Project Fear crowd over every little difficulty. The Cabinet Secretary is already squealing before he has been bitten.

But we could then have a relatively orderly replacement of Mrs May, who would have achieved her aim, and at least the possibility of a return to Harold Macmillan’s “cool, calm deliberation disentangles every knot”.

But that would only apply if the Tories remained in Government. I say this as one who as has not been a member of any party since I joined the Civil Service in 1967.

One of the major tragedies of recent years is that the Labour Party has 
ceased to be a credible alternative government.

Only the Tories, daft as they are over Brexit, will maintain any semblance of prudent government that delivers jobs, rising prosperity and, with a bit of luck, improving public services and a more responsible capitalism.

With Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, the Greens and Sinn Fein, we can confidently predict economic chaos, the break up of Great Britain and an end to the monarchy. In short, destructive revolution. And Liberal Democrats are all empty Remainers.

Where are the likes of Clem Attlee, Hugh Gaitskell, Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan to provide a credible alternative government?