Chris Moncrieff: Brexit betrayal brings shame on Westminster

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Is Parliament short-changing the British public over Brexit? It is beginning to look suspiciously like it.

Are we witnessing the greatest parliamentary betrayal ever inflicted on the British people?

Speaker John Bercow has been among those in Parliament criticised for their handling of Brexit.

Speaker John Bercow has been among those in Parliament criticised for their handling of Brexit.

Forget all the complex Brexit motions and their even more complicated amendments, and the otiose language being used at Westminster, and consider instead the simple issue of the honour of parliamentarians – because it is now seriously in question.

Parliament ordered the referendum and vowed it would honour the result. To their great shame, many MPs are now betraying that pledge.

The Remainers were so cocksure of winning, that they conducted a ludicrously low-key and complacent referendum campaign. The allegations they are making now and the questions they’re asking, should have been aired during the campaign.

Furthermore, the suggestion that the referendum revealed a divided nation and should mean a second vote is just so much nonsense. All elections reveal that – and Winston Churchill, when asked what he considered a satisfactory majority, replied: “One vote.”

Let us hope the next few 
weeks will give the majority voters in the referendum what they asked for.

The vultures are already menacingly circling over the silver-haired head of David Steel, the former leader of the Liberal Party.

They are not exactly screeching, “Off with his head!”, but they are demanding that he be stripped, here and now, of his peerage.

You could be forgiven for assuming (wrongly) that such people might have possessed more common sense and a feeling for normal justice than to demand punishment for a man while an inquiry into his conduct is still in progress.

Lord Steel has already been suspended from the Liberal Democrats while the inquiry continues. It relates to how much he knew about the behaviour of his long-time colleague Sir Cyril Smith’s now well-documented abusive behaviour towards young people in Rochdale.

There are still many unanswered questions about Smith’s murky behaviour. Why did Smith not sue when an underground newspaper in the town openly printed the accusations against him? And why did the police take no action at the time?

Meanwhile, Steel has served the party well and faithfully for years, including overseeing the tricky link-up of the dying SDP with the Liberals in the 1980s. He has also been a highly valued servant to parliaments both in Westminster and Edinburgh.

Give the man a chance, please, and a fair hearing.

And yet more national newspaper exposure for the Liberal Democrats. Vince Cable, the party’s venerable leader, announced that he will relinquish the leadership in May, conditional on the state of health of Brexit at that time.

Who is likely to succeed him, given that there are no “household names” left in the party in the House of Commons any more?

Incidentally, the last “big name” the Lib Dems could boast was Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister, who quit the political scene recently to take a lavishly-rewarded post on Facebook. It may not be widely known that Clegg acquired the nickname of “Cleggover” on the basis of his bragging about his conquests with women.

However, I digress.

Jo Swinson, the reasonably competent deputy leader, must seem the obvious choice as Cable’s successor, especially since the Lib Dems remain the only major party in the country which has not had a female leader – people seem to forget that Margaret Beckett was briefly the fully-fledged leader of the Labour Party on John Smith’s sudden death in 1994.

Swinson has ministerial experience in the recent Conservative-Lib Dem coalition administration. She is also a lot less growly than the present incumbent who is also an unlikely suave ballroom dancer.

A smallish man with horn-rimmed glasses gently asked an attendant if he could enter a part of the House of Commons not normally opened to the public.

When he was denied entrance, he said: “I am an MP’s husband.” It still cut no ice. It was only
when someone who overheard these exchanges called out, 
“He’s the Prime Minister’s husband”, that he was granted admission.

Philip May is commendably plainly a modest man. Nothing of the, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’, about him. He absolutely exemplifies that wonderful line of Shakespeare’s: “There’s nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility”.

What a refreshing change compared with some of his predecessors as spouses of 
Prime Ministers.

Chris Moncrieff is a former political correspondent for the Press Association.