An Exchange With James Wharton MP
On Saturday 2nd July 2016 I wrote an email to my local MP, James Wharton, concerning the outcome of the EU Referendum. Wharton is a Conservative Member of Parliament and was elected as the representative for Stockton South in 2010, retaining his seat in 2015. On neither occasion did I vote for him, nor will I ever.
In my brief-but-to the point email to Wharton, I wrote of my anger towards the Vote Leave campaign and where it's success had potentially left this country moving forward; a nasty, economically poorer nation (not to mention culturally and socially) that now seemed more interested in staring at it's own Union Jack-patterned shoes than it did in looking up, opening its arms and welcoming mutual trade, migration and discussion with it's European neighbours.
As I expected from previous communications with him, Wharton replied a couple of days later. The tone of his reply was, unfortunately, also expected:
Thank you for your email.
What took place on the 23rd June was one of the greatest acts of direct democracy in Britain's history. I believe it is important that everyone should respect this fact, respect the British people's decision and respect democracy.
For months the arguments for and against Brexit were played out across the country, and I feel that the majority of people that voted made an informed decision. To disregard the decision of the majority of people because you do not agree with the decision is undemocratic.
I hold Britain's democracy in high regard and my intension was to support wholeheartedly whatever decision the people of this country decided.
I do appreciate people's concerns but want to point out that this will be a long progress. Having discussed this with my colleagues, I want to reassure you that everyone concerned is aware that 48% of the electorate voted to remain in the EU and their views will be a taken as a factor in the future negotiations with the EU.
Thank you again for your email.
I mulled on this for a couple of days, but the sense that it was a dismissive and arrogant reply gnawed at me the more I re-read it. Effectively he was saying to me 'you lost, get over it...' without acknowledging any of the scaremongering and deceit of the Vote Leave campaign that ultimately helped it over the line. It wasn't good enough. I had to respond:
Thank you for your reply.
Whilst I firmly accept democracy and I am not in favour of another referendum on this subject (or another referendum on anything, ever again), I wholeheartedly disagree with your view that: "For months the arguments for and against Brexit were played out across the country, and I feel that the majority of people that voted made an informed decision."
It took less than twelve hours after the result was announced on June 24th for a number of Vote Leave's pre-referendum claims to unravel - Nigel Farage, Ian Duncan Smith, etc, were amongst a number of Leave campaigners who instantly distanced themselves from the "350m to the NHS" claim (and please don't deny that that was ever said or I will send you a picture of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox stood in front of a poster saying *that exact thing*...) and I did enjoy watching Daniel Hannan on Newsnight that evening saying something along the lines of: "Don't expect immigration to fall as a result of this...". Let's not even get into Farage's early 30's Germany-inspired poster campaign one week before the referendum took place. It was disgusting.
I genuinely believe that a large % of Leave voters acted upon promises around the NHS and immigration alone. I wonder how many of those now regret that decision. I certainly would if I had been a Leave voter.
I'm sure a lot of Leave voters also fell for the "take back control" mantra and the belief that we were no longer a sovereign nation whilst part of the EU and that our laws are "made by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels". I'm sure I don't need to explain to you, as a lawyer, how both of those points are not true, but let me know if you need the names of some EU law experts to talk to or links to some papers & articles to enlighten you in this area.
My view is that enough people in this country *were* misled by the Leave campaign - 52% over 48% is hardly a huge margin when you're talking about an entire nation, so I am concerned that our country is left at risk (for a whole load of reasons - economics, financial, security/defence, health, cultural, social, etc, etc) due to misinformation, fear and ignorance.
As someone with a mortgage, a job with a global remit, a pension, ISAs, savings, a car, a need to eat, a social conscience and a love of Britain for being diverse, tolerant and culturally mixed, I'm not prepared to let a small number of scaremongering Leave politicians trick the country out of the EU and into isolation, especially given all but Leadsom & Gove are now sat in the long grass. Should Theresa May win the upcoming leadership election, which I believe she will judging by the votes so far, both of those two individuals will be joining them.
So, I'm not asking for democracy to be overturned via a second referendum. I am actually asking government to do its job, as elected by the people (albeit not by me personally, I might add...), and act in the wider interests of the country by dismissing the opinion-only referendum result of June 23rd by parliamentary vote.
Frankly, saying "the people have spoken" and holding your hands up when a larger proportion of all elected MPs (governing or otherwise) believe that leaving the EU would be detrimental to our nation just isn't good enough.
Thank you for reading.
I wonder if I will be graced with another reply. Perhaps he'll want that list of EU law experts I've offered up? I won't hold my breath.
When my wife read my response she told me that she thought it was very good but that I had made one, silly error; I'd offered the man my 'best regards'.
Spellcheck doesn't capture everything, does it?