VIEWPOINTS: Why our MPs deserve our respect

By Neil Coupe

I was having a wide ranging conversation  with a politically engaged colleague, who had some interesting perspectives on the situation with regard to Brexit, but the one comment he made that alarmed me was that he was losing faith in our MPs and we should ‘get rid of the lot of them’.

Instinctively, my view is that the vast majority of MPs are doing their best in highly pressurised circumstances, often in the face of fierce criticism and appalling physical threats.  Nevertheless, my colleague’s view prompted me to consider the role that our local MPs have had in the whole Brexit saga.

We have three Conservatives MPs representing various parts of the borough, Sir John Redwood, Dr Phillip Lee and Theresa May. They have approached the question in very different ways, which on the one hand has contributed to the on-going impasse yet in other ways demonstrates a determination in all of them to try to do what they believe is best for the country

Sir John Redwood has been Wokingham MP for over 30 years, enjoying a very clear mandate with a 56% share of the vote in 2017. He first came to prominence in the 1990s when he was opposed to the Maastricht Treaty and even wrote two books outlining his concerns about the direction of travel of the EU.

Fifty six per cent of the constituents of Wokingham voted to remain in the EU, but no-one can pretend to have been misled into believing the local MP would support this view.

Constituents are able to see what he stands for, and if we accept the view that an MP is a representative rather than a delegate, then he is simply following his own conscience and doing what he sincerely and consistently believes to be right for the country.

Dr Phillip Lee was a Justice Minister who stepped down from his role as he was unable to support the Government’s approach to Brexit and made the perfectly reasonable observation that he had a duty to his constituents and his children to do the best for them and felt that he couldn’t support how Brexit was due to be delivered by the Government.

It had been consistently Conservative policy from 1961 until 2016 to join or be in the Common Market/EEC/EU (albeit with periodic aspirations to reform it), so it is

not surprising that an MP may continue believing in a policy that the Party had supported throughout his life.

He represents a Leave-voting constituency, but his reasons for pursuing the policy he believes in are well documented and worthy of respect

The public voted to leave the EU in 2016 and then in the 2017 election, when they were asked if they wanted the Conservatives to deliver Brexit their way, concluded that they were willing for them to lead the process, but needed to be reined in a little and work with other parties to find a solution that works for everyone.

This presented Theresa May with the most difficult task of all, attempting to find a deal acceptable to enough of her own MPs, her own party, other MPs, the country itself as well as to our European partners.

Whether the right approach was taken, whether Parliament itself will ultimately side-line the Prime Minister, and whether the ultimate deal is good bad or indifferent, we do not know, but we see a woman who has stoically tried to deliver what she sincerely believes to be an acceptable compromise, while being bombarded with criticism from all sides.

Ultimately, politics is known to be the art of the possible, the attainable, the art of the next best.  In an environment where sincere differences of opinion exist as to what is the best way forward, and whether or not she ultimately succeeds the Prime Minister has shown remarkable resilience and determination to deliver, and deserves respect.

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