Brexiteers like Zac Goldsmith claim to care about democracy – so let's take a look at their track records
Reforming political finance is another area where Brexiteers fall silent. Despite serious question marks over the Leave campaign, these MPs have refused to countenance an equivalent of the Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in our democracy
Nigel Farage described the current situation as "one of the most shameful chapters in our country's history". While Zac Goldsmith took to twitter to lament the fact that his proposals for a proper recall system for MPs were never voted through, writing: "MPs need to feel the pressure of democracy at all times, not just before elections."
When you look at their attitude to other aspects of our democracy, this is staggering hypocrisy. Goldsmith did, to his credit, stand down and force a by-election in 2016 after the government's decision to press ahead with Heathrow expansion. Yet, when he re-stood in the 2017 general election (after losing his seat) he failed to accept invites to two separate hustings which I attended – blaming diary clashes. To make matters worse, people had paid £25 to attend one of these events. I suspected at the time that the heat was clearly too much, so he decided to get out of the kitchen. I believe a number of other Tory MPs did the same.
When Theresa May came to my constituency (Twickenham) she only met activists in a local school hall and did not knock on a single door – a bizarre approach when the local MP was defending a wafer thin majority. Keeping her away from the public (and sending in Amber Rudd as super-sub in the TV debates) became the strategy from someone who promised us strong and stable leadership.
MPs in safe seats rarely have to canvass to win back their votes. When I went back to visit my mother in Woking (which has been a safe Tory seat for a century), I spotted less than a handful of posters as I drove around her village. My Mum could not remember the last time she was canvassed. If Brexiteers are really interested in democracy then where is their cry for proportional representation? I cannot name of a single pro-Brexit MP who campaigned for electoral reform in the 2011 referendum on the alternative vote.
Even when they are elected, Brexiteers do not always feel a need to turn up. What is truly shameful is that Ukip MEPs, who consistently berate the EU gravy train, turned up to less than 2/3 of the possible votes before Brexit.
When it came to their post Brexit benefits, voting in the European Parliament suddenly became a priority. In Farage’s case, it seems raising his media profile and earning extra money via shows on LBC is more important than the day job.
Brexiteers are also known for their double standards on opposition to reforming the House of Lords. Jacob Rees Mogg, chair of the European Research Group has voted twice against reforming the Lords since 2011 – yet last year he suggested that peers risked "burning down the House of Lords” by thwarting Brexit.
They are also opposed to widening the voter base by lowering the voting age to 16 outside of Scotland. In 2017, Bernard Jenkin, another high profile Eurosceptic, claimed that "it would be a great mistake to lower the voting age to 16. Most 16 and 17-year-olds do not have the level of political knowledge or maturity required". What he really means, is that they are less likely to vote Tory and are largely pro-European.
One of their biggest issues with May’s withdrawal agreement is that the UK will be paying £39bn to the EU but will be unable to influence its laws in the transition period, making us a so called “vassal state”. But what about 16 year olds who are working and pay taxes but are currently not eligible to vote – are they vassal citizens in our democracy?
Reforming political finance is another area where Brexiteers fall silent. Despite serious question marks over the Leave campaign, the Brexiteers have refused to countenance an equivalent of the Mueller investigation, into Russian meddling in our democracy. They will never push for limits to maximum party political donations or to require disclosure of investment income for MPs, because it does not suit them either.
The Brexiteers have had countless opportunities to reform our democracy for the better. If they really cared about Westminster being out of touch, perhaps it’s time they lent a helping hand to those of us who do want to see change.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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