Adam Holloway On Resignation And Where The EU Debate Goes Next
Adam Holloway MP resigned as a parliamentary private secretary in the Foreign Office on Monday night, and defied the government whip on the EU referendum vote. Now the dust has settled, how does he feel about his decision and the coalition's approach to Europe?
What are your thoughts, now the dust has settled on having to resign as a PPS?
AH: I'm sorry that I won't be spending as much time with David Lidington because I really like him - and rate him. But let's be honest about it. Being a PPS, to use the term 'resigned' almost implies that there's rather more to the job than there is.
My role as a PPS is a very small thing. Obviously, it's very time consuming when there's legislation going through parliament and you're in the chamber. But in the normal course of events, being a PPS is sort of two or three hours a week, which is about the time I spend every day commuting from my constituency in Kent. I think it's very easy to have delusions of grandeur and I have no such delusions
Did you have aspirations for ministerial life?
AH: Of course, you don't go into politics to be a social worker. One of the things I like about this job is looking after and doing what I can to support constituents who are in trouble, but actually I think I've got some fairly broad experience outside politics. And it's frustrating not to be able to use that.
Do you think resigning will close off that route to you, now?
AH: Well, I don't know, I don't know, certainly under the coalition yes.
Does having the Lib Dems in government makes it more difficult to be a minister?
AH: Well of course because 25% of ministerial positions are taken by the Lib Dems and it doesn't help having a three line whip. But I'd rather rebel on the whip than my constituents. And also the stated aim, which I support, the idea of getting more women as ministers… But that doesn't help you if you're white and you're male. So I wouldn't have had a great expectation for being a minister anyway, and that's before we even look at relative ability.
Just going with the Lib Dems, those of us who watched the debate from the press gallery, it was quite revealing that anti-Lib Dem sentiment, which is sometimes is hidden but came out among the backbench Tories on Monday...
AH: Well most Tories, probably now most electors, would probably prefer a Conservative government than a coalition one. Of course, hostility might be a bit strong but everyone would much prefer to have a Conservative government. It would make lives a lot easier.
Do you think that the debate on Monday was a chance to let off steam?
AH: I don't think it was about steam. It is very, very difficult if you are somebody like myself who's been going around ever since becoming a candidate and when asked by their constituents what they thought of a referendum told the constituents it was a good idea and they've expressed the view 20,000 times that we need to rewire our relationship with Europe, it would be, it is an impossible condition to be in.
If you do not want to feel, and frankly, be, ridiculous, with those thousand or hundred people that you've told that, then you have to support what you said you would support, even when it comes to a vote and even when it means you have to defy a three line whip.
As I said in the debate, I think Cameron is doing an unbelievable job given the difficulty of being in a coalition. But people like me, loyal people like me who are absolutely on his side and rooting for him, it's very difficult when we're put in a position where we're required to vote for something which we do not believe, and will make us look dishonest with our constituents. You can't have that.
Is this going to come up again and again?
AH: I was working in the newsroom at ITN during the 90s and I could see the Tory party ripping itself apart over the Europe issue. With this I don't it's the same. This was people on that specific thing, the hard core Eurosceptics being joined by some other people who are their fellow travellers in terms of what they think about. But everyone knows that this country has some very serious problems.
Cameron's right in a sense, that it's a distraction. But this is an issue that will have to be resolved at some point. We've also got to think about the economy, about the shit education that so many children receive, we've got to look at the mass immigration we've had over the past 15 years. We want people to be able to walk back from the pub at night without getting their heads kicked in.
It is important for our national sovereignty and that must be addressed but it's not the only thing and I don't think anybody is about to make that the big issue. It is a big issue for the country but it's not the only one affecting us right now.
How do you feel about these backbench debates now they’re being whipped?
AH: The government shouldn’t escalate them into this, but again it’s very difficult when you’ve got this petition thing. It doesn’t look good when the public say they want something and then all three parties whip their MPs against it.
How have ministers and other PPSs behaved around you this week since you resigned?
AH: Quite a lot of them are embarrassed for themselves. ‘I wish I had your guts,’ ‘I wish my job wasn’t as important to me’, ‘I’m really getting grief from people in my constituency’, ‘I feel like a bit of a weasel’. I think a lot of people ask why were they put in that position, and some people are quite pleased that there were 80 rebels because that’s fewer people who will be competing for ministerial office.
The trouble is, with all three parties whipping like that, people who have obeyed the whip aren’t going to be hit by it at election time by the other two parties.
AH: Well, UKIP can. And they can split the Tory vote.
Could the EU become a coalition dealbreaker a couple of years down the line?
AH: I don’t think it will be, I think people realise that in Cameron they’ve got the best person available to lead us out of this complete mess. Europe isn’t going to be a dealbreaker now when everything’s changing in the EU and so dynamic. But there is no doubt in my mind that in 10 years, Britain will be a member of something that looks very different, and we will have clawed back considerable powers from this unelected machine.