As the sun set on the rolling Devonshire countryside, with electronic music blaring out, the crowd erupted as I stepped onto the stage. Sadly this wasn’t my DJ debut at a dance festival, but a Brexit Party rally at Trago Mills in Newton Abbot. Over 1,600 people had bought tickets to see Ann Widdecombe, Nigel Farage and the MEP candidates for South West England. These are far from normal scenes in British politics. How can a party barely a month old, attract so many people to listen to political speeches across the UK?
Politics at Westminster has descended into a farce. We have the worst political leaders of the two main parties in modern history. Across Westminster, there is no positive vision for the future of our country. The Prime Minister has battened down the hatches, refusing to believe her premiership is over. British politics has disintegrated into a name calling contest, bereft of ideas and out of touch with the public. The people’s vote in the 2016 referendum, was a call for a restoration of democratic accountability and renewal of British politics. That call has gone unanswered.
The disconnect between the British people and the political establishment, is in part a direct consequence of the erosion of our parliamentary democracy. John Major and Tony Blair did not consult the British public on the biggest change to British democracy since the Representation of the People’s Act in 1928. They signed the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Nice, transferring significant power away from parliament, and giving EU law supremacy over British law.
Britain held its first referendum on membership of the European Union in 2016. In the largest act of British democracy since 1992, the public voted to leave, despite having been warned that there would be an immediate economic crash, followed by a punishment budget unleashed by the then-Chancellor, George Osbourne. As we now know, ‘Project Fear’ has not materialised. It was a scheme devised to scare people into voting to remain and is still being used to try and undermine the 2016 people’s vote. The British public saw through this and demanded a return of sovereignty.
Instead of trying to understand the root causes of public dissatisfaction with politics, fanatical remain supporters and commentators have tried to re-interpret the referendum result and resorted to insulting the electorate. They have dominated the airwaves with vitriol towards anyone that believes that Britain could be a successful independent nation. They tell us the British public didn’t know what they were voting for. That all Brexiteers are xenophobic, racist, little Englanders, it goes on… How have we come to the point where genuine belief in British democracy is now deemed to be an extremist view?
The reality is that Britain has always been largely Eurosceptic. In 2008, the European Commission published a public opinion barometer, showing just 30% of the British public thought the EU was a good thing, and that only 24% trusted EU institutions. People voted to leave not because they hate Europeans or have a secret desire to return Britain to the 1950s, but because of the unaccountability of EU institutions and their belief that our parliament should hold ultimate sovereignty.
Since the 2008 economic crash and the expenses scandal, politicians at Westminster and Brussels are seen as out of touch and incompetent. The latest failure to deliver on the result of the referendum is now confirming the public’s suspicion that the political classes do not represent them. The British people are rightly angry at parties who promised to deliver Brexit, yet have deliberately obstructed leaving the EU. Furthermore, the EU’s advocacy of punishing Britain for having the audacity of favouring independence, has further angered the public. If you ever wanted a better illustration of how out of touch the EU is with popular opinion, Jean-Claude Juncker was this week awarded European Leader of the Year – you couldn’t make it up!
Britain is in dire need of a political renewal and reform of our political institutions. This cannot be achieved whilst shackled to the unaccountable, undemocratic European Union which is set to further integrate instead or reform.
Brexit is an opportunity to reinvigorate our country and prepare for the challenges of a rapidly changing world, including facing up to human caused environmental destruction, the rise of autocratic powers in the East and mass population growth. We cannot do this alone. Britain must retain strong relationships with our European allies and re-establish itself on the world stage as a leading voice for free trade, defence cooperation, foreign aid and environmental action. There will be disagreements on the future direction of our country, but the beauty of parliamentary democracy, unlike the EU, is that the electorate can debate our future and instruct our politicians to act. If they fail, we can replace them.
We shouldn’t be in this mess, both parties pledged in their manifestos to implement the result of the 2016 referendum. The public backlash is the rapid growth of the Brexit Party. In the past five weeks, the party has signed up over 90,000 supporters and been inundated with candidate applications from a diverse range of people from across the political spectrum. We are all united in standing up for democracy and our belief that this country can succeed as an independent nation.
The Euro elections have become a barometer for public discontent and a third people’s vote on the EU. If these voices are to be fully heard, we need to stand up for British democracy. On 23 May, whether you vote Leave or Remain, if you believe in democracy, only by voting for the Brexit party, can we remind MPs that they are accountable to the people.
James Glancy is a Brexit Party MEP candidate for the South West