After I took the Government to court to ensure regard for Parliament’s sovereignty and that MPs voted on triggering the Article 50 process that formally began the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, I watched the debate on television with a mounting sense of despair. Honourable Member after Honourable Member stood up and said that, while they had the gravest doubts that Brexit would be in the best interests of the people, they were, with the greatest possible reluctance, going to vote for it anyway.
Even Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry were brought into line in that debate by tribal loyalties, and quite possibly offers of rewards and punishments from their ferocious party minders, and, of course, the three-line whip that had been imposed on all Labour and Tory members by their leaders who were not in the mood to tolerate any opposition.
And then well into the night, David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham was finally called upon by the Speaker, and I realised as he began to speak, loudly and clearly, that, in a world of expedience, ambition and fear, here was one of a handful of members who really was honourable and whom people could rely upon to speak up for what is right, no matter what the cause, no matter what the pressures upon him. “For the sake of the country that I love, I will not be voting to trigger Article 50,” he said. “Patriotism and loving one’s country requires more than blind faith.“
I will admit that the words brought tears to my eyes, but the more you see and hear Mr Lammy - and I can’t pretend to know him well - the more you respect him. In the turbulent sea that we are now in, he is a rock. On any issue - whether it is Grenfell Tower, the way we treat asylum seekers or, of course, Brexit - you can rely upon to vote according to his conscience.
“Mr Lammy did what is right by turning up to that protest and I know that no amount of intimidation is ever going to stop him from doing what is right”
On leaving the EU, he has always made it clear that his is a principled position and principles in the House these days seem to necessarily preclude personal ambition and certainly a place on his own front bench.
I was therefore not surprised that Mr Lammy would be standing with protesters outside the Commons against antisemitism. A campaigner all his life against prejudice, he turned out and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Jewish leaders, who had understandably been appalled by the Labour Party’s failure to take a swift and robust stand against the hatred that was being directed against them from within the party. And, within hours of doing so, just as I had feared, Mr Lammy was subjected to online abuse and a campaign to deselect him from Corbynite loyalists on party members-only Facebook page, where it was stated that his presence - and those of other MPs such as Wes Streeting, who some online appallingly urged to “kill himself” - was an act of treachery.
As someone who is routinely called a traitor, and receive the vilest hatred and death threats, as well as being married to a Jewish man, I know the meaning of prejudice, this depressed me immensely. What depressed me even more - outraged me, in fact - is that Mr Lammy happened to have been returned at the last election with a resounding 82% share of the vote.
In a very real sense, therefore, these campaigners who want now to oust Mr Lammy from his seat in Tottenham in north London are showing open contempt for democracy and, yes, the will of the people.
This is what Brexit is doing to our politics and society, time and again. In a hideously McCathyite way, any view that now doesn’t accord with that of the leaderships of the two principal political parties is now regarded as unacceptable - no matter how sane, rational and compassionate those views may be - because, in this new way of conducting politics, keeping in line matters a lot more than keeping true to your conscience or indeed the people who elected you.
Mr Lammy did what is right by turning up to that protest and I know that no amount of intimidation is ever going to stop him, and the handful of other MPs from both parties who stand by honesty and integrity, from doing what is right. He is standing up to the bullies and the thugs that are the real threat to our country and our values and I only wish there were more like him now inside and outside the Commons.
Gina Miller is founder of SCM Direct, a transparency activist and lead claimant in the Article 50 case