David Nuttall is the Member of Parliament for Bury North.
The decision of Douglas Carswell to stand down from the House of Commons and contest the resulting by-election has inevitably led to speculation as to who will be next. Not surprisingly, as chairman of the Better Off Out group of MPs and Peers people will wonder if I will be joining him.
My answer to those who have asked is that I have absolutely no plans to do so. I firmly believe that the UK would not only survive but would thrive outside the European Union. The whole set up of the EU belongs in the 20th century – designed in the aftermath of the Second World War it looks increasingly out of date in the modern 21st century world of the internet and instant communications.
The rest of the EU would still want to buy our goods and services if we left, just as much as they would want to sell us their wares. British firms who have no wish to export to the EU would be free from the red tape imposed on them by the EU. Crucially, the UK would be able to control our borders and decide for ourselves who we needed in the Country.
The next General Election will be the fifth consecutive election I have fought. MPs come and go indeed Conservative Leaders come and go. What matters is that the Conservative Party stands up for the timeless principles of defending the nation and its citizens, defending freedom and extending choice and opportunity.
It is clear to me as it is to so many others that the UK’s membership of the EU is preventing the Conservative Party from standing up for these principles. It saddens me that so few in the Conservative Party are prepared to stand up for their principles always finding a reason why they should forget them and just go with the flow. The problem with this approach is that it destroys people’s trust in politics and politicians.
I believe that by staying inside the Conservative Party I and others of like mind can achieve a change in the policy of the party.
To those who say (and they have already been saying it!) that we are fighting a losing battle, I would remind them that in October 2011 thanks to the Backbench Business Committee I led a debate on a motion calling for an In/Out referendum. The Party imposed a three line whip instructing everyone to vote against the idea. 80 other colleagues had the courage of their convictions and supported the motion because they knew it was right that the people should have their say.
Within 18 months the Party Leader was making a speech saying that he, too, thought it was a good idea that the people should have their say. The Party now imposes a three line whip in favour of the Private Members EU Referendum Bill! My view is that the Better Off Outers in the Party are winning the argument.
Leaving the Conservative Party sends out the signal that you can only be serious about leaving the EU if you are a member of UKIP. This is of course not the case. There are millions of Conservatives who think as I do. There are plenty of Labour supporters who think that way too, including some Labour MPs.
If the UK is ever to leave the EU it will need supporters of all political parties to work together. Not just the Conservatives and UKIP but lifelong socialists too. The cause is much important than which party you happen to be in. Socialists may want to come out of the EU for different reasons but so be it. We can debate the merits of socialism and capitalism in the future but at least it will be for the British people to decide their laws and not have them imposed on them by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.
All parties are coalitions and the public understand that. Modern Britain appreciates honesty and principles more than slavish compliance with Party whips. It always makes sense to never say ‘Never’ in politics and no doubt this article will be quoted if I ever decide to join UKIP, but after 34 years in the Conservative Party I have no plans to do so. However, I do plan to continue to stand up for the traditional principles of the Conservative Party and if from time to time that means voting against the wishes of the whips, so be it.