Nicky Morgan is Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, a former Education Secretary, and MP for Loughborough.
Some years ago, I think in the period before the 2010 election, ConservativeHome asked various parliamentary candidates to list their “favourite” things – including their favourite films. Mine was the cold-war film, Crimson Tide.
I was reminded of this on Saturday night, as I drove to a constituency engagement while doing the very middle-aged thing of listening to Classic FM, as they played the main theme from the film. The presenter referred to its plot, which involves a mutiny and counter-mutiny.
After a week in which I was named, alone with 14 other sterling colleagues, as a “Brexit Mutineer”, the phrase had particular resonance. Those who have seen the film will know that the plot revolves around whether a second, interrupted, emergency action message confirms an earlier order to fire the submarine’s nuclear missiles, or to hold off firing. The mutiny is led by the cautious Lt. Commander Ron Hunter (played by Denzel Washington) against the more impetuous Captain Frank Ramsey (played by Gene Hackman).
At the end of the film, it is clear that the original mutineer, Lt. Commander Hunter, was right not to concur with the order to fire given by Captain Ramsey. In standing up to his captain, he prevented a nuclear war erupting between the USA and Russia.
I don’t know who gave our 15 names to the Daily Telegraph last week, nor who decided to label us as ‘Mutineers’. It is not an affront to democracy for MPs to put down amendments to bills, nor to oppose amendments laid by others.
Two unlikely mutineers, Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke, set out very clearly their arguments for opposing the Government’s desire to include a firm exit date and time in the EU Withdrawal Bill. If outside newspapers and organisations continue to attempt to stop MPs from questioning a key element of – as David Davis said on Friday – the most important set of negotiations in the UK’s modern history, then we have a big problem in our political system.
Interestingly, the messages I have received from my constituents, from people living across the country and from UK citizens living overseas have been overwhelmingly positive. Many of those who’d rather we kept our views to ourselves tend to cite the threat of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn as their main reason for being unhappy about our actions.
I don’t want a Corbyn-led Labour government (or, indeed, any Labour government at all), and I agree with Mark Wallace that the Minister who apparently said last week that the Conservatives needed a spell in opposition to re-group needs to be swiftly put right. But the way to defeat Corbyn is for the Conservatives to put forward our own policy agenda which counters his policy proposals, and tackles the domestic challenges we face.
I am grateful to all those who have fought back on behalf of us Mutineers (and some of them do not agree with us on Brexit) – on Twitter and Facebook and in letters to the press against those who have threatened us verbally and with physical violence.
When those pursuing a course of action which will affect Britain’s place in the world for decades to come prefer to label us, and try to bully us into silence, rather than argue their case, that says much more about them that it does about us. If anything, last week has emboldened us further in putting forward the case for a Brexit which respects the referendum result but does not undermine our economy, our constitution nor our values as a country.