Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.
If I was a six-out-of-ten Remainer before (set out here in a previous article for ConservativeHome), I am possibly a six-out-of-ten Brexiteer now, following the behaviour of the EU and some arch-Remainers. Having said that, in truth, I’m just not certain what the outcome of leaving the EU will be.
However, one thing I am 100 percent sure of: there was a democratic vote to leave. Seventeen million people voted for Britain to withdraw from the EU. Either we respect the democratic decisions of the public or we don‘t, leading to massive distrust in our political system.
If we have a second vote, why not a third or a fourth, until the non-respectors get the outcome they want?
We have all heard of fake news. In my view, a so-called second ‘People’s Vote’ on the EU would be a fake referendum and worthy of a banana republic.
Let us face it. A second referendum is just bonkers. It is also pretty insulting to voters; that people did not understand the original decision and only a second vote would ensure that they were fully furnished with the facts. The only facts the non-respecters are talking about are the ones that suit their arguments.
There is some real angst out there about our EU negotiations and the Chequers Agreement. It goes like this: The Government has already agreed to pay £39 billion divorce bill and now there appears to be more backsliding by the Government. Make no mistake, if the public really feel that the Government is backsliding on the EU, there’ll be a backlash against our party and a significant drop in the polls.
Notes from Poland
I have a real interest in Poland and was pleased to go on a visit to Warsaw recently – and later host a special event for the Polish Embassy in the House of Commons, to recognise righteous gentiles who had helped Jews during the Second World War. The event began the celebrations of the Year of Irena Sendler in the UK, a Polish social worker who played a key role in the Polish Underground and risked her life to rescue Jews from Nazi persecution.
One thing that has surprised me is the amount of criticism the Polish Government has received for introducing a law stating that Concentration Camps cannot be called Polish Death Camps, but only Nazi camps.
This legislation faced opposition from various groups claiming that the Government was denying Polish anti-semitism in the Second World War. Of course there was Polish anti-semitism but there was also anti-semitism and collaborators in many European countries. I am glad that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benyamin Netanyahu, recently signed an accord with the Polish Government to work on a compromise. To me, it seems fair that the camps should be described as what they actually were: Nazi Concentration Camps, built by the Germans during their occupation of Poland.
It is also worth remembering just how much the Polish people endured under Hitler – and how brave the Polish resistance was in 1944 in rising up against their oppressors (the Jews in the ghetto had done the same a year before). Warsaw was razed to the ground by Panzer tanks. The Poles also lost millions to the Nazis. Their suffering was huge and should not be forgotten. A visit to the Polish Museum of the Warsaw Uprising explains quite a bit.
The Jewish Museum is extraordinary and one of the most remarkable museums I have ever seen. In Warsaw, there are also beautiful Jewish cafes, a Jewish culture and regular annual Jewish festivals. I mention all this to make the point that Poland is a complex society, and stereotyping it as anti-semitic is just plain wrong.
Good to read
As an MP, I find it harder and harder to read books (I used to read a book a week) as all I seem to do is work through papers and documents or I’m glued to my Blackberry, reading ConservativeHome. One book I did manage to scrutinise not so long ago, however, was Inside Story, by Phillip Webster, the former Political Editor of The Times.
If you love both politics and newspapers, you will think this is an amazing tale. It is a book from which you learn about everything from news placement to how the papers get their scoops. It’s a great manual for everyone in our profession. I especially liked that Webster trained at Harlow College (my local FE College is world famous for its journalist course) and was selected to transcribe President Nixon’s Watergate address for Times readers.
My summer resolution is to put away my phone and Netflix, and to sit in my garden with a large cigar, reading books as good as this one. I always look forward to the famous book list that Keith Simpson MP sends out every Summer and Christmas Recess – it always has some great recommendations.
With or without a cigar, I hope you find a way to enjoy the sunshine this summer.