Theresa May’s slim majority is getting even slimmer. Zac Goldsmith has triggered a by-election in Richmond after he followed through with his promise to resign should the government approve a third runway at Heathrow.
And now Steven Phillips has resigned in protest at the government’s handling of Brexit and its decision to appeal to the Supreme Court over the High Court’s ruling, that Article 50 must be triggered by parliament and not unilaterally by the Prime Minister. It looks as though the Tories are set to lose both by-elections with the Liberal Democrats winning in Richmond, and UKIP coming top in Sleaford.
This is deeply worrying. At a time when the lacklustre Labour Opposition is so exceedingly shambolic that it can barely muster an attack on a Conservative leadership facing resignations by two of its MPs, the government should be winning by-elections in a landslide. Unfortunately, these votes are being conducted as miniature re-runs of the referendum and not as reflections on the government itself.
The government cannot afford to lose any more MPs over its Brexit strategy, lest a resurgent Lib Dems become the default anti-Brexit party. This has already happened in Richmond where an anti-Brexit coalition has been formed with parties such as the Greens not contesting the election to boost Lib Dem support. This is not only a pathetic, half-hearted attempt to get enough MPs to block Brexit through the back door, but it’s thoroughly anti-democratic. Just as we saw during and after the referendum campaign, with remainers like David Lammy calling for the referendum result to be ignored, we are seeing the anti-democratic tendencies of the authoritarian, regressive left shining through once again.
The situation has become even more critical following the High Court’s ruling on Thursday. Rightly or wrongly, it is now up to MPs to trigger Article 50. This decision puts even more power in the hands of the majority pro-remain members in both the Commons and the Lords. We cannot allow arrogant pro-remain MPs to kick Brexit into the long grass. Theresa May must revoke the Fixed Term Parliaments Act at the earliest opportunity and call a General Election. The government is currently enjoying a great deal of public support, the latest YouGov poll had the Tories on 41%, giving them a 14% lead over Labour.
An analysis found that were the referendum held according to the constituency boundaries used at the 2015 election, Leave would win 421 seats and Remain just 229. Theresa May has the opportunity not only to give herself a proper mandate and landslide majority by going to the polls with her plan for Brexit, but also to turn parliament into the representative democracy it ought to be and reverse the current remain consensus. Our representative democracy is at breaking point, should anti-Brexit and, by definition, anti-democratic MPs vote against triggering Article 50, the little faith people have left in politicians will be permanently and irrevocably lost
Henry Edelstein is a Contributor at Generation Conservative