RBKC finally debate The People’s Vote (PV); but it was woeful...
Fortuitously for the majority Administration, campaigners Led by Donkey’s are taking a break, because last night’s debate on a People’s Vote at RBKC Town Hall was woeful. The bar was already set low and the Conservative administration managed to limbo even lower under it.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Linda Wade first tried to raise the subject of People’s Vote last December. She was met with procedural obfuscation at every turn and motions being talked out at each meeting. As she stood to speak on Wednesday, she almost seemed shocked at finally being able to stand and talk to her motion.
The arguments in favour of a Final Say are well known, to those advocating for it. Linda moved though all the key arguments: Our borough voted overwhelmingly, by 69%, to Remain in the first place. At the time of the referendum Leave was an abstract concept, meaning very different things to different people – three years on we have a better idea of what a Leave deal might look like. RBKC is one of the most diverse places in the UK, many are fearful for the future, some already packing up to leave and businesses suffering. Linda also looked beyond the borough to the higher purposes of the EU: peace, support for democracy, helping border tensions in Northern Ireland.
Robert Atkinson, Labour Group Leader and co-sponsor of the motion, added that the Brexit debacle was all along to resolve David Cameron’s terror of UKIP, putting resolving party problems before the needs of the country. Labour offered stalwart Pat Healey and fresh new talent Sina Lari to also speak in favour of the motion.
All Tories spoke against.
What was astounding was not the arguments against per se but the sheer inaccuracy and muddled thinking.
Here’s a few gems as to why the RBKC majority Administration voted against:
1. Tory Remainers were at pains to proclaim they had voted Remain in 2016. The blame for losing that vote, according to one, was down to Jeremy Corbyn for not campaigning hard enough. The irony of blaming the Labour leader for a referendum that the Tories called seemed to escape the speaker.
2. One said that a PV was pointless as latest polls show a lead for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party in the European Parliament elections, totally overlooking that polls on a new referendum show Remain leading by 58% to 42%.
3. Cllr Tom Bennett opened for the Administration wailing that he didn’t know whether his constituents wanted a PV or not. We’d suggest that Bennett start speaking to residents. He might also have considered that over 40,000 locals in Kensington and Chelsea & Fulham have gone further than just a PV and signed the petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked. A poll by Right to Vote found that across London, numbers of voters who want a final say include 80% in Greg Hands’s Chelsea and Fulham seat*.
4. Several claimed that Brexit was not a local issue and needed to be left to Westminster. This rather overlooks the fact that Westminster is gridlocked, which is why a PV is needed as a solution to the impasse. It also ignored Robert Atkinson’s opening remarks that most other London Councils have debated the issue and deemed it important to do so.
Exceptionalism is strong with Brexiters and strong in RBKC.
5. One Conservative Councillor claimed EU27 nationals could take solace from the Settled Status scheme, seemingly ignorant of the denudation of rights this scheme entails, and the bureaucratic hassles of applying.
6. The final gem came from Cllr Hamish Adourian (and how Linda must hang her head that Cllr Adourian also hails from Earls Court ward). Adourian claimed he was a Remainer.
In a bizarre argument he claimed that in any new referendum people wouldn’t know what Remain would mean either – the UK had joined the Common Market and had had no say in the Union’s evolution through the Maastrict or Lisbon treaties.
This totally ignores that the UK were present in those negotiations, negotiated opt outs on some provisions it didn’t want (Schengen, Euro), and voted through these treaties in Parliament. He seemed oblivious to the fact that any new treaty changes Britain would also have a veto, say on an EU army (another Brexiter myth), and also oblivious to the fact that the previous Coalition had passed legislation that any new treaties must be ratified in a referendum – this was only reversed in the 2018 EU Withdrawal Act to facilitate Brexit.
Betraying their true feelings Cllr Faulkes let slip “it’s a dog’s Brexit” before hastily correcting herself to “Dog’s breakfast” as some wag in the public gallery shouted “Freudian slip!” And throughout Cllr Palmer bellowed in a boorish way “bring in Boris!” and “No deal; not a problem.” Led by Donkey’s indeed.
In an otherwise depressing evening where the motion was lost by 12 to 30 – with all Conservatives voting against, the main win was confirmation that Emma Dent Coad, MP, continues to back a People’s Vote, reaffirming her support both in the meeting and taking to Twitter after the vote. At least one of our MPs is fully committed to giving the people of the Borough the final say, and we hope she can use her position to influence Jon Trickett and others that hold out against.
Jenny Monahan, Chair European Movement in Hammersmith, Kensington, Chelsea & Fulham
Mike Vessey, Secretary, European Movement in Hammersmith, Kensington, Chelsea & Fulham
Michael Romberg, London for Europe
*Chelsea and Fulham polling on Final Say