Jo Swinson is the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, and immediately declared that her first priority is - as it is for all of us - to Stop Brexit! "We're at a pivotal moment, our country needs a strong, liberal movement more than ever. This is only the country of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson if we let it be. We all know that Britain deserves better than both of them. Only the Liberal Democrats have the values, the ideas and the sheer bloody determination to stand up to those who are doing so much to damage our country. This is our time."
During our by-election campaign last November, we campaigned for a safe crossing near the junction of Upper Elmers End Road and Balmoral Road - we were concerned that this crossing point had already been highlighted as dangerous by local residents, and the opening of the new Eden Park High School made it a priority.
Bromley Lib Dems were dismayed when our two of our three local MP's (Bob Stewart and Jo Johnson) supported the Government's attempt to flagrantly usurp the authority of Parliament in order to force through a no deal Brexit that nobody voted for (Bob Neill MP for Bromley and Chislehurst was absent for the vote).
Both Bob Stewart and Bob Neil have argued for Brexit on the grounds that it is the democratic will of the people. Allowing any Government to bypass Parliament and turning Britain into a virtual dictatorship simply to "get Brexit done" makes a mockery of any such claim.
Most disappointing of all has been the stance taken by Orpington MP Jo Johnson. Last November Mr Johnson made the headlines when he resigned from Theresa May's Government and called for a People's Vote. In his statement he said
"The first option is the one the Government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business. The second option is a “no deal” Brexit that I know as a Transport Minister will inflict untold damage on our nation. To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis. My constituents in Orpington deserve better than this from their Government. ... given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say."
Unfortunately, since then Mr Johnson has been a leading figure in his hard-brexiteer brother's Tory leadership campaign, and is now trying to make it possible for brother Boris to govern without Parliament. Does he think that's what his constituents in Orpington deserve?
Since his resignation, and the reasons for it, were so well publicised, we are also disappointed that Mr Johnson has not taken the trouble to explain his apparent change of heart on Brexit to his constituents. What we would particularly like to know is
- Will he still support a People's Vote, and if not, why not?
- How does he square his support for his brother's stance on Brexit with his assessment of the economic harm that Brexit will do to our country?
- 8 months on, which does he now prefer, vassalage or chaos?
Mr Johnson has every right to change his mind on Brexit. In fact, he has many political, and personal, reasons to do so. He is also extremely fortunate that, thanks to being an MP and the brother of the man most likely to be our next Prime Minister, his vote counts.
We call on him to remember the British people. Some of us might like the opportunity to change our minds too.
You can read Jo Johnson's full resignation statement at the following link.
On Monday 15th July, Julie Ireland, Rick Das and myself went along to Bromley Council’s general meeting of councillors to ask important questions, hold the council to account and represent the values of the Liberal Democrats.
There were several interesting debates and announcements at the meeting as usual, but perhaps the two most memorable moments involved an incident with a Pride flag and a motion to reduce the Council’s carbon footprint.
Regarding the first, Councillor Simon Jeal asked the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Colin Smith, why it was the case that many councils across the UK recently flew Pride flags atop their town halls or civic centres to mark Pride month and visibly show their support for LGBT+ residents, yet in Bromley no such solidarity or support was offered. In response, Cllr. Smith insisted that the Council would stick to flying the Union Flag on the basis that he’d rather show a flag that united us rather than divided us. In 2019, this came as quite a remarkable admission by not only an elected politician, but the Leader of Bromley Council no less. After some chortling and heckling from the public gallery, Cllrs. Marina Ahmed and Simon Jeal unveiled a Pride flag and hung it across the Labour bench to the applause of many in the public gallery.
The Leader of Bromley Council, Cllr Colin Smith, claimed during a Council meeting on Monday (15 July) that the LGBT Pride flag was divisive. Asked whether the Council would fly the Pride Flag during Pride week he replied that they wouldn't, instead they would fly the Union Flag - "a flag that united people rather than a flag that divided people".
Lib Dem Allan Tweddle said he was disappointed by Councillor Smith's comments. "Bromley deserves better than this - politicians of all parties must come together and speak out against such intolerant and ill-informed views. Just last week the Conservative Mayoral candidate was telling us all how much he supported Pride week, and yet we hear comments like this from within his own party. It's clear that the divisions in the Conservative party aren't all centred on Brexit. "