Charles Walker urges MPs to put national interest ahead of party politics

Charles Walker MP speaking in the House of Commons, 19 December 2018

Charles Walker urges MPs to put national interest ahead of party politics and support the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement in January as they cannot refuse to support any deal and, at the same time, refuse to support 'no deal' as part of a plan to get a second referendum in the hope of overturning the vote of 2016.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The greatest political movement of the 20th century was undoubtedly the Labour party. It transformed that century; it came from nowhere and literally changed the landscape of this country. Its greatest Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, was educated 10 miles from where I live. So I have to ask the Labour party: what on earth is it doing at the moment? What on earth is it doing with the national interest? We have a Prime Minister who is breaking herself, duty bound to get a deal for this country that ensures we leave with a deal, yet the shadow Secretary of State is saying, “No matter what she brings back, the Opposition will reject it, but no deal is not an option.” I know some Labour Members spend a huge amount of time with their constituents, but surely they are hearing their constituents say, “Look, let’s just take what the Prime Minister is bringing back”—[Interruption.] That is what they are saying. They are saying, “Let’s take what the Prime Minister is bringing back and let’s move on as a country.” I tell hon. Members that in January, when the Prime Minister presents her deal at the Dispatch Box, one that she has pursued tirelessly on behalf of this country without rest or break, and the Labour party votes against it and then says that no deal is not good enough, the people of this country will work out who is responsible for where we end up. It will not be Conservative Members; there will be a few on our Benches, but it will be Opposition Members, and they will pay the political price.

I have huge respect for the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), but he cannot camouflage his desire to see a second referendum with promises and pledges that say, “I have six tests that need to be met.” He is possibly the only person who knows what those six tests are—the country has not got a clue. We then have this idea that the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), who leaves a peripatetic caravan of chaos on the Opposition Benches, could go to the EU and negotiate a better deal. This is the man who, after the poisonings in Salisbury said, “We need to go and have a chat with Putin to find out what his problems are.” It is just not realistic—and the British public know it. The Labour party is playing fast and loose with this country’s future.

I have not spoken in these debates. As Chairman of the Procedure Committee, I have worked tirelessly for a year and a half to ensure that both sides have a fair rub of the green. I was not going to speak today, but then I heard that there was to be another debate under Standing Order No. 24 so that the right hon. and learned Gentleman could say the same thing over and over again, which is, “Whatever deal the Prime Minister brings back, it will not be good enough, but my word—I am not going to tolerate leaving with no deal!” Why can he not be honest and just say, “I want a second referendum”? That is what he wants. He wants a second referendum. He wants to thwart the will of the people for the people. That is what the people’s vote is: “I will thwart the will of the people for the people.” It is an entirely dishonest position.

Opinion polls go up and down—they fluctuate. It will not have escaped the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s attention that my party has had a huge amount of difficulty over the past week, but this week we are four points ahead of Her Majesty’s Opposition. The reason ​is that the public have worked out that the Opposition are being dishonest with the truth. Members should by all means go through the Division Lobby in January and vote against the deal, but the public will not believe for a minute that it was done in the national interest. It will have been done in self-interest. The Labour party no longer cares about or knows about the national interest, and it is a disgrace. I started my speech by saying that the Labour party was the greatest political movement of the 20th century, but it is now beginning to look like a rabble.