Once again, the Bruges Group put on a fabulous conference this weekend, impeccably organised by the highly energetic, Robert Oulds. It was a great event concluding a thoroughly depressing weekend.
It came on the back of a cross party meeting the night before in mid Norfolk with the local Conservative Member of Parliament. George Freeman is one of Cameron’s 2010 ‘A’ list who according to many Brexiteers, are a massive problem within the Conservative party.
Mr Freeman is a really pleasant man personally and I also appreciate him for sticking his neck out and for meeting people from other parties but that is not really the point. Politically, Mr Freeman should not be called a Conservative but a Blairite, who thinks tax rises are fine and who does not really want to talk about immigration. He is a ‘wet’, half hearted remainer, turned supposedly half hearted Brexiteer (I suggest because the wind blew heavily that way in his constituency) who thinks a Norway ‘minus minus’ deal would be just fine. I was left in no doubt that he would, for all his rhetoric, rather be in the EU than out and will vote for whatever half-baked, sell out deal, Mrs May puts forward: the more ‘remain-like’ the better.
In the nearby constituency of Broadland, we have the dear bespectacled remainer, Keith Simpson MP, who has never voted against the government in his entire twenty years in parliament an MP so don’t expect anything helpful there either.
What is also interesting in Norfolk, is that you could not distinguish between the UKIP members in the room and the Conservative ones – indeed it is well known that in Norfolk which voted in most places, well over 60% out (and up to 73% out in Brandon Lewis’s constituency of Great Yarmouth), that there is a revolving door between UKIP and Conservative members. Both Brandon Lewis and George Freeman seem totally out of touch with their grass roots – again. That, unfortunately, is always the overall impression, from such meetings.
I had also happened to have staying with me all week, the Chair of the Conservative party in Peter Bone’s constituency – and what a breath of fresh air that was. Peter Bone MP seems totally at one with his branch, members and his constituents on Brexit. They love him. And the same could be said for Andrew Bridgen MP who spoke at The Bruges Group event. Not only is Andrew highly energetic and one of the best campaigners ever, he is also funny. Andrew overturned a 4000 labour majority by walking around his entire constituency not once but twice and in some areas, three times. He continues to increase his majority.
And as I said to Andrew, the Conservatives could win easily against Corbyn, if only they had sensible policies and got a clean Brexit. But instead they keep on appointing the wrong MP’s. Not a single remain MP has been deselected and when local groups have tried to deselect remainers like Anna Soubry, it is the chair who has resigned rather than Soubry. So much for May supporting Brexit. Talk about being out of touch with the country.
Andrew Bridgen was clearly both in touch with the Bruges group room, his local members and most of his constituents who voted for him – and how great the Conservative party could once again be, if they appointed as leader, someone like him with a strong military and campaigning background. They would totally smash Corbyn and get us the best possible deal for Britain. Instead George Freeman thinks he is leadership material – that unfortunately would just be more of the same and would not be a winning formula.
Andrew started by joking that Brexit was like Baldrick from Blackadder: ‘It started badly, faded in the middle and ended not very well.’ But it was what else Andrew said that was so depressing. That May’s Brexit negotiators could not be distinguished from the EU ones if you did not know who they were in a room. That with all their leaflets, taxpayer funded government help, the BBC and free civil servants, remain outspend leave by 2:1 and still lost. When someone said, ‘You have all the top 200 civil servants supporting remain’, the retorted, ‘No we have ALL civil servants supporting remain.’ And that presumably is 419,399 people – all working to overturn the democratic decision of this country, to sell our national sovereignty out to a foreign power.
But the worse of all was that apparently, even as David Davis and Stephen Baker tried to put a Brexit team together, there were other civil servants, working in their own office, trying to undermine the result and working to not exit. The treachery of these people paid by the taxpayer and employed, supposedly for the good of our country, knows no bounds. For all the charts and economics and law, it is, at the end of the day, just about people doing the right thing. Unfortunately most of our civil servants and MP’s do not seem to want to respect democracy and do the right thing because, like George Freeman, they think they know better than ordinary voters. All we can hope for is that eventually decent, honourable good people like Andrew Bridgen will win through but it seems at this point, just hope.