It’s another fine Eton mess they’ve got us into – Robert Aldridge

Eton has a lot to answer for. Not only did it produce David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister who plunged us into the divisive mess which is Brexit, it also gave us Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg – the Laurel and Hardy double act who are trying to “fix” Brexit for Halloween.

Monday, 2nd September 2019, 6:00 am
Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council

It would be comical if it were not so serious. These entitled and privileged multi-millionaires will be unaffected by a “no-deal” Brexit. But they are more than willing to use vulnerable people’s health and jobs as expendable pawns in their negotiating games. Stoking up frustration, anger and division is a very dangerous strategy, which I fear will not end well.

Don’t be fooled by Johnson’s clown-like mask. Behind the persistent supercilious smirk and blustering, vacuous, optimistic cliches is a sinister political operator who will do anything to avoid serious scrutiny.

Where is the PM’s new proposal on the Irish border? Forgotten in the distraction as he closes the UK parliament for five weeks. Where is the scrutiny of arrangements in the case of a no-deal? Non-existent, as parliament is shut until it is too late. What is the alternative “deal” he is trying to negotiate? All smoke and mirrors.

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Eton breeds leaders - but are they any good? (Picture: Hulton Archive/Getty)

Our moral backbone as a country is also withering. It is humiliating and embarrassing to see ministers afraid to criticise outrageous acts by other countries in case it affects a future trade deal. The image of the UK going cap in hand to the US and others, rather than as a strong negotiator together with our EU colleagues, is a sign of our already diminishing international standing.

For the first time in my life I sense the stability of the country is in danger. The very word “democracy” has been weaponised. The democratic vote in the last general election derided as less democratic than the democratic vote in the referendum. MPs derided as anti-democratic if they represent any view other than in favour of “no-deal”.

Democracy celebrates the expression and promotion of the different views held by our diverse people. Dictatorship forces a single view on the people. It is quite right that our parliament is split roughly down the middle on this issue. It reflects the country as a whole in that respect, and that is what democracy should be about.

UK democracy and its unwritten constitution rely on precedent, decency, integrity and fairness. The last week has shown it is not adequate. It is time for a written constitution to safeguard the sovereignty of our parliaments and the people. And it is time for Westminster MPs to be elected by proportional representation to stop a minority, who voted Conservative, dictating to the majority who are certainly against a “no-deal”.

The next few weeks will be crucial for the future of our city and our country. Already the Conservatives have wasted valuable time when they should have been negotiating with the EU. As predicted, they did nothing, sent MPs on holiday and held a leadership election to fritter away the time. The forced closure of parliament is simply another ruse to divert attention from their lack of ideas or concrete proposals to resolve the issue.

No wonder people have lost faith in politics and politicians. In Edinburgh, I know my colleagues in all parties are committed to doing their best for the city and the communities they represent (of course, many of them who are not Lib Dems are misguided). The Eton mess of the UK Cabinet would do well to stop their games of brinkmanship and take a leaf out of the book of our local politicians.

Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem group leader at Edinburgh City Council