Category Archives: Liberal Democrats

In the end it was the Brexit election, but not the one I expected

Well, I was wrong about two things at this election. I think a lot of us were. The first was the absence of a Tory majority, the second the absence of a Lib Dem fight back, which I wrongly predicted a couple of months ago at this blog. But yesterday morning told a fascinating tale nonetheless.

On April 19th, upon hearing Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap General Election, I wrote the following:

“This decision was fundamentally, and shrewdly, party political. But it could turn into a whole lot more than that. Since Brexit is now the hallmark of British politics, I expect the upcoming campaign to be a proxy; a second referendum of sorts.”

I think have been proved more or less correct by this statement, though not in the way that I expected. Before Thursday, and like most in the country, I predicted the securing of a comfortable Tory majority. I felt that Mrs May, hopeless as she is, had done just enough to remind Leave voters of what they voted for on June 23rd last year.

I thought that in appealing to the sensibilities of Brexit voters, especially with phrases like ‘respect the will of the British people’, the Conservative Party would enhance its electoral stronghold in Westminster and would win yet another General Election. How wrong and naive I was to the consequences of a poorly-organised political campaign.

It is true that the Tories managed 43 percent of the vote share, but voters ‘returning home’ made gaining a majority more difficult. After the shock of last summer, when support for parties was vastly more dispersed, voters thought it was safe to return to their traditional red and blue corners.

I thought that UKIP voters would rally behind Theresa May as she led the campaign for a so-called ‘hard Brexit’. This proved not to be the case, as I should have anticipated. I remember when I was a member of UKIP how many former Labour voters sat in local and regional party meetings. I knew that for UKIP, a Leave vote in the EU referendum was their self-destruct button, but I underestimated the ensuing flow of voters who returned to Labour. Perhaps many of them now have an understandable and instinctive mistrust of the Tory Party.

But this election did espouse many undertones of the referendum, which I now feel was a mistake (more on this soon). As results emerged, it became clear that many of the Remain-supporting pockets of the country had used the Labour Party as a means of diluting Brexit. In this sense, I would exercise caution over the notion that Corbynism has entirely hollowed Blairism out of Labour or its voter base.

Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise scooping of 262 seats, an increase of 30 on the total that his predecessor managed, reflected a number of different factors, but his desire to prioritise, for instance, membership of the single market over immigration and a Brexit focused on protecting consumer and worker rights will have appealed to many of the country’s supporters of EU membership.

These trends were noticeable mostly in England, where politics seems to be more tribal on the issue of the European Union. In Scotland, I was pleased to see, the Nationalists took the heavy hits I predicted and the colours on the electoral map are mixed once again. Ruth Davison deserves enormous credit for helping to turn nationalistic tides and reinvigorate support for the union. She has also shrewdly positioned herself as a potential future leader of the Conservative Party.

Mrs Sturgeon, on the other hand, whose position as leader of the SNP is becoming increasingly untenable, failed in her efforts to retain seats largely because Scottish voters are tired of her drive for independence, which was always a fake given her support for EU membership and which was rightly rejected in 2014. I also suspect that Scots saw her insistence on keeping Scotland out of Brexit as a constitutional danger and a cause of yet more political instability.

As the election campaign got under way, I had convinced myself (I now realise stupidly) that the Liberal Democrats would prove to be a significant force. But their night was surprisingly underwhelming. Even prominent figures like Nick Clegg lost seats, and in many seats the party failed to garner even 1,000 votes. This is perhaps a good example of a lack of translation between membership surges and votes.

Had the Lib Dems ditched plans to offer a second referendum, which would ransack the population of its faith in and enthusiasm for politics, and instead fought loudly and clearly for an exit centred around keeping Britain in the single market, they would indeed have gained more than 12 seats at this election. All we are missing now is a party that advocates holding a referendum on whether we should have a second referendum. Don’t hold your breath.

Remain voters quite clearly had their say at this election. Most shocking was the Tory-Labour switch in Kensington. I think our departure from the European Union has been compromised and cannot bring myself to trust Theresa May to negotiate our exit. And the price we pay at home? A minority government doomed to failure and backed up by the DUP. There is no other way to see it. This is a national embarrassment.

 


The right to smoke does not equal the right to vote

It is striking to me that Theresa May has said something so straightforwardly sensible in reaffirming her wish for the voting age to remain at 18. I had always been under the impression that, given the dwindling interest in voting and sharp decline in participation over the years, politicians would be looking to 16 and 17 year olds to help beef up turnout by now.

She needn’t have bothered trying to rally the youth ahead of this election. Mrs May doesn’t exactly possess the charm that Nick Clegg displayed in attracting the youth vote during the 2010 General Election campaign, when he promised to scrap tuition fees upon getting into government.

The Tories would have just as much success rebranding themselves as the British Communist Party. Young people consistently show Left wing, liberal biases, and remain far more at home in the Labour Party or Liberal Democrats, at least until they enter the world of work and become taxpaying citizens.

I do enjoy the usual string of arguments deployed by those in favour of lowering the voting age. Especially humorous is the idea that because 16 and 17 year olds can smoke or drive they ought to be offered the vote in order to align rights with responsibilities.

Smoking and driving do not have anywhere near the impact upon public policy that voting can have, and 16 and 17 years by and large do not have the wisdom or knowledge that older voters do. Many will vote according to their parents’ biases, and not on the backs of independent thought or comparison.

It is at least a reminder that we don’t really have any coherent societal position on what exactly our ‘rights’ are. Of course, I appreciate the nuances in this argument. A 17 year old who turns 18 in July of this year might contend that he or she doesn’t lack the wisdom or knowledge of somebody a month older, and that person would probably be right.

But we need to draw lines somewhere. If we extend this argument, we can quite reasonably ask why 15 year olds ought not to be given the vote straight afterwards. It is a bottomless pit that creates nothing but problems and is never forwarded consistently.

The Prime Minister is, though, right when she claims that there are plenty of other ways to become active in politics, though the examples she gave (youth parliaments and councillors) were horrendously uninspiring. I myself used the lure of the summer’s referendum to do so, and with great personal benefits.

Most democratisation has absolutely nothing to do with government. It is arguably the workplace that is in most need of a little more democracy, since that is where adults spend most of their daily lives. I have been encouraged, for instance, by the slow growth in worker owned cooperatives in tiny pockets of the west.

Germany and Denmark operate thousands of successful, communal energy cooperatives, with many able to invest in renewable sources without the clouds of political forces hanging over their heads. A large network of worker owned enterprises has shielded Mondragon, in Spain’s Basque region, from the worst of the country’s economic hardship.

The vote often achieves very little in the way of democratisation. This is particularly so when a largely uncaring base are offered it. On the 11th November 2016, Darragh O’Reilly, a Northern Irish member of the UK’s Youth Parliament, laughably claimed in a parliamentary sitting:

“I tell you this: votes at 16 is no one-trick pony. It is nothing short of handing young people the freedom to achieve freedom. The freedom actually to fund the NHS. The freedom actually to have a decent transport system. The freedom to tackle racism.”

His statement was an enjoyable soundbite and I admire his genuine passion, but his view is baseless and most his age simply aren’t politically enfranchised. And of course no emotive political statement would be complete without a reference to the National Health Service.

Just like most other proponents of lowering the voting age, he dressed up its importance to be something other than what it actually is: a gimmick. If a genuine campaign were to emerge proposing to allow 16 and 17 year olds in the Armed Forces alone the vote, then I would be much more interested (and likely to agree).

Until then, Theresa May is correct to ensure that the voting age stays where it is. Britain is a one-party state and appears to have entered its second era of Tory dominance in the past forty years.

And 16 year olds aren’t about to change that.


Reflections on railway renationalisation and a Tory Brexit

My apologies, firstly, to readers for the general inactivity at the blog since the middle of April. This has been down to juggling work at a new job and the completion of my journalism dissertation, which I submitted on Thursday evening.

My hope is to achieve the 2.1 that will allow me to continue my studies into Masters level, with my eyes currently set upon an MSc at Royal Holloway in ‘Campaigns, Elections and Democracy’. I should now hope to return here frequently for the foreseeable future.

In my absence, this year’s General Election has gotten under way. A portion of the Labour Party’s manifesto has been leaked, and thanks to pledges to renationalise the railways, Royal Mail and energy sector, has been described as taking the UK ‘back to the 1970s’.

It may be worth remembering for a moment that Germany, a modern and well-run country, operates nationalised rail and worker-run energy co-operatives. Northern Ireland, too, (incidentally a part of the UK) retains public control of its rail system.

For the record, I don’t support renationalising Britain’s energy sector, but local, energy co-operatives, similar to those that exist on the continent do not sound like such a bad idea. I do admit to succumbing to the appeal of democratic ownership of utilities and co-operative privatisation (worker control of industry) of Royal Mail may be popular amongst postmen and women.

As far as our railways go, the ongoing debate around public and private ownership would seem to me to be a secondary issue. The primary issue is upgrading infrastructure and investment, and cancelling the vast amounts of money we seem keen to spend on vanity projects like HS2, which stands only to increase London’s workforce and damage the rural environment of the midlands. Any strong government ought to, by now, have scrapped such madness.

Britain’s rail infrastructure is predominantly Victorian and not entirely electrified, much to our national embarrassment. The billions put aside for HS2 should be re-directed towards modernising track and signalling, and towards investing in more medium-speed, medium-distance inter-city railway lines. London is too often used as a connecting city for long-distance travellers making their way across the country (and often finding themselves paying extortionate amounts).

The question of who owns rail services is made less important still by the fact that there need not be one single system of ownership, as demonstrated by the state operating of the East Coast mainline until March 2015. Britain’s rail system is not only franchised, it is regionalised, which means that, with very few exceptions, services are all co-ordinated independently of one another. The state can retain ownership of some lines whilst allowing for others to be run privately, depending on factors like performance and quality of service.

Immediate renationalisation would not make the running of rail services particularly cheap. As I have said, it is the cost of maintaining infrastructure, due to its age, that sets the cost of British rail travel above that of the rest of the continent. Upgrades to infrastructure ought to be at the centre of any debate about Britain’s railways and present a far more pressing concern than discussions over ownership.

I will not vote for the Labour Party on June 8th, but the aforementioned leaked manifesto content doesn’t look to me as if it will take us back forty years. This is merely dishonest Tory propaganda, no doubt aided by the incompetence of figures like Diane Abbott, who do nothing but discredit the Left and its labour movement.

Meanwhile, the Tories sit firmly in the driver’s seat of this election. They are rightly standing on a platform of seeing out the Brexit process, but of course, they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Many of them do not support out withdrawal from the European Union and thoroughly resent last summer’s referendum result. My vote for them in June (if I bother or indeed remember) will be more out of obligation than anything else.

I am at least glad that the Liberal Democrat leader this time around is Tim Farron, and not a young and fresh Nick Clegg, who managed to sweet talk the country into voting for him seven years ago. Thanks to Farron’s confusing position as leader of a party with which he has profound moral disagreements, the Lib Dems are not quite the force they could be.

Knowing that I was an adamant leaver, some readers might think that I am relieved the Tories are in poll position to win this General Election. This is not quite so. Something about the party’s (and indeed the Prime Minister’s) track record over the European question is cause for concern in my mind.

A couple of days ago, David Cameron made a comment that sparked some degree of doubt in my mind. He said that Mrs May needs a big majority so that she can “stand up to the people who want an extreme Brexit, either here or in Brussels.” It is a shame that UKIP can no longer muster the strength that it did back in 2014.

UKIP formed the ideal barricade against sentiments of this kind within the Conservative Party. There are many who call themselves conservatives, despite their continued existence that Britain should not govern itself and control its own affairs, who are fanatically supportive of the European project and of ceding parliamentary sovereignty.

When these people (Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, Nicky Morgan and George Osborne to name a few others) use the expression ‘extreme Brexit’, they demonise the reasonable belief held by large sects of the country, including especially much of the Tory grassroots, that the United Kingdom should control its own trade, borders, lawmaking and judicial process, no matter the difficulties which undoubtedly lie ahead.

Mr Cameron’s comments reminded me that placing complete trust in the Tories and giving them a free hand over such an important issue might not be advisable after all. We’ve heard ‘Theresa May’s hard Brexit’ quite a lot in recent months, but increasingly my fear is that when it is all said and done, Britain will no longer be halfway in the EU. Instead, she may find herself perching halfway out in what will look like an especially embarrassing position.


Immediate reflections on 2017’s General Election

I suppose it made sense in the end, in spite of Mrs May’s repeated claims that there would be no early General Election. Polls were warning us for weeks that it might happen, and those warnings were only growing sterner.

And let us not pretend that the Prime Minister needed yet another mandate in order to carry out Britain’s departure from the European Union; we had a clear enough one already to those who bother to pay attention.

This decision was fundamentally, and shrewdly, party political. But it could turn into a whole lot more than that. Since Brexit is now the hallmark of British politics, I expect the upcoming campaign to be a proxy; a second referendum of sorts.

But, more than that, yesterday’s announcement from Michael Crick may have been just as important. The Crown Prosecution Service, he wrote, will investigate up to 30 Conservative MPs for electoral fraud at the 2015 General Election.

I think this will have played a role in forming Theresa May’s decision to hold a quickfire election. Her advisors are acutely aware of proceedings, and presumably, if the CPS’ investigation had led to the sacking of up to 30 Tory MPs, an election would have been thrown together anyway.

And so, regardless of the motive, we have another General Election on June 8th. I have mixed feelings towards elections. I find election night immensely thrilling to watch unfold, but there is no denying that these events are merely public relations extravaganzas.

In particular, I am dreading the prospect of listening to the Liberal Democrats droning on about remaining in the European Union for the next eight weeks, though of course, it would be wise from en electoral perspective for them to do so.

If they mobilise effectively, and their rapid membership growth since yesterday morning’s announcement suggests they may, the Lib Dems could use this year’s election to become the government’s co-opposition, or in the case of an almighty shock, the opposition.

Yesterday a colleague and I tried to find betting odds on the Lib Dems winning more seats than Labour in June, but we could find no such market. I wonder if one will open in the coming weeks, and whether or not it would be worth a punt.

For the record, I think the Liberal Democrats will do extremely well. By leading a policy of Brexit reversal, they garner the attention (and many of the votes) of many millions upset with the direction the country is headed in.

This snap General Election is the last obstacle in between Brexit voters and what they desire most. It is therefore imperative for them to support the party most willing to secure the very things the country wanted to reclaim control of last June.

Since the Tory Party (and the Tory Party alone) fills this bracket, I shall be voting for the Conservatives on June 8th. I am politically unaligned and have been for much of the year, but this election is the last port of call for those desperate to rally behind Brexit.

As far as the Labour Party is concerned, I think we should first give Jeremy Corbyn credit for sticking by his word and accepting the challenge of a snap election. Of course, he won’t win, but who in his position would lead Labour to victory?

I have for some time thought that Yvette Cooper, known for her tremendous parliamentary performances, might have been a far better candidate to lead Her Majesty’s opposition. Corbyn is a good politician, but a hopeless leader.

Labour members ought to be worried. Most polling and local election results suggest that they will take significant hits come June, but their worry should not necessarily be triggered by the Tories.

For the first time since the early 1980s under Michael Foot, the Labour Party is in very real danger of losing its status not only as opposition, but as the party of working people.

The Lib Dems, who appear much more organised and viable an opposing party, have a chance to leapfrog Labour at this election. And their members know it. Through talking to Lib Dems, as I have been, I have found the sense of optimism striking.

My one fear is that they win enough seats to make up for Labour losses in rural England that they are able to thwart a Tory majority. I don’t think this will happen, as a weakened SNP in Scotland may allow Ruth Davidson to take more marginal seats, but it is indeed a possibility.

I would also draw the attention of readers to two other interesting political developments that may have a significant impact on this summer’s election.

First, 2018’s boundary changes (which I had forgotten about entirely until I was reminded of them on Facebook last night) are a potential problem for the Conservatives. ‘Holding off until 2020 would allow the Tories to take advantage of boundary changes that come into force in 2018’, writes Will Heaven yesterday in The Spectator.

Secondly, the prominence of Sinn Fein ought not to be ignored. The Tories have always benefitted from a useful Democratic Unionist Party contingent in parliament, and they will regret the number of DUP MPs falling.

These are my most pertinent thoughts on this election. My vote, as a matter of supporting Britain’s exit from the EU, will go to the Tories, and I should expect them to win a majority. But I will keep a beady eye on the Liberal Democrats.

 


Let’s talk about Britain’s constitutional crisis

For the time being, I’m uncertain as to who I shall support for leadership of the Conservative party. As a newcomer, I may find myself unable to vote in any upcoming contest, but I shall be following events and campaigning avidly nonetheless. I plan on spending a few weeks assessing candidates and will make my decision shortly afterwards. I’m extremely pleased, though, at the range and quality of Prime Ministerial candidates to date, and I suspect that watching the race unfold could well be as fascinating as it will be close.

We know now that Boris Johnson will play no part. Like most, I was shocked to see his official withdrawal earlier this morning, but as I spent time thinking about it over a full English breakfast, I realised that it made more sense than many will realise. I think for Boris to have become Tory leader in the current climate would have been a huge mistake. It would have had a hugely devaluing effect on the EU referendum; painting the entire campaign as a proxy for a Boris coup and a new Tory leader. By standing and (inevitably) winning, his legacy may have been permanently tarnished. It would have looked too opportunistic, too easy and too personal.

We also know that, contrary to previous repeated claims that he would not run for leader, Michael Gove has also decided to throw his name into the hat. For those interested, I would recommend you give his interview with Laura Kuenssberg a watch after reading (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36677028). As I write, I feel no pressure in saying that I am a huge fan of Michael Gove, and could well decide to back him for leader. Both he and Andrea Leadsom impressed me hugely during the course of the referendum, and I am also glad that Liam Fox has expressed interest too. This could well be the most talent-filled and tightest leadership contest in some time.

Though it has been suggested more than once, I do not believe it would be right for the next leader to call a general election. A Conservative government was elected in 2015 for a five-year term, and it would seem counter-productive to put what remains of the country’s constitutional stability at risk. Another general election in the autumn would merely add to the unease and uncertainty that many of us are feeling. I do not say this as somebody who has recently become a member of the Tory party, I say this as someone eager to see Britain exit the European Union as quickly as possible.

Britain’s constitutional crisis does not end here, though. The Labour party continues to fight and wriggle its way out of a deep, ideological conflict. The combatants consist of Jeremy Corbyn, a ring of trade unions and an overwhelming mandate from traditional Labour voters pitted against a circus of hostile, Blairite MPs. It’s a war that has been brewing for quite some time. The election of Jeremy Corbyn back in September hinted at something that Britain’s referendum definitively exposed: that there is a huge disconnect between the beliefs and concerns of the Labour party membership and those squatting in Westminster village.

So while the Labour party attempts to put out a raging fire, another party in our system is presented with a golden opportunity. Tim Farron’s fierce critique of Britain’s referendum result last week, as well as his impassioned pledge to keep Britain in the European Union if elected, could see support for the Liberal Democrats soar. The referendum result was certainly close, and so naturally, support for re-entry would be very strong. Other than the Lib Dems, no major party has taken such a stubbornly pro-EU stance since defeat. The SNP have sung their usual babbling choruses about Scotland being dragged out of the union by England against their will, but this whinging must not be taken seriously.

It is worth noting that the future success of the Lib Dems is currently very much contingent upon how effectively Labour re-unite. As things stand, reunification doesn’t appear likely any time soon, but the situation could be win-win for Farron’s party. If Jeremy Corbyn hangs onto power, backed by his membership and the trade unions, and fights back against rebellious members of parliament, the Labour party will continue to appear sharply divided. This could well mean that swing voters, or more Blairite party supporters, look elsewhere for their political fix. Labour voters who do desert the party are likely to be seeking a centre ground; ground which the Liberal Democrats proudly occupy. If, on the other hand, Mr Corbyn is banished from the party (a prospect which is looking dangerously likely), or is pressured into resigning, the overwhelming number of party members who supported him are likely to be angered and feel further disillusioned.

It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that many will jump ship through sheer protest, or cut ties with the party permanently – again, a result likely to benefit the Lib Dems more so than any other party. The Liberal Democrats currently hold eight seats in the House of Commons, and though it may seem implausible to suggest that they retrieve many of those seats that they lost at the last general election, stranger things have happened in politics. My own view is that Labour turmoil could potentially result in the Liberal Democrats becoming a major part of the opposition to the next elected government. Perhaps I am wrong, but after the week we’ve had, I think it unwise to rule anything out just yet.

If Britain’s domestic integrity has been crushed in the last week, its international standing wasn’t aided too well by a speech made in the European parliament yesterday by a certain Nigel Farage. Yes, he has much to be happy about, but his performance was pathetic. His parliamentary colleagues in Brussels haven’t taken too much of a shining to him over the last 17 years, but that was no excuse for the diplomatic petulance he displayed in his first appearance in the chamber since the UK voted to leave the European Union last week.

This is a time for unity, not division; a time for peace, not conflict, and a time for maintaining strong bridges built over decades with European partners. Mr Farage did the country (that he claims to love) no favours when he decided to resort to petty insults early yesterday morning, and a moment of reflection on his part I’m sure wouldn’t go a miss. Those engaged will have taken particular note at the reaction of the parliament when Farage boasted that a tariff-free trade agreement between both parties would be mutually beneficial and something to be negotiated as quickly as possible. I therefore suggest that calls for Nigel Farage to play a part in the exit negotiations be swept under the carpet. The next few months and years look set to be turbulent, and as such, Britain needs its politicians to show leadership and great diplomatic skill now more than over.

But at least British politics is interesting again. That much is certain.


A few reflections on an historic referendum result

Joyous tears, sleepless nights and a fair few units of alcohol later, the result of Britain’s EU referendum has finally sunk in. In truth, I feel pretty numb. I played a part (however modest the role) in changing the course of British and European history, in salvaging our plundered democracy and in setting a powerful precedent for the future of national and international politics. It’s a day I will never forget, and one for which I will be eternally proud.

A lot has happened over the course of the last 48 hours. I managed my first uninterrupted night of sleep only last night, a Prime Minister has resigned, Hilary Benn has been sacked, and the pound is bungee-jumping its way round the international markets like never before. British politics is at least interesting again, and that must count for something.

Hysteria after such a monumental result was to be expected. Spiteful, bitter Remainers are grasping for excuses and accusations. This is not, I dare say, something likely to end any time soon, and Brexit campaigners must be prepared for this. I’ve already received three death threats over social media thus far; something I’ll be speaking to my local police force about a little later. For the next few months, expect any tragedy or instability to be associated (not always unfairly) with Brexit. Waves of attacks will be launched as a last-ditched attempt at trying to reverse the decision and overruling the British public. I urge readers and fellow campaigners to ignore such petulance and focus on their triumphant victory.

Two especially horrendous sources of this disdain have been Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Frankly, it is to their shame that two senior political figures have stooped to the anti-democratic lows of the union they seek to keep us in. Mr Farron said on Saturday evening: “The Liberal Democrats will fight the next election on a clear and unequivocal promise to restore British prosperity and role in the world, with the United Kingdom in the European Union, not out. If you agree with us, join us to make this happen.”

The comments came after his pathetic outburst on the BBC News just hours after the referendum result was announced, in which he said: “What a tragedy that other voters have chosen to damage their [young people] future.” He quite correctly notes that 75% of young people voted to remain, but he forgets to mention that youth turnout was, as was expected, very low. Pensioners and parents did not betray young people, young people let themselves down by not speaking up and voting – or at least those, unlike myself, who support EU membership.

The great irony here is that Mr Farron, leader of the Liberal *Democrats* is actively seeking to overturn the democratic desire of the British people. I am certain he and his party will lose respect and support for this. A party of democrats showing their support for the European Union is a bemusing contradiction in and of itself, but an abject refusal to accept Friday morning’s mandate leads me to believe that Tim Farron, along with Nicola Sturgeon (whom I shall come onto in a moment), is a charlatan.

But the arrogance of political leaders doesn’t stop here. In typically opportunistic fashion, Nicola Sturgeon ensured that she herself be the first senior voice to speak out after the referendum was lost. A second independence referendum (timed quite remarkably after the UK’s vote for independence) ‘must now be on the table’, she asserted. She did, I will admit, warn us prior to the vote on many occasions that a second Scottish independence referendum was inevitable, but sensible people are left wondering why such a prospect is necessary after June 24th was quite defiantly proclaimed Britain’s ‘Independence Day’. I’m starting to respect David Cameron more and more by the minute. At least he had the decency to abide by the result and stand down.

Enough negativity, though. This is a victory for me personally, after months of passionate campaigning, a victory for democracy and, perhaps most significantly, a victory for our country. What a pleasure it was in the early hours of Friday morning to witness the quiet residents of England’s rural heartland stand up and roar. An oddly appropriate coalition between the grassroots communities of the Labour and Conservative parties, each with their own largely ignored concerns about EU membership, was forged – and the UK achieved something most commentators and investors deemed impossible.

Such unity between usually divided parties was not as shocking as it may seem. There is real disconnect between the beliefs of those in Westminster village and those who are suffering in their local neighbourhoods. Many traditional Labour voters retain social and moral conservative values, just like the Tory grassroots, and this vote has exposed this brutal fact quite unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. This referendum will go down not just as an impassioned defence of democracy, but also as a reminder that the British people remain noticeably distant from those that govern. They threw everything at us, from dire pension warnings to shocking projections from authoritative economic institutions, and they were still defeated. I couldn’t be prouder.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everybody I’ve met along the way, everybody I stood at street stalls with, everybody I worked with at Vote Leave HQ, everybody who veered off with their own enterprises (from Students for Britain to BeLeave) and everybody who came into Westminster Tower to volunteer by phone or by leaflet – thank you all. I’ve had the honour of meeting some very genuine, bright and enthusiastic young people along this incredible journey (many of you know who you are), and I appreciate the outstanding effort that you’ve all put into to this remarkable campaign.

We all knew that if we kept our heads down, stuck to our key messages and fronted the positive, patriotic case for leaving, we would win this referendum – and the finger-pointing and accusations of xenophobia from the Remain campaign post-defeat shows how successful we were, and how disappointed they must feel. We are democrats, not xenophobes. We love this country, we believe in this country, and we refused to talk down this country, and that is why we won this EU referendum. Britain is in for a period of turbulence, no doubt, but the erection of a petition onto parliament’s website last night calling for an independent state of London was desperation personified. And they call us little-Englanders.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. My warmest congratulations go out to everybody who helped make this dream a reality, right across the political spectrum. My second full day as a member of the Tory party is a happy one, and I’m confident that, given time, we have a great future outside of the European Union. Believe in this country, believe in its people, and we can make independence work…for all.