As an MP you routinely try to influence things locally and nationally; you generally support your own political party in Government and support the promises laid out in your Manifesto; you do what you can to help people with their many and varied problems locally. But strange as it may seem it is pretty rare that you have to take a decision of huge importance, almost never a decision of generational, historic, national and international importance. Yet that is what each and every MP is faced with next Tuesday, 11 December.
I am clear, and have very publicly stated, that I will oppose this very flawed plan produced by the Prime Minister. It is the worst of all possible worlds, risks keeping us half-in half-out of the EU and would very probably be a catastrophe for the Union. I will be voting to leave the EU, an organisation against which I have been very committed and clear for very many years. Indeed, I remember when I was a young man voting against joining it in the first place. So it’s not that I am unclear or wavering in any way. I know what my course of action will be, what I believe to be my duty to my constituents (78% of the many hundreds of letters I have received are opposed to this ‘Deal’) and to Britain, the EU and the wider world. I shall be voting with my own convictions and beliefs. I could not live with myself if in some way I compromised them.
Yet that personal certainty does not make it easy. I am very conscious that my vote may well be decisive and have a real effect on the way of life, of every aspect of life, in Britain for years, perhaps decades to come. And I am modest enough to recognise that there is at least a chance I may be wrong. Anyone who would claim to be absolutely certain about any truly historic decision of this sort must have a terrible arrogance.
But just as Churchill and those surrounding him were certain that Chamberlain was wrong to appease Hitler in 1939 with his ‘Peace in our time’ moment; they must have wondered during the long and terrible war which followed whether or not they may have made a mistake when they realised how many millions of lives rested on that decision.
This is a 1939 moment. It’s not an easy nor a carefree moment. It’s a heavy burden indeed. But I will vote with my conscience and my convictions to overturn Theresa May’s shoddy ‘Withdrawal Agreement,” and in favour of a clean and decisive Brexit. I believe with all my heart that that is the right thing to do. But I wholly understand and sympathise with those many constituents who do not agree with me.
I can but pray that I have got it right.