Parliament’s at its best when debating great matters, on which members of the various political parties take different views. The two-day Second Reading debate on the Article 50 Bill was one such. We had finely argued, yet passionate speeches from both sides. I was glad that we endorsed the will of the people by agreeing to the Triggering of Article 50, but also glad that we had a full and reasoned debate on the matter.
That happened despite the sheer vitriol and anger sparked by a variety of events the previous weekend, as a result of which I received some weird emails, including allegations that my Party and I were Nazis, little better than Hitler, and hinting at physical violence against my (largely innocent) person! This is surely not the British Way?
I thought that the PM did extraordinarily well in Washington. A close working relationship with the USA is absolutely essential for the future of our Nation, and like it or not Mr Trump was duly elected by the people to be their President. He talks arrant nonsense on a whole variety of subjects, and some of his actions and statements are downright obnoxious. His banning of all passengers from certain countries, and seeking registration of Muslims, for example, is stupid, unworkable and despicable in equal measure. His sexism and racism is wholly unacceptable. Yet I am glad that Mrs May led the world in seeking to open dialogue with him and to lead him in the right direction. (Both physically in the Rose Garden and metaphorically, for example over NATO).
There are some elements of Mr Erdogan’s Turkey which are almost as unattractive to gentle western liberal minds. Yet let us not forget that they are members of NATO, and that the £100 million BAE contract to design and build fighter jets in Turkey is an important contribution to the UK economy. We need to persuade Mr Erdogan away from some of his racist tendencies (against the Kurds in particular) and embrace him in the West rather than driving him into the arms of Russia or China, or worse the Jihadi extremists who might well benefit from any possible descent into civil war.
None of that should have led to the extreme rudeness, vile language and physical threats of some of the pro- EU emails I have received over the weekend. People may feel strongly about Brexit, they may dislike President Trump, or indeed Mr Erdogan. But surely they could do so in the intelligent spirit of reasoned debate which we saw in the House of Commons on Tuesday and Wednesday. One thing we are really good at in this country is a spirit of sensible democracy, of easy-going discussion, of passion expressed in modest language. That forms the very basis of the democracy which we are advocating in the rest of the world. Some of my correspondents seemed unaware of the irony that their emails decrying trump or Erdogan or Brexit were almost as obnoxious as the very things they were seeking to decry.
Let us lead the world - set an example to Trump and Erdogan if you like – by the very reasonableness of our disagreements; by our ability to reach a conclusion which may not please all of the people all of the time, but which is generally recognised to be the will of the majority, always securing the rights and views of the minority as well. That has always been the British Way. Let us preserve it and espouse it around the less civilised parts of the world.