The Conservative Party’s attacks on honourable Brexiteers have driven me to quit its Candidates’ List

The Conservative Party’s attacks on honourable Brexiteers have driven me to quit its Candidates’ List

Politics had never been a big ambition for me, but I always viewed it as one of the most effective ways of making a difference for the things that I care about, such as LGBT rights, fighting poverty, supporting refugees and tackling climate change. Which is why getting on the Conservative Party’s Approved List of Parliamentary Candidates was a really big deal for me.

For most people not fortunate enough to be independently wealthy, getting into politics is a passion and a hobby, and making the move onto the Candidates’ List is a big commitment. It costs time, money and energy that people with jobs and families have in short supply. That sacrifice is too great when instead of fighting for what you believe in, you suddenly find yourself being asked to fight against it.

The Conservative Party is explicitly laying the blame for Brexit not being delivered on those MPs who have fought for a Brexit that cuts the legal and financial shackles with the EU that we have already explicitly said we want gone. We are being asked to blame our own people for committing the heinous crime of standing up for what the country asked for, what our party membership believes is the right thing to do and what our Prime Minister committed – time and again – to having had sorted by 29th March 2019.

Like many who campaigned for us to Leave the EU, such was my faith in the strength of our democracy and the inherent decency of those whom we elected to represent us, that once the result was announced I stopped campaigning and decided to let our politicians get on with the job that we asked them to do. The manifesto commitments at the 2017 General Election from both main parties further assured me that there was no point in refighting a battle that we had already won.

That faith was clearly misplaced.

Labour apparently support Brexit but not a “Tory Brexit”; the Conservatives decided that they didn’t want to break bread with Labour MPs who represented some of the most passionate Leave areas of the country until it was too late. Now the only two options being put on the table both consist of us remaining in some form of terminal lock with the EU and all the ramifications which come from that. This is conspiracy, not cock-up, with the end result being that we voted for something and Parliament is refusing to do as it said it would do.

Voting is a binary process. Your vote is either worth one, or it is worth none. Yet it now seems acceptable to openly disparage the equal value that should be afforded to the vote of someone who is white working class on the basis that they are white and working class. It now seems acceptable for the Liberal Democrats, only recently a party of coalition government, to call democracy “bollocks” on the front page of their manifesto. It now seems acceptable to accuse someone who is LGBT or BME or in any other way not part of the standard Brexit stereotype as a traitor, an idiot and a self-hater for standing up and saying that they’re perfectly capable of making up their own mind. Our political class has nurtured and participated in this behaviour because by weakening the validity of our vote it strengthens their ability to ignore us.

It was that concept of democracy acting as our ultimate insurance policy against oppression and inequality that got me involved in Brexit in the first place.

We were told during the referendum campaign that LGBT rights and freedoms came from EU membership and that they would be under threat if we left. It was a lie – and one I felt was pretty crucial to counteract through the Out & Proud LGBT Brexit campaign that I decided to set up. The reason why the UK is one of the best countries in the EU – and the world – to be LGBT is because as a society we support these rights and so we elect politicians who make laws which support these rights too.

I asked myself: “If you do not know where your rights and freedoms come from, how can you defend them if they ever come under threat?”

That question seems ever more pertinent today. If we cannot hold true to the fundamental principle of democracy in this country then every future manifesto or party platform is rendered bogus. Trust in politics is at an all-time low and people are doubting if voting really makes a difference at all. So if we are to salvage anything out of this sorry situation, it must be to send a message to every current and future politician that you play games with our democratic rights at your peril.

I cannot do that as a candidate as it would mean I would have to deliver leaflets blaming those who have stood up for our democracy for the failings of those who failed to deliver on what was expected of them. It feels like a terrible waste after all these years of campaigning for a party that I still fundamentally think has the most to offer this country. But without the guarantee that this is all underpinned with democratic accountability, I feel it is pretty meaningless.

You cannot ask people to vote for you when the message you’ve sent them through your actions is that their vote is only a guise to allow you to do what you’re going to do anyway. And for that, with great regret, I am out.