The Conservative Party leadership has gravely misjudged grassroots anger — #StandUp4Brexit is a testament to this.
It has been fairly clear that Theresa May is willing to get her version of Brexit, regardless of the views of the grassroots voters, for some time now. The fairly recent adoption of the ‘Chequers agreement’, which was nothing of the sort, was seemingly brought into action simply because the Cabinet and the Prime Minister were quickly running out of options as the first D-Day for the government fast approaches shortly after Parliament returns from its summer recess. It is pretty telling that the Chequers agreement was put together over one day as it is pretty much a patchwork of current EU directives simply renamed in an attempt to make it seem as though Theresa May knew what she was doing, whereas, in reality, she seems to be scrambling to try and stay afloat as the sharks circle below.
Some of the main points such as Freedom of Movement, the Single Market, and the Customs Union have been addressed, to some extent it has to be said, but when one reads between the lines it is clear that some of these proposals, especially the new migration system, is simply re-worded from the old format. The White Paper published by the government was eagerly awaited, only for it not to be delivered on time to MPs and it snowballed from there. Once the details of the Chequers agreement and the White Paper were made public for all to see, it is fair to say that those at the grassroots level were, for the most part, and to put it in the nicest way possible, pissed off. Anyone who uses twitter and follows Leave supporting accounts will know how badly the Chequers agreement and the White Paper were received across the country. It kickstarted the #MayMustGo along with various others including #ChequersMeansCorbyn and led to many of those with whom I interact with on Twitter launching a mass twitter storm against the leadership, cabinet ministers and backbench MPs who supported the proposals.
This carried on until the summer recess, and even now Theresa May is still managing to decimate her own poll ratings as well as the parties poll ratings through the consistent peddling of this bogus, and frankly cheap deal. Various meetings were set up with Conservative Local Association Chairmen, both face to face and over the phone to try and gauge what the grassroots feeling was like (it was bad, very bad) and yet this still managed to fall on deaf ears and there is still no sign that the anger of the members of the Party at the grassroots level, and the mood amongst leave voters in general, has not been taken on board by Theresa May or her team and they have instead put it to one side for now — something that will only ever end badly should Brexit be delivered in name only.
All members of the Conservative Party received a letter from the Prime Minister herself last week which may as well have been her first statement to the house after Parliament returns in September and this too was met with stony silence from the Leave voters within the membership as it was a repeat of the same hot air and bluster that has been so half-heartedly pushed by the Press Office in CCHQ, and nothing new was included to reassure those already sceptical of the Chequers deal that this was a change of tune from Number 10 and it would now set out clear red lines that would not be crossed. As far as I am aware, it did nothing of the sort.
So it seemed that there was no one listening to the concerns of Leave voters or Party members and that the grassroots had been ignored over the Chequers proposal. However, one campaign that has now been set up on twitter — @StandUp4Brexit — has truly taken off with immense traction and support. Already the account has close to three and a half thousand followers at the time of writing and it has only been going for less than a week. Major brexiteer MPs such as Ben Bradley, Andrea Jenkyns, Priti Patel and Maria Caulfield have all come out publicly and supported the campaign, which is a major boost for those who feel as though their voices are not being heard, with some even producing a short video clip explaining why they feel that it is important for this campaign among grassroots voters to be taken seriously by the leadership. Andrea Jenkyns even went as far as putting the hashtag in her twitter name!
However, the fact that this campaign needed to start in the first place, and the support it has received thus far, is a testament to just how angry those who voted leave feel about the issue and the fear that they are simply not being listened to by those who are trapped within the Westminster bubble and content on delivering the Brexit that they feel is right for their own political career rather than what the mood of the public is.
I can understand that the government have tried to adopt a policy that was going to appeal to the masses who cared about Brexit, but the way in which the ‘red lines’ set out by Theresa May in various speeches including her infamous Lancaster House speech, were instantly ignored for the sake of a deal which would stop the cabinet from splitting down the middle is a complete and utter betrayal of the trust that we, the people, placed in the government to deliver the result of the referendum. The #StandUp4Brexit campaign seeks to make clear the dissatisfaction with the Chequers plan, and so far is doing just that with it being picked up on national TV news channels and included in the Guardian and the Express Newspapers.
For me, along with those who started the campaign and regularly push it on social media, it is clear that those who voted for Brexit who are regularly told on twitter and elsewhere that they did not know what they were voting for so we must have a referendum, combined with the reluctance by CCHQ and Number 10, have made for the conditions for something like the Stand Up 4 Brexit campaign to take off in such a short space of time and for the views of a lot of disenfranchised leave voters to be expressed, which is nothing else other than the making of those at the top of the party, and this must surely send a message to the Leadership who have seemingly forgotten about those who voted leave in the referendum of 2016 that their views and concerns regarding key areas of the negotiations that will follow, especially around immigration, must be listened to with great haste from those at the top if the party is to avoid complete and utter decimation in the polls and the next election cycle.
If Number 10 continues to stick its fingers in its ears and block out the concerns of leave voters, especially those within the party, then there is only one path in which that will lead. If Brexit is not delivered properly by the government that clearly addresses the concerns of the leave voters, as well as concerns of those who may have voted remain but are now waiting eagerly to see how this plays out, then there is no other way of putting it; the Conservative Party will be utterly wiped out in the next General Election when it comes, we will likely be confined to the opposition benches for many a year to come and we seriously run the risk of a socialist government under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and I dare not even think what that would mean for the United Kingdom.
The #StandUp4Brexit campaign therefore is vital to helping to remind the government that although there may have been some “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” from within the cabinet when they met at Chequers to agree to this heaping pile of turd, the voices and very legitimate concerns of leave voters, the Party membership, and the population, in general, are still there and must be listened to and taken on board. The campaign is slowly pushing its way to the forefront of issues I hope I have covered in this piece, and it is making a lot of noise for a movement of its size. All we need now is for the establishment in Whitehall to sit up, take notice, and act to stop the Chequers proposal from being our only option for Brexit, and make the case for a deal that respects the result of the referendum, and takes us out of the EU and all her institutions for good.