Our parliamentary democracy is based on the principle of representation of local areas by their MPs. Our MPs are our direct link to parliament. They are elected to represent their constituencies, particularly on issues where constituents have made their views clear. They may make decisions contrary to their constituents' wishes, but these are almost exclusively restricted to points of principle which they made clear prior to their election.
Matthew Pennycook is pro-European and campaigned hard throughout the referendum. He was a Remain voter like the clear majority of Greenwich voters. He’s right – this is a difficult decision for many politicians. How can our MPs be democrats and not vote for the triggering of Article 50? The answer is simple: MPs are elected by their local electorate. That is where their mandate is from, not from the British electorate as a whole.
Matthew has made it clear time and again that he is a representative, not a delegate. And he is correct. But when his constituents have voted Remain by 2:1, with a Conservative Brexit Government headed by a Prime Minister we didn’t vote for accelerating towards the hardest of Brexits, straight into the arms of a protectionist, Islamophobic ‘America First’ President of the United States, surely this is not the time for our MP to lose sight of what it means to be a constituency MP.
Matthew's thought-provoking and no doubt heartfelt explanation of the agonising choice he has faced as an MP over the triggering of Article 50 is unfortunately neither representative of Greenwich and Woolwich, nor on a point of principle he made clear prior to his election. Ultimately his statement is that of a shadow cabinet politician, not of a constituency MP. He is willing to vote in favour of something which he fervently believes is damaging for our country, and our local community, against his constituents’ wishes, for what? Courting UKIP voters? The unity of the Labour Party?
It is abundantly clear that there is only one party left in British politics which is willing to have the courage of its convictions over Brexit, and that's the Liberal Democrats. We haven't changed our position - we have always been pro-European, pro-Single Market, outward-looking, internationalist. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party may not be wedded to Freedom of Movement, but the Liberal Democrats certainly are. We have all benefited from it, but instead of protecting one of the great benefits of being members the European Union, Labour now seek to deprive future generations; to restrict our freedoms.
Liberal Democrats are also committed to representing our local area, our communities. Had Greenwich and Woolwich elected a Liberal Democrat, our MP would be standing by their principles. They would have been elected on a pro-European mandate, a mandate confirmed by local voters in the Referendum. They wouldn't be thinking twice about which way to vote, because their position and the position of their constituents would be clear: we are pro-EU.
Many of us in Greenwich and Woolwich like Matthew. He’s nice, moderate, and on many issues he represents his constituents well. But on this issue, which is so crucial for the future of our whole country, he is wrong. It is just plain wrong to tell your constituents that you will not represent their views in Parliament on an issue of such primordial importance, by voting the way they voted.
The Liberal Democrats believe in Europe and we will continue to fight for Britain's place in Europe. We wanted to Remain. We still want to Remain. We will continue to call for Britain to Remain in Europe. Others may choose to change their opinions in the face of adversity, but we will not. With each step we will continue to fight for Britain to retain as close a relationship with Europe as possible. Because that is who we are.