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But Farage added a second, less obvious, ingredient to the mix, which has played an underappreciated part in his success: the growing unpopularity of MPs, whose collective reputation has yet to recover from 2009’s Daily Telegraph-led expenses scandal. Over time, this grievance metastasised into a more general complaint about overlapping and difficult to pin down categories of people: the Westminster bubble, the liberal elite, the establishment. Anti-Westminster sentiment is so ingrained in the UKIP offering that it is easy to forget how paradoxical its place there is. Here is a party that exists to campaign for a colossal transfer of power from Brussels to the Palace of Westminster, yet much of UKIP’s success can be explained by the widespread hatred of those who occupy the latter.

It is not just UKIP that has capitalised on an anti-politics mood in the campaign to give Westminster more power. The official Leave campaign, which made an early decision to have as little to do with Farage as was possible, avoided discussion of long abstract words like “parliamentary” and “sovereignty”, instead opting for “take back control” as its official slogan, a catch-all phrase that was deliberately vague on who was taking control back from whom. When, during the referendum campaign, Michael Gove said the country had “had enough of experts”, he was, in his own way, tapping into the same well of discontent as Farage.

If events leading up to June 23 demonstrated how much political ground is to be gained with pot shots at the establishment and the Westminster bubble, events since the vote have proven that what won the war will certainly not win the peace. Populism helped deliver the Brexit vote, but it will not deliver a successful Brexit.

Sadly, there is no annual award for bad ideas or asinine comments in British politics. If there were, then my pick (from a crowded field) for the 2016 gong would be Suzanne Evans for her comments in the aftermath of the High Court’s judgment in R (Miller) v. Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, which reaffirmed the fundamental constitutional principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Needless to say that Evans, a UKIP leadership contender at the time, was not happy with judgment of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd. She suggested that it was about time that judges were “subject to some kind of democratic control”. There are two problems with Evans’s idea. The first and most obvious is the erosion of the judiciary’s vital independence that this would inevitably entail. The second is that there already is a form of democratic control on judges. It is called Parliament, and it is responsible for making the law that judges are there to interpret. If the law as deduced by judges is thought to be in some way defective, the democratic solution is clear: Parliament can pass new legislation.

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Sir William Cash MP
November 28th, 2016
5:11 PM
Oliver Wiseman is right. Westminster can and must be trusted on Brexit. Campaigns outside Westminster are an intrinsic part of our national politics. However, the implementation of the Referendum result must be resolved in Government and Parliament itself. Furthermore, none of the external campaigns during the Referendum itself on either side were lessons in propriety. Nor did UKIP play an exclusive role as some have claimed. The battle against the EU, the Government and the Establishment has been conducted for decades by Conservative backbenchers, with the assistance of some principled Labour and DUP Members of Parliament, to regain our parliamentary sovereignty and to unchain this country from European government. There would have been no Referendum if these Members of Parliament had not successfully fought in the House of Commons consistently and relentlessly from Maastricht onwards. It was extraordinary that the Vote Leave campaign even attacked Westminster Members of Parliament on its website. This totally failed to recognise that it is in Westminster and for Westminster and thereby for the people themselves through their representatives that the battle for parliamentary sovereignty had to be won. It was Westminster which passed the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and transferred the right of decision from Parliament to the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. Westminster must now implement this sacred and historic decision. UKIP has not managed to achieve more than one Member of Parliament. It cannot be said that UKIP itself forced David Cameron into the manifesto commitment for a referendum. It was 81 Conservative MPs in a crucial vote against a 3-line whip, as a culmination of battle after battle and Referendum Bill after Referendum Bill which forced the issue. UKIP played their part as did Nigel Farage but contrary to current conventional wisdom, it was not UKIP alone by any means who achieved the result. It was the British people and their innate democratic instincts who won. The General Election results of 2015 and the votes cast in the Referendum prove the point.

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