Manchester MP and Confidential columnist Graham Stringer weighs in on Amazon, Brexit and the Speaker
If you found yourself in conversation with a top executive from the tax-shy American multinational Amazon, what do you think you would say?
My guess is that most people would start with something like: “Why don’t you stop avoiding our taxes and pay your fair share, you scabrous fat cat?!”
Taking this obvious line did not seem to occur to the man responsible for raising taxes, Chancellor Philip Hammond. Instead, in conversation with Amazon Vice President Doug Gurr and other top executives of multinationals, he chose to explain how he would thwart both the decisions of the House of Commons and the electorate on Brexit. No talk of Amazon tax but commitments given to conspire against the electorate and parliament.
This gives us a useful insight. That multinationals want to keep the EU just as it is. Not surprising as the deflationary Stability and Growth Pact, Thatcherism internationalised, has created a pool of unemployed and low-paid people, particularly in Southern Europe, desperate for work. These multinationals can manipulate the regulations and policies of the EU to their own ends. The EU is the multinational’s happy playground. They find the Chancellor of the Exchequer is one of many stooges who is willing to subvert their own democracy, apparently to protect the EU, but really working in their interests.
Hammond is not on his own in trying to undermine our democracy and parliamentary procedures. Extraordinarily the Speaker of the House of Commons, who’s prime purpose is to ensure fair play and that the rules are obeyed, has decided to bend those rules in favour of those who wish to overturn the 2016 referendum. He recently allowed an inadmissible, according to the rules, pro-EU amendment. He not only flaunted procedure, he neither consulted nor informed MPs, with the exception of former Conservative Attorney General Dominic Grieve. Thus managing to discriminate against any other MP who wanted to put in previously inadmissible amendments, as well as destroying his own neutrality.
Some Remain MPs, like Labour’s Margaret Beckett, think having a partial Speaker is ok because the EU is more important than our parliamentary democracy. She is wrong. We are losing a precious part of our political inheritance. Speakers in future will be able to support one cause above another. This Speaker was always a risk: as an MP he fought literally night and day against the minimum wage legislation, and before entering the Commons wore a ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ T-shirt. I and a majority of MPs thought, in the middle of the MPs expenses scandal, he had reformed and would honour the traditional neutrality of the chair. We were wrong.
The EU referendum question was unconditional and unambiguous. Commitments were given on all sides that whatever the decision, it would be honoured. Prominent campaigner to overturn the decision, Chukka Umunna stated: “A majority of one is sufficient.” Alongside fellow Remainer Hilary Benn: “This is not for MPs to decide but you the electorate.”
Both Chukka and Hilary have now changed their tune. They both make the seemingly sensible point that “nobody voted to make themselves poorer”. Of course they didn’t. Nor did they vote to make themselves richer, or anything else. They simply voted to leave. Adding extra conditions is casuistry of the worst kind.
Some who follow this line are blatant in wanting to overturn the referendum decision in the Commons, while others argue for a second referendum. How on earth could anybody trust another referendum when the one held in 2016 had not been honoured?
The EU debate has exposed a shallowness in our democracy that many did not suspect. The Remain establishment cannot believe the hoi polloi did not accept their advice to remain in the EU, they assume these people must be stupid or too old to reason. It has always been an essential part of our democracy that all votes are equal and that the minority accepts the majority decision. Both these fundamentals are being challenged by the political establishment of left and right whose sense of entitlement has overtaken their sense of democracy.
Project Fear has continued apace led by the Bank of England who predicted a recession and the loss of half a million jobs immediately after the referendum if we voted Out. Jobs increased and there was no recession. These people make Mystic Meg’s predictions look like accurate science. The EU has been the slowest growing economy on the planet (except for Antarctica), it is anti-democratic, and job-destroying. If the EU referendum, the largest single vote in our history is overturned, it will have irreparably damaged the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy, and the multinationals will have won.
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Graham Stringer is a regular columnist for Manchester Confidential. He is the Labour Member of Parliament for Blackley and Broughton with a majority of 22,982 after the 2015 election, up from 12,303 in 2010.
He was elected to Parliament in 1997 for the now abolished constituency of Manchester Blackley. Prior to this he was the Leader of Manchester City Council from 1984-1996. He is one of the few MPs to have scientific experience, as a professional analytical chemist. He is a member of The Science and Technology Committee at Westminster.