Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, will today (Westminster Hall, 4:30pm) lead a debate in Parliament in response to a petition which calls for Article 50 to be rescinded if Vote Leave has broken electoral laws in relation to the 2016 referendum campaign. The petition, which opened in July, has over 198,000 signatures. The petition will remain open until January 2019.
Mr Zeichner will open the debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee, a group of MPs which oversee petitions to Parliament and the responses to them given by the Government. Mr Zeichner will say that the “petition illustrates an issue that is clearly timely, lively and of huge interest with almost 200,000 signatures in under three months, including over 1000 from my city of Cambridge.“
He will tell Parliament that the problem lies with the law that governs referenda, as it does not give an easy mechanism to define what level of campaigning wrongdoing leads to undoing a result. While he strongly agrees with the sentiment expressed in the petition, current law does not invalidate a referendum result if spending rules have been broken, as they were by Vote Leave.
“We have a very British understanding, and it has served us pretty well. If a party is elected on a manifesto which it then contradicts in government by u-turning on key, flagship policies, for instance, they can be punished by the electorate and reduced from a party of government to one struggling to make up double-figures in its number of MPs. It is understood that we all respect the outcomes of elections, however disappointed we might be in the result.
“I am being generous here – many of us feel that the levels of hostility from national newspapers owned by people with vested interests make any contest far from fair, but, the removal van at Downing Street remains a powerful symbol of a democracy which still maintains public trust and consent. But, and this goes to the heart of the issue raised by the petition, if that trust begins to be put in doubt, and significant numbers no longer feel the system is operating sufficiently fairly, then our democracy is at risk.“
Daniel Zeichner comments: “I’m pleased that this petition is to be debated in Parliament, as the 2016 referendum was one that could define the future of this country. With around 200,000 signatures, it’s evident that this is a live and crucial issue to many people. It is clear that Vote Leave broke the law – the best answer is now to have a People’s Vote on the final deal.“
The debate can be seen here: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/f5d8b613-0156-4925-a54f-958105fd7bb5