Cautionary tale of unlimited power

Peterborough should be more conscious of the legacy of Henry VIII than most cities in the United Kingdom.As I mentioned in my Maiden Speech, Peterborough Cathedral is the final resting place of Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife.

Saturday, 23rd September 2017, 6:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:34 am
MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya

It’s worth unpicking this history a bit further. We have a tendency to think of Henry VIII as a somewhat preposterous, if laughable figure, who was overly obsessed with having a son and ran through six wives in quick succession. He’s envisaged in popular culture as clutching a joint of mutton in one hand and the wrist of a medieval damsel in the other.

However, two of Henry’s wives were executed on flimsy, fictional grounds. Katherine of Aragon was treated very badly; Henry essentially tore up the established laws and customs of the land in order to be rid of her.

Furthermore, he unleashed a period of chaos which only settled down once Elizabeth I took control. After her reign, the echoes of Henry VIII were felt in the tensions between Protestants and Catholics which carried on for centuries and are still to be fully resolved.

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In short, Henry VIII’s reign should be a cautionary tale about unlimited power. Parliament was meek and muzzled, the nobles and clergy defanged, and the populace was swept along with the tide. Henry VIII could say, a la Louis XIV, “L’etat c’est moi”: he really was the state, and it embodied his inconsistencies, his caprices, and his flaws.

A terrible price was paid as a result.

I believe people voted to leave the European Union for many valid reasons. I don’t believe that they made this decision because they wanted to give the government powers to rewrite our laws without scrutiny, like Henry VIII did.

It seems like a futile exercise to take power away from faceless bureaucrats somewhere in a corner of Brussels to give it to ones located somewhere in a corner of Whitehall, responding only to the whims of cabinet ministers.

By no means can this be called “taking back control”, at least, not control by the people, without which, Brexit loses much of its value.

Hence, I voted against the government’s bill at the Second Reading; unless it’s amended substantially I will continue to vote against 

By all means, let’s respect the will of the British people and leave the European Union. But surely, we can all agree that what should lie on the other side of this process should be more democracy, not less.

Yes, unpicking all the laws which have hitherto bound us to the European Union will require difficult, painstaking work. I understand that increased scrutiny may annoy the government as it tries to ram wholesale changes through as quickly as possible.

However, anything less would be a betrayal of the Leave campaign’s democratic impulses. People voted to go because they wanted greater control of their country. That can’t be achieved in the dark.