Like many I was astonished when Theresa May, at this very late stage, offered talks with Jeremy Corbyn in order to find a solution to the Brexit crisis, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz.
Given the divisions that Brexit has not necessarily created, but certainly magnified, I thought achieving a broad consensus was a good idea back on 24 June 2016. However, we are where we are.
It was perhaps less astonishing that the Conservative press and many of its own MPs turned on the Prime Minister with a vengeance. The Daily Telegraph suggested that Theresa May was a “kamikaze Prime Minister”. The MP Mark Francois went so far as to invoke Jesus in saying, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
I thought of a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.
It is clear that the country is presently being held hostage by divisions within the Conservative Party: there is one wing which wants a relatively close relationship with the European Union, the other wants complete separation. It is not at all clear which side predominates; what is clear is that the two sides can no longer live together.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” When Lincoln spoke these words, the situation to which he referred was a division between slave and free states in America; this schism ultimately led to the Civil War. Fortunately, nothing that serious is in the offing.
However, the country is paralysed. We cannot tackle the many issues that face us, from saving the NHS, to improving education, to tackling climate change until this bandwidth is freed up. However, the appetite for fratricide within the Conservative Party appears to be sharper than their hunger for genuine achievement.
Lest this critique be seen solely directed at the national Conservative Party, it is important to say that the local Conservatives appear to be divided too. Recently, Dave King, the Councillor for Hampton Vale was deselected. I have my differences with Councillor King, but I respect his honesty: on Facebook, a question was asked, why were we lending so much money to a hotel chain to move into Fletton Quays. Dave stated that he had asked the same question and was told to be quiet. He was pushed out not long afterwards.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” All parties are a coalition of views, and this is normal. However, these differences are usually resolved by the mechanism of debate and creating compromise. It seems that compromise is not the flavour of the month.
Nick Boles MP for Grantham and Stamford said it was precisely the inability to compromise which drove him out of the Conservative Party. Meanwhile we cannot move on, not as a country, nor in Peterborough.
It’s true, Labour is not an entirely harmonious party, because we’re a broad church. But here in Peterborough, we are resolved to achieve one goal: the betterment of our shared home. In this, unlike the Conservatives, we are united.