I just want to challenge the idea mentioned a few times in the paper last week that those that voted ‘remain’ in the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union last year should ‘get over’ the result.
I’m a Liberal Democrat and I led the ‘Stronger In’ campaign in Chesterfield, so over the past few years I have come to be something of an expert on losing elections – but this is the first time the winning side has actually suggested that I should abandon my previously held views and join them.
Should there have been a ‘remain’ vote in June 2016 it is hard to imagine the ‘leave’ side would have changed their minds and joined the ‘remain’ camp. Indeed, Nigel Farage in May 2016, when he thought he was going to be on the losing side, said “in a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.” That’s probably the only thing I agree with him about. After the 1975 referendum, the losing side didn’t disappear, they carried on campaigning for another 40 years.
When my side lost in the May 2015 General Election I didn’t tear up my Lib Dem membership card and apply to join the Conservative Party, I resolved to redouble my efforts to fight against the oncoming right wing agenda – and for the same reasons I won’t be changing my views on the mistake, as I see it, that leaving the EU will prove to be.
One thing made clear over the past couple of years is that things are very unpredictable and can change very quickly. At the point of the May 2015 General Election, few would have predicted within less than two years that the Lib Dems would have doubled their membership and be winning seats in former local Labour strongholds like Staveley, Tupton, Mosborough, and just last week in Brinsworth, Rotherham, but they have.
I respect the result, as I have every election I have been on the losing side for, and accept we will be leaving the EU, but that doesn’t mean that I will stop making the case for as strong a relationship with the EU as possible.