Brexit needs democratic legitimacy of Commons vote

Sir Humphrey Appleby once intoned to Jim Hacker, “Minister, if you’re going to do this damn silly thing, don’t do it in this damn silly way.”

This particular phrase has stuck in my mind several times since Theresa May took over as Prime Minister with an insistence that her entire plan for leaving the EU was that Brexit means Brexit.

I voted to Leave the European Union, and one of the many reasons I voted to leave was because I wanted more power in the hands of the House of Commons and British Parliamentarians. The official slogan of the official vote leave campaign was “Take Back Control”.

Mrs May wasn’t on the Brexit side, and there was considerable disquiet from Brexit voters that the new Prime Minister was a Remainer. It has left her with little legitimacy from either Brexit or Remain voters, and therefore with little leeway in implementing policy.

Prominent Leave campaigner Peter Bone MP today put forward a Private Members Bill to enable a notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Such a notification is a formality that is required before we start to negotiate on the terms of our exit.

Yet the notification has not been made – and some Brexiteers fear it will never be made. This is in part because of the legal disagreement between the Government and the Judiciary over the right of the Royal Prerogative to make the notification.

Frankly the Government has gone down the wrong path and it ought to recognise that.

By insisting that the Prime Minister has the ability to make a notification under Article 50, and that it doesn’t require an Act of Parliament, the Government has set off a chain of events that were entirely unnecessary.

This insistence has further enraged Brexit voters and made them feel genuine concern that the establishment is trying to frustrate the will of the British people.

It has emboldened Remain voters who believe that they are right to try and frustrate the will of the British people.

It has sparked the resignation of a Member of Parliament, Stephen Phillips QC, from the Government’s own side, who called the moves a “tyranny” and said the Government was acting in a way that was “fundamentally undemocratic, unconstitutional and cuts across the rights and privileges of the legislature.”

It has lost a case in the High Court of England and Wales and looks about to lose in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Rather than continuing to avoid democratic institutions in a kamikaze attempt to avoid gifting further democratic legitimacy to the notification of Article 50, the Government should abandon the appeal to the Supreme Court, which many legal observers believe it is doomed to lose, and instead put its weight behind Peter Bone’s Private Members Bill, a move which would also give him the honour of sponsoring the Act of Parliament that finally begins our exit from the oppression of the European Union.

The only way to heal the deep divisions caused by Brexit is by ensuring democratic oversight of the entire process, and by winning a vote in the House of Commons to give expression to the will of the British people.

In other words, if the Government is going to do this very sensible thing, it should ensure it does it in a very sensible way…

Why are the Left so insistent on moral relativism when considering the legacy of Fidel Castro?

The outpouring of sentiment about Fidel Castro from the political Left in the UK and around the world has been much criticised, as it has often either failed to mention his horrific human rights abuses, or sought to minimise them.

Realising how open to ridicule this position has become, as the hashtag TrudeauEulogies trended on Twitter in honour of the statement of Justin Trudeau, many on the Left instead made the comparison between the eulogies for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the condemnation of Fidel Castro.

So we can ignore Castro’s murder of his own citizens in his zeal to cling to power, simply because there are other evil people with whom we are allied?

I didn’t hear the Left ignoring the crimes of Augustin Pinochet simply because he happened to bring economic improvements to Chile. Why should the Right ignore the hypocrisy of the Left simply to avoid shining a torch on its own hypocrisy.

The Left does like to virtue signal, to suggest that it has a greater observance of Human Rights than the Right does. To suggest that it is more committed to Social Justice than the Right is. To suggest that it is more Moral.

The most brutal murderers of the 20th Century – Josef Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot – were all of the Left. They were all held up at one time or other as examples to be followed by those on the Left.

Brutality exists on both the Extreme Right and the Extreme Left. Though there are more examples of extremism on the Left.

As it happens, I know the regime in Saudi Arabia is an abomination, which most Tories I know believe is doomed to be overthrown – though that revolution is something we should all fear, given what will no doubt replace it. There were a number of articles in the Right wing press when King Abdullah died suggesting that it was high time for a reassessment of our relationship with the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, because of the presence of oil, and because of their adherence to the Wahaabist death cult, we need a good relationship with the Government of Saudi Arabia. They are a critical partner in our foreign policy strategy; they are vital to our security apparatus; and they have the very real ability to cripple our economy by turning off the pumps.

That doesn’t mean that we can ignore the human rights abuses – indeed it may be that by being close partners, we are better placed to influence the Kingdom in private than those who forever scream from the outside. It was, for instance, that close relationship with the Republic of South Africa that led directly to F W de Klerk realising that apartheid must not and could not continue, as Nelson Mandela himself acknowledged. It was that close relationship that allowed Margaret Thatcher to persuade the South Africans to release Mr Mandela from jail.

I find it interesting that those who put forward the idea that we shouldn’t insist that Castro’s faults are considered as part of his legacy suggest that this is because others are worse. To suggest that we cannot consider Mr Castro’s barbarism because others are also barbarous is, to my mind, a rather elastic view of the world.

Farage has no place as a British Diplomat

Following his bizarre pilgrimage to New York for a photo opportunity in a gold plated lift with the latest abomination on the world stage, Nigel Farage is now demanding to be appointed to some official Government role to negotiate with the United States.

Mr Farage is the temporary leader of the UK Independence Party, having resigned after the Referendum and sworn he was done with politics because he wanted his life back.

Five months later he is swooning at the sight of a racist misogynist moron being elected to one of the most powerful positions in the world. The meeting with Donald Trump was weird from the point of view of Mr Farage, but another huge blunder from the out-of-his-depth President-elect.

[This article isn’t about Mr Trump, but one does rather get the impression that he wasn’t really sure what the President does until his 90-minute meeting with Obama, and is now terrified as he realises how out of his depth he is.]

Mr Farage, meanwhile, demands that Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, appoints him to an official Government role to take advantage of his relationship with Mr Trump. I’m not sure what is more of a shock – that he has the chutzpah to suggest such a thing, or that Tory MPs as respected as Sir Gerald Howarth would think that it was a good idea.

Mr Farage is the temporary leader of the UK Independence Party. This is another political party, not a fringe of the Tories, no matter how much the left likes to suggest otherwise. UKIP candidates stand in elections, take votes that could otherwise go to Tory candidates, possible cost the Tories an overall majority in 2010, and certainly hold Council seats that were once Tory – Suffolk County Council would not be a hung council were it not for UKIP.

To suggest that a majority Tory government would appoint someone from another political party to such a vital relationship is bizarre enough, but what exactly does Mr Farage claim qualifies him to do the role? A political career spent sitting on various EU gravy trains while railing against the very organisation whose cash he is busy trousering?

The best person to lead the British Government’s relationship with the US Government is a professional diplomat, namely the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Kim Darroch. At a Governmental level it will be led by Theresa May, and Boris Johnson will negotiate with whoever Trump picks as Secretary of State, be it Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie or Sen Bob Corker.

Nigel Farage has nothing to offer the British Government; his time is past, his links to the vile racist elements of the Brexit campaign harmed that campaign and while they may endear him to the “Senior Counsellor to the President” Stephen Bannon – a racist white supremacist – they exclude him from ever having a role in any British Government post.

He should shut up and return to the obscurity he claims (from in front of the nearest TV camera) to crave.

Brexit must mean Brexit

One hundred and eleven days ago, some seventeen million people voted for this country to leave the European Union. That is a mandate larger than any Government, including this one, has ever had.

The backlash has been vicious and ongoing. Some one hundred and seventy days before the Prime Minister intends to have delivered notice to the EU, we have had a debate in the cradle of democracy, led by those who lost the election, whose entire purpose is to frustrate the seventeen million people who voted for us to leave.

The debate has now moved on from Brexit or Remain, to Hard or Soft Brexit – or as one Bremoaner put it, a Long Brexit. Remain supporter after Remain supporter has stood up in the House of Commons and claimed that voters backing Brexit didn’t know what they were voting for, or were not voting for us to leave the Single Market.

It is certainly true that there was no detailed plan for Brexit on the ballot paper. Exit polling (much more accurate than other polling, since it asks people who have just voted) suggests that the number one reason people gave for voting Brexit was a desire to “take back control” of Britain’s laws. The second reason people gave for voting Brexit was a desire to “take back control” of immigration, including the ability to choose which people come into our country.

Membership of the Single Market is incompatible with taking back control of Britain’s laws. The Single Market has an incredibly complex and voluminous legal framework to make it work. That framework is imposed by the European Commission and enforced by the European Courts of Justice, based in Luxembourg. It isn’t possible to have free access to the Single Market without accepting the legal framework that comes with it.

Membership of the Single Market is akin to remaining a member of the European Union. It will, by necessity, require the decisions of the ECJ to remain sovereign, essentially allowing a foreign court to continue overruling the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The difference between the ECJ and the ECtHR, which is not part of the EU, is that decisions made in Luxembourg (ECJ) are mandatory, while decisions made in Strasbourg (ECtHR) are merely advisory.

It has also been made very clear by the other Member States of the European Union that membership of the Single Market is underpinned by Freedom of Movement. Many of those who voted for Brexit clearly did so with the intention of ending Freedom of Movement. Not, as Sir Kier Starmer MP, the Shadow Brexit Minister, suggested today some small movement on Freedom of Movement.

For British business it is very worrying that membership of the Single Market may be taken away. This is because the narrative about that membership suggests that there is no halfway house between membership of the Single Market and massive trade tariffs.

It is entirely irresponsible for people to suggest that to be outside the Single Market will be a financial disaster. It is no surprise that the same people who told you that the entire world would end if the UK electorate didn’t do as they say and vote to remain are those who are now suggesting that membership of the Single Market must be a red line.

As the Brexiteers keep trying to make clear to the world, and to business, the United Kingdom is the fifth largest economy on the planet. We have no free trade agreement with our largest customer, the United States. It is simply dishonest to suggest that Germany and France will want to impose huge trade tariffs on us, given the number of jobs in those countries that rely on exports to the UK. It is also dishonest to suggest those trade tariffs will be enormous, given the World Trade Organisation rules that would engage if we left without a trade deal. Germany doesn’t want to see the price of a Mercedes go up by 10% in the UK, because we’ll simply start buying Jaguars or Lexus’.

Polling indicates that voters are more able to identify with having voted Brexit or Bremain than with any of the political parties. It is the defining decision of our generation, and it is a subject that will dominate British politics for the next few years – in a way that no decision has since the Corn Laws. Any MP who represents a seat that voted hugely for Brexit and is perceived to be trying to frustrate that democratic decision will need to look nervously over their shoulder come 2020.

When we leave the European Union, on or before the 31st March 2019, voters who backed Brexit will expect that, in Mrs May’s now infamous phrase, Brexit has meant Brexit. It cannot be that somehow we are still controlled by the unelected Eurocrats.

Brexit does not mean keeping Freedom of Movement. Brexit does not mean allowing the European Courts of Justice to retain powers over British laws. Brexit does not mean some form of Associate Membership of the EU.

Brexit must mean Brexit.

What does Human Rights mean to me?

I don’t like being told what to do. It’s a failing I’ve had since childhood. As a result, at heart, I’m a Tory. Because if I don’t like being told what to do by other people, I loathe being told what to do by the State.

Since I don’t like being told what to do by the State, many people assume that I would, like far too many Tories in my experience, dislike the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), or its precursor, the European Convention on Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms (to give it its full name).

But it is precisely that loathing of being told what to do, that means I am an advocate for the HRA, and the British-inspired Convention. It is my respect for the rule of law, which I felt all my life but only came to understand while studying law, that leads me to be grateful for a framework of rules that isn’t about what you can’t do, but what the State cannot do to you.

It often surprises people when you tell them that the Convention was inspired by the British. In fact, it was more than that; it was almost entirely written by a Conservative lawyer, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, who was both Home Secretary and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain in his time. Maxwell-Fyfe, who became Lord Kilmuir in 1954, was a prosecutor at Nuremburg, so he had witnessed first-hand the vile excesses of a State where the rule of law had been warped by evil.

It saddens me that Conservatives have taken against the Human Rights Act. You would think, by looking at the way the HRA is derided by some Tories, from our new Prime Minister down, that it was some monstrous foreign construct imposed on them from above. Many probably think it is – there are Tories who believe anything with the phrase European in it is related to the EU. But it is especially sad when you consider that it was a Tory MP, Sir Edward Gardner QC, who first introduced a Private Members Bill to incorporate the Convention rights into English law. Indeed, before that Mrs Thatcher had promoted amendments to the Scotland Bill in 1977 which would have incorporated the Convention rights into UK law.

It took a Labour Government to introduce the Human Rights Act. Tory support was far om absent when the HRA was debated at second reading, in February 1998. But concerns about sovereignty, hopefully addressed by the sight of the Act in practice, led the Tory opposition to vote against it. In my view that was a mistake, and one that presaged a worrying move towards outright opposition, not just to the Human Rights Act, but also to the principles espoused in the Convention.

The rights protected in the Convention are misnamed “European” rights. They are no more European than any rights protected by a putative ‘British’ Bill of Rights would be British. The rights protected by the Convention are universal, though their recognition by States is patchier.

Everyone deserves the right to life, as protected by Article 2. Everyone deserves the right not to be tortured, or subjected to degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment, protected by Article 3. Everyone deserves right not to be enslaved, provided by Article 4. Everyone deserves the right to liberty and security of the person, protected by Article 5. Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial, provided by Article 6. Everyone deserves the right not to be retrospectively penalised, provided in Article 7. Everyone deserves the right for their private family life to be respected, and that’s protected by Article 8. Everyone deserves the right of freedom of conscience, religion and thought, and so says Article 9. Everyone deserves freedom of expression, which is protected in Article 10. Everyone deserves the right to assemble and associate, protected by Article 11. Everyone deserves the right to marry, provided by Article 12. Everyone deserves the right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of these rights, under Article 14. And under Protocol 1, everyone deserves the right not to have our property taken away except in the public interest and with compensation (Article 1, Protocol 1). Everyone deserves the right of fair access to education (Article 2, Protocol 1). Everyone deserves the right to free and fair elections (Article 3, Protocol 1).

It is in the balancing of these rights that the most contentious and controversial cases come forward. Those that get the most publicity involve the right for a private family life, competing with the right to freedom of expression. Newspaper editors were concerned about the law being used to create a “right of privacy” law before the HRA was introduced; despite reassuring words from the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw QC, just such a right has effectively been crafted by the judiciary. Rather controversially, Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, suggested that Parliament was cogniscient of the precedents when they passed the HRA, and therefore that Parliament had intended a right of privacy to grow up. Indeed, Parliament was pretty clear during the debate on second reading that it did not wish such a right to be provided without Primary Legislation.

It is true that most of the rights protected by the Convention were already rights in this country before 1951. The Convention, and by extension the HRA, doesn’t give us many new rights.

Without the HRA, the State couldn’t simply take my life. It couldn’t torture me, or subject me to inhumane or degrading punishment. It couldn’t sell me into slavery. These things are already illegal. But I can think of real world examples where these things still happen; police shootings of unarmed suspects, a bullying culture in an army barracks, trafficked people working slavery hours in factories right here in Suffolk.

But there is a huge difference between the theoretical provision of those rights, and their enforcement. All the HRA does is to incorporate the Convention into British law. Its effect is to allow British judges, rather than “foreign” judges, to determine cases in the British courts. Frankly, I’ve never been certain what anyone’s objection to that could be.

We know from history what happens when the State doesn’t respect the rights of its citizens. In Nazi Germany, those who the State had decided were to be discriminated against saw their property rights infringed, their freedom of expression curtailed, and finally their rights not to be enslaved, not to be subject to torture, inhumane or degrading punishments, and their right to life, all extinguished.

It is not just the far Right that has a history of infringing the rights of others. The biggest mass murderer of 20th Century Europe was from the far Left – Josef Stalin. In Stalin’s Soviet Union your rights could be extinguished by the whim of a State that didn’t recognise the rule of law. Undesirable people were sent to Siberia, or Lubyanka, or simply disappeared. The Socialist Republic forced the collectivisation of farms and assumed control over the industrial output. In my view those acts were simple theft, and crucially they would be illegal under the Human Rights Act; the British State couldn’t simply assume control of private businesses, or force landowners to hand over their land, at least without good reason and without compensation. It is these protections that prevent us from becoming enslaved by our Governments.

People argue that such extremes couldn’t happen here, an argument that is rather offensive to the people of Germany or Russia, since it implies that their culture is more susceptible to extremism than ours. It is precisely because they could happen here that we need to be constantly vigilant in protecting our rights, and the rights of others.

The hardest charge for an advocate of the HRA to defend is when it is used by those society shuns. Yet this is precisely what it is for. The only way I know my rights are defended is by defending the rights of others.

Defending the rights of terrorists, of murderers, of criminals, that is how I know that the rights of everyone else are protected.

There are those who say that a terrorist, or a murderer, has voluntarily surrendered their rights by their failure to abide by societies rules. Or that the rights of law abiding citizens should be put before the rights of criminals. Where, these people ask, are the victims’ rights considered?

This seriously misunderstands the point of human rights. Firstly, rights are universal. They belong to everyone – criminal and victim alike. Second, they belong to individuals, not to collectives. They exist to prevent the extremes of a State, not to prevent the extremes of individuals. There are other laws for that.

The way we set our society apart from that which the terrorists wish us to be is by recognising and protecting their rights. The people best at this are the Scandinavians. Anders Breivik received a painfully fair trial, despite murdering dozens of children five years ago. When two six-year-old boys killed a playmate in Trondheim back in 1994, those children were never named, unlike the two children who killed James Bulger the same year. The law recognised that there was little to be gained from naming children, and so their rights were protected.

Sadly, the UK isn’t perfect when it comes to respecting the rights of those who society shuns, or who shun society. The UK State has taken upon itself the right to kill British citizens without trial, outside of a war, if they are suspected of terrorism. Even where British lives are not in immediate danger. The incoming Prime Minister, Theresa May, has intimated that the UK State will not guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in this country, suggesting that their rights will be a part of the Brexit negotiations.

A few years ago the care on elderly wards at Ipswich Hospital was so bad it was described as criminal. Had that situation not been dealt with, there would have been a good argument to be made for a case under Article 3, the right against torture, degrading treatment or inhumane punishment.

I’ve had personal experience of having to enforce my Human Rights as well. I have seen friends of mine discriminated against by police officers because of the colour of their skin. I have had the State attempt to restrict my freedom of religion. So for me the Human Rights cause is both morally right, and personally vital.

Such abuses are thankfully rare in the UK. Sadly, the capacity for abuses remains; the huge increase in racist attacks after the EU referendum shows just how fragile the society we take for granted could be.

So what do Human Rights mean to me? They’re the basis for our whole society; the framework by which we ensure our freedom. They’re vital, and no matter what they are called, they must not be weakened or infringed.

Nuclear weapons renewal? Not in my name…

One of the things that Theresa May will have had to do when she became Prime Minister is to sit down and write a letter.

This letter is entirely private, and we should hope that it is never ever read. It is a “letter of last resort” and gives instructions to the commanding officer of Britain’s nuclear submarines, to be followed in the event of a nuclear war wiping out the British Government.

Every Prime Minister writes a letter, and it is destroyed unopened when that Prime Minister leaves office, leaving its contents known only to them. So we should hope and pray that Mrs May’s letter is never ever read.

Nuclear weapons exist, and their existence is a tragedy which has the potential to end the world. That Britain has nuclear weapons is a matter of historical fact, thanks to the decisions made by the Labour Government after World War Two. The nuclear weapons that Clement Atlee commissioned have been replaced and updated, and on Monday Parliament will be asked, once again, to approve the purchase of the new Successor submarines, to replace the Vanguard class submarines that currently make up the UK’s Continuous At Sea Deterrent.

In some ways the decision to schedule the vote on Trident replacement is more about politics than it is about the need for the UK to update these submarines. The new Prime Minister parked her tanks on the centre ground when she took power last week, and while there have been some right-wing appointments in her Cabinet, moderates like Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, Liz Truss, Greg Clark, and Ben Gummer, have all seen preferment. This is an issue where Tory Party strategists believe that the public concerns about Jeremy Corbyn’s national security positions will help secure the next General Election.

Tory Party strategists may well be right; Labour Party policy is in favour of replacing Trident, but Mr Corbyn and the majority of the new members are firmly against it. The level of support for nuclear weapons in the country is really quite surprisingly high. But just occasionally the minority opinion is the right thing to do.

Nuclear weapons are massively expensive, and completely pointless. As I have pointed out before, there is a reason they call it MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction is a policy that would see everybody dead. Despite seventy years of conflict since the last time anyone used a nuclear weapon, the appalling impact of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has meant that nobody has ever used them again.

As I have written before, I don’t believe any Government will ever use them. Of the nine states with nuclear weapons, two, India & Pakistan, have been at war with each other a number of times. North Korea is led by a madman and is technically still at war with South Korea and the United States. Israel has been attacked on an almost daily basis by Iranian sponsored terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah. Not once have any of these countries used the dread power that they have at their command. Because they know that it would be entirely mad to do so.

The UK remains a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The Government is committed to multi-lateral disarmament. Yet while these weapons are updated, and “improved” to make them harder to defend against and even more deadly, true disarmament will not happen.

Normally I would argue passionately against unilateral actions. If your enemy has a weapon, you need it too. But that isn’t the case with nuclear weapons. As a member nation of NATO, we live under the US and French nuclear umbrella. If we were attacked by a nuclear state, our NATO allies are treaty bound to defend us, or to respond with nuclear force. NOT having our own nuclear weapons would make absolutely no difference to our nation’s defence; all it would mean is that we wouldn’t be able to make a belligerent nuclear attack on any nation. Does anyone really want us to have the capacity to make a belligerent nuclear attack on another nation?

On Monday our MPs will troop through the yes lobby and vote in favour of renewing Trident. Almost all Tory MPs will support it, and many Labour MPs will follow their party policy as well. But, despite being a tribal Tory voter, I will be, in spirit, with those MPs from all parties who vote against renewing our nuclear weapons. We do not need these weapons. We cannot afford these weapons. We should not be wasting this money on such pointless weapons systems.

Andrea v Theresa – unknown v unlikeable

So some 26 years after Tory MPs defenestrated our last female Prime Minister, they have ensured that the next PM will be the UK’s second female one. And what great options they have given the Tory Party membership. One candidate says look at my experience, just ignore the failure to control immigration, the racist “go home” vans and the fact I called you the nasty party. The other candidate says look at my stellar career in the City, just ignore the fact that I’ve inflated my importance and haven’t really done much of any note.

Whichever way you look at it, the options Tory Party members are given are flawed. Suddenly David Cameron isn’t looking so bad, after all.

The questions are easier to pose for Andrea Leadsom, the answers harder to come by. A relatively junior Minister, she has served as the City Minister and the Energy Minister. Indeed, one local newspaper reporter thought she was still the City Minister when dismissing her chances of getting on the ballot just a week ago. She has not served as a Cabinet Minister, and to my knowledge has never attended a Cabinet Meeting. She has very little experience of Government. She is on the ballot for one reason only – she gave some barnstorming speeches in favour of remain, and she isn’t Michael Gove.

The questions are a lot harder for Theresa May, and the answers perhaps easier to come by. A highly experienced senior politician, Mrs May has served as Home Secretary, usually the graveyard of a political career, without huge controversy for the last six years. Previously she was a Shadow Cabinet Minister under David Cameron, Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith and William Hague. She can certainly say look at my experience. And yet…

Mrs May’s tenure at the Home Office doesn’t fill one with confidence in her ability to be a great liberal Conservative Prime Minister. She was tasked with reducing immigration to the tens of thousands. The number of people from outside the EU has gone up. She was a part of the Remain campaign for the EU referendum, but was locked in a box after acknowledging that we can’t control immigration from EU countries if we remain in the Single Market. Her time at the Home Office saw racist “Go Home” vans sent out to drive around the streets of London, saw foul and vile abuses at the Yarls Wood Immigration Detention Centre, abuse which is still going on and is still being denied by the Home Office. She has overseen a total collapse of morale in the police, and huge cuts to Border Security, leaving most airports and seaports in the country totally unsecured. You can spend all you like at Heathrow, but when any idiot with a sail boat can ship across from Holland, France or Belgium in relative safety, it is like bolting the front door while leaving the back open.

More concerning are Mrs May’s known positions. She backed scrapping the Human Rights Act 1998 and pulling the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms. She has now retracted her view on withdrawal from the ECHR, but she still backs the ludicrous idea of a British Bill of Rights (we’ve already got one, for starters, and why should only British people have rights?).

She tells her local newspaper that one of her priorities would be to hold a free vote on foxhunting, which was of course in the Tory manifesto, but which has just about no support in the UK anymore.

In one of our local newspapers today, the Ipswich MP Ben Gummer makes a timely intervention on immigration, saying much more eloquently than could I, exactly what many liberal Conservatives feel: the careless use of language when debating the level of immigration into this country has allowed racism to rear its despicable head once again.

Yet Mr Gummer backs Mrs May, who told the Tory Party conference that she hadn’t been able to deport an immigrant because of his cat. Not only was that story totally untrue, it was widely reported and it became part of the very folklore that Mr Gummer rightly deplored. On doorsteps across Ipswich, in pubs and clubs, on buses, in taxis, you will hear stories like that replayed again and again. Politicians, especially Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers, have a responsibility not to be casual with the truth. Mrs May was over immigration, and my fear is that she will be again.

It is difficult to know Mrs Leadsom’s views on the Human Rights Act or on immigration. Or anything really. We do know that, unlike Mrs May, she believes that any EU citizen currently living lawfully in the UK should be allowed to remain in the UK once we Brexit. Mrs May wishes not to give that guarantee, instead believing we should use people as bargaining chips to guarantee the rights of British citizens living in the EU – who would, of course, still be able to bring cases under EU law and ECHR law that deporting them because of a decision which they could not participate in would be a breach of their fundamental freedoms.

There have been dangerous calls for the Tory party to expedite the process in order to ensure stable Government quickly. The reason I call these dangerous is because while they stem from supporters of Mrs May (in the main) they risk the electorate backing Mrs Leadsom without any real testing of her views.

The next two months will see both ladies troop around the country, speaking to Tory associations and getting over their view of what the nation should look like. Mrs May will espouse her experience, trying gently to cover over the huge blaring gaffes like those racist go home vans, or the cat story. Mrs Leadsom will put forward, I assume, a vision of optimism about the opportunities afforded by Brexit. She will, I hope, explain where she stands on issues from Human Rights, to Welfare, to Education, to Healthcare. It is unlikely she is vastly different on most of these issues to Mrs May, but it is important that the media and the Tory Party members who get to speak to her really push her on where she stands, rather than concentrating on minutiae like her CV. After all, come September 2nd, she might be sitting down with HM The Queen and being appointed Prime Minister.

Whoever wins, the unknown or the unlikeable, it is likely that the nation will be radically different come May 2020, not just different to how it is now, but also different to how it would have been had David Cameron remained in that top job for as long as he wanted to.

Let the best woman win.