Asif, a young, inexperienced Grade 7 who has drawn the short straw of drafting replies to governmental petitioners.
Sir Peter, his boss, an older Senior Civil Servant.
Scene; The Department for Exiting the European Union
Asif; (knocks on only office door in open plan office, clutching a piece of paper) Excuse me, um, Sir Peter, could I ask you about this response to the ‘Rescind Article 50-Vote Leave broke the law’ petition?
Peter; (elaborate sigh) If you must. Come in. Close the door behind you.
Asif; If laws are broken during elections, aren’t elections usually rerun? And, until that rerun any subsequent actions based upon the result should at least be held in abeyance, otherwise we’re not behaving democratically? So how do I draft a response?
Peter: Well, yes, but ignore that element entirely – it’s too close to admitting they might have a point. Didn’t you go to Oxford? Stick to the facts in our favour. Leave won the vote – that’s the will of the British people (get that in ). Both main political parties adopted the policy that they would respect that result – that’s the political class respecting the will of the people (so that’s in). Keep repeating majority of people and will of the people…’
Asif: But it’s only a majority of those who voted or were allowed to vote – should I say ‘majority of people who voted’?
Peter: No, don’t draw attention to the fact. Claim it’s the biggest democratic mandate ever.
Asif: Is it?
Peter; Who knows. They won’t. And any debate will descend into arguing about numbers and counting. And get the General Election in, it’s reinforcement.
Asif: But didn’t the electorate reject the hard Brexit manifesto of the Conservatives? They’re only in power because they bought the DUP’s votes. Do we really want to go there?
Peter; Immaterial. (Looks out of window) But, just in case, state that the debate has been going on for decades.
Asif; In the Daily Mail and the Telegraph?
Peter; (looks sidelong at Asif) In the country. And be positive. Include that we’re going to get a great deal for the UK, with some ‘all in it together’ type phrases. Your buzz words should be ‘national mandate’, ‘best deal’ and ‘the British people’. Okay?
Asif; Thank you.
Peter: Oh and see if you can frame the whole response as a matter of trust – that the people can trust their politicians to deliver on the promises they make. (Pauses) I’m not sure you’re treating this with the seriousness it deserves. This is fundamental to our democracy. Give me that! I’ll do it myself.
Asif hands over paper and leaves.
I don’t usually post on a Thursday but, on receiving HMG’s response to the petition which I and 187,543 other people signed, seeking a parliamentary debate to consider rescinding Art.50 if Vote Leave was found to have broken Electoral Laws, I couldn’t resist. I have been that Grade 7!
Under normal circumstances such a strongly supported petition would be submitted for debate in the House of Commons, but circumstances are anything but normal. Nonetheless, the Petitions Committee is cross-party and, supposedly, free of government interference, so it may happen (but I’m not holding my breath).
HMG’s response is from the Department for Exiting the European Union and it can be read, in full, here . Enjoy!