What use is sovereignty when MPs deny their conscience?
This was the question posed by William Keegan in The Guardian last week, as he reflected on the House of Commons’ vote to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
He quotes Churchill’s definition of sovereignty:
“The first duty of an MP is to do what he [or she] thinks … is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain. His second duty is to his constituents, of whom he is the representative but not the delegate.”
Given that we know the majority of MPs were opposed to leaving the EU, are the majority of them now guilty of a dereliction of duty?
Our own MP in West Berkshire, Richard Benyon, has told this group that he believes that leaving the EU is a retrograde step and will lead to a worse future for our country. Yet Mr Benyon voted with the government to trigger Article 50: Ken Clarke was the only Remain-voting Tory who voted with his conscience rather than with his party.
Where does this leave our political system: if MPs are no longer voting according to their own ‘thoughts for what is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain’, then what are they voting for?