Dawn Butler MP (Brent Central) yesterday joined the 47 Labour rebels who voted against the Article 50 Bill and resigned her position as Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities. She joined Tulip Siddiq MP (Hampstead and Kilburn) in the No lobby. Brent residents had all three of their MPs in Corbyn's shadow team until the resignations, now only Barry Gardiner remains. Butler's vote followed her meeting with residents at Moore Spice in Wembley Park on Tuesday evening.
Local Labour activist Graham Durham reacted angrily on Facebook this morning:
Been an honour to serve in shadow cabinet doing a job I love. Can’t let down future generations voting against poor excuse of a bill.In a statement to constituents Butler said:
In recent weeks I have been contacted by many constituents who have expressed their views with regards to the UK leaving the European Union.
I have heard passionate examples from both sides of the argument and since the High Court ruling last week, where it was clarified that Parliament must give its approval before official talks begin on exiting the European Union, the volume of correspondence to my office has increased.
I feel therefore, it is important I explain my position on this significant matter.
Having served as a delegate on the European Council I have seen first-hand just how important close working relationships are with our European neighbours. I campaigned passionately to remain in the EU and was disappointed with the outcome of the referendum last year.
However, I respect the decision of the country and as a democrat I do not think that we should be campaigning for another in out referendum. I also respect my colleagues, constituents and the country as a whole and the debate from both sides.
The Labour Party is split on this issue because as a party we seek to represent the views of the whole country- not the 48% or the 52% - but the entirety. As we know, the country are also split on this matter.
Despite this, it is palpably clear that the Labour Party is united on fundamental issues that face our country and we will unite; as you have said many times, around the important issues of jobs, health, security, economy, rights and social justice.
I have made clear on many occasions that if I were given a vote in Parliament, I would vote to remain in the EU. I am proud to represent Brent Central and I am proud that we voted to overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and will vote to reflect the views of my constituency who elected me to be their voice in parliament.
I do not have confidence in Theresa May to negotiate the best deal for the UK.
I place my confidence and trust in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and the whole Shadow Brexit team to hold the government to account every step of the way and I will support Labours amendments as they hold the Government to account.
I understand and appreciate the logic of allowing a second reading in order that amendments can be discussed at third reading and voted on at committee stage - amendments that will hopefully ensure:
Jeremy Corbyn has successfully moved the Government from their position of ‘Brexit means Brexit’ to one that has seen them agree to bring forward a white paper for parliament to properly scrutinise.
- Tariff-free access to the Single Market to protect jobs and our economy
- The protection of social and environmental rights,
- Security for EU citizens currently living in the UK
- A meaningful vote at the relevant stage of the negotiations
However due to my lack of confidence in Theresa May, I have decided that I cannot in good conscience vote for something that I believe will make my constituents worse off.
It is with all of this in mind that I am informing you of my decision to vote against second and third reading.
My position is clear and has not changed since the referendum last year, however I will continue to engage with colleagues and constituents on this hugely important matter. This has been a difficult process which has invoked strong reactions from people on both sides of this debate and it is very important that we heal the division that has resulted from this debate.
I feel very let down by my Labour MP Dawn Butler today..she has completely failed to consult local Party members (including any CLP officers and Executive members) before deciding to resign from the Shadow Cabinet and defy the instruction to vote for Article 50 thus adding to the attempts by the PLP rebels (the usual right wingers) to undermine Jeremy. Worse she called a public meeting, packed with Lib Dems, to which many Labour members were unable to gain access to announce her decision. When will Labour MPs realise that they only have the honour of being an MP because their local Labour Party chose them over many other good candidates and worked for them and that they have no right to pander to the voices of opposition parties who seek to destroy our Party?Fellow activist Michael Calderbank tweeted:
I respectCalderbank praised Barry Gardiner MP (Brent North) for his 'mature and responsible view' which had set out on the eve of the vote:
@DawnButlerBrent and @RachaelMaskell but think they made the wrong call. Labour MPs have to respect how people voted.
When Theresa May became Prime Minister after the referendum she made it clear that she would not give “a running commentary” on Brexit. The Labour Party demanded parliamentary scrutiny, a white paper, a vote to trigger article 50 and a parliamentary vote on the final deal after it is negotiated. The new Prime Minister refused them all.
The Labour Party in the House of Commons, and the Judiciary through the courts have now secured all these vital elements of democratic accountability.
The Supreme Court made it clear that the referendum vote determined that the UK would leave the European Union; but that it was for Parliament to determine how it should leave. I agree with the Supreme Court ruling. Although I voted and campaigned to remain, I am first and foremost a democrat. That means that I acknowledge that I lost the referendum vote. That means that I abide by its result even though I disagree with it. But I also agree with the Supreme Court that I must now as a Member of Parliament try to shape how we leave the EU in the best interests of the British people. That is why Labour has tabled a number of key amendments to the Bill.
64% of Labour voters across the country voted to Remain. But the majority of Labour MPs serve constituencies that voted by a majority to leave. The Labour Party is therefore presented both with a conflict of interests and a conflict of principles like no other party. In many ways we are much more representative of the divisions in the country over Brexit than any other political party. My view is that we must resolve the conflicts of principle and leave the conflicts of electoral interest to resolve themselves.
It is a uniquely valuable principle of our democracy that MPs have a special duty of care towards their constituents. We hold surgeries to deal with their individual problems and we represent them to various bodies and authorities to demand their rights. But our duty to represent our constituents does not in my view allow us to undermine the principle of democracy as a whole. I have enormous sympathy with all those of my colleagues who have wrestled with their conscience between the principle of democracy and the principle of representing their constituents but I am clear that I will respect the referendum result however much I disagree with it; and then I will try to mitigate its effects to secure the red lines that I and all my colleagues believe are so important.
Only by voting at 2nd Reading to trigger Article 50 do we move to the position where we can amend the bill and hold the Government to account to ensure: Tariff-free access to the Single Market to protect jobs and our economy, the protection of social and environmental rights, security for EU citizens currently living in the UK and a meaningful vote at a stage of the negotiations where it is still possible to change the outcome. Triggering Article 50 is only the beginning of a long process. We must and will hold the government to account every step of the way and secure an outcome that may not entirely satisfy either the 48% or the 52% but that is acceptable to the 100%. That is how democracy functions.
Finally I would ask everyone to reflect on how they would have felt if their side had won the referendum, but parliament had set aside the result and done the opposite. The anger that would be generated if politicians ignored the outcome would be immense and justified. I believe that leaving the EU will make us poorer. But undermining our own democracy would make us much poorer still.Tulip Siddiq was backed by her local Labour Party GC:
Great GC last night. Our local party showed solid support for, & no dissent from,Caroline Lucas, Green MP, praised the Labour rebels on Twitter:
@TulipSiddiq's principled stand on #Article50 #ThanksTulip
Big respect for the Labour MPs who voted against their party whip - they'll be proved to be on the right side of history.