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Tuesday, 28 May 2019

INTERVIEW: The former Lib Dem chairman for Kingston who joined the Brexit party

Jimmy Kent resigned earlier this month after a year as chair of the Kingston Liberal Democrats to join the Brexit party.

Since then, the Brexit party won the European elections, and the Liberal Democrats came second.

Nigel Farage's Brexit party campaigned for No Deal, while the Lib Dems were campaigning for a second referendum.

Luke Williams has been speaking to him.

00.00 why such an ideological jump?
02.30 is it worth it?
04.40 what happens if the manifesto is the mirror image of the Lib Dems'?
07.27 did the Lib Dems see this coming?
10.36 how many people do you see who are like you in Brexit and Lib Dems?
13.13 what is your opinion on Brexit?
17.15 did polling affect your decision?
20.00 closing remarks

Statement from Kingston's Lib Dem group;

"Given the Lib Dems are well-known for being pro-European, we were surprised by Jimmy Kent's view and his decision to resign. He was a relatively new member getting active after the referendum and well after Lib Dems had started campaigning to give the British people the Final Say, and he had never voiced concern before. Liberal Democrats remain THE party to vote for to Stop Brexit."

On his Facebook page, he wrote

After a year of serving as Chair of the Kingston Liberal Democrats, I resigned on the first Thursday of May. In the face of the upcoming European elections, I found it impossible to justify to myself campaigning to elect the party's MEP candidates on the basis of stopping Brexit. The only principled and pragmatic path forward I can see for myself is to campaign for the Brexit party.

Any right-thinking person deciding which way to vote in the referendum would have had to accept massive issues with the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy, austerity enforcement, the treatment of Greece and Turkey, etc. The question, in its essence, was whether to stay in and try to solve these problems, or to leave, because these problems are either better solved externally, or insoluble.

After a long period of soul searching, I voted Remain, and joined the Lib Dems after the 2017 snap election, before "Exit from Brexit", before it was obvious what would be the only issue of the day. Since then, two things have become clear. The behaviour of the EU since the referendum is one of the best arguments for leaving. And the Liberal Democrats have indefinitely abandoned their commitment to democracy.

People are of course allowed to change their minds, but not before doing the thing that was voted for in the first place, unless the consequences of sticking with that decision are significantly more catastrophic than the consequences of overturning it. I don't believe anyone can prove even No Deal meets that test, or that people understand the damage cancelling Brexit would do to democracy.

I am an advocate for a Federal Europe. I believe greater cooperation is necessary to combat the increasing size and power of multinational corporations, climate change, criminal networks, and other global challenges and threats. But, for all the good it has done in service of these causes, I am no longer convinced that the EU is capable of the necessary reforms to realise this ambition.

However it started, however noble its goals, the European Union has become a self-serving, detached, and obstinate institution. Its treatment of the UK during the negotiations is transparently two-faced and insincere, enforcing unrealistic and unreasonable conditions on the one hand, and promising friendship and a positive future relationship with the other. It's political gaslighting.

By refusing to countenance fundamental changes to the structure, purpose, or founding principles of its organisation, the EU is being wilfully blind and deaf to widespread problems of its own making. If Brexit doesn't prove disastrous, and maybe even then, Itarriverderci and Espadios may not be far behind. EU leaders seem to have forgotten that you attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

It is my sincere belief that the path to a Federal Europe most likely lies in the dissolution of the EU, followed by a pan-European constitutional convention, in the style of the United States of America. The first step towards this must be honouring the result of a democratic referendum. How can we criticise other nations for ignoring or abandoning democracy if we refuse to defend it at home?

In throwing my weight behind the Brexit party, I'm inspired more by the examples of Claire Fox and James Wells than Nigel Farage or Annunziata Rees-Mogg. If we want this fledgling movement to be more than just UKIP reborn, or a vehicle for the same old tribal politics, we need people from across the spectrum to stand up and be counted, whether they support Brexit, democracy, or both.

I have no idea if my support will continue beyond the European elections. I am not naïve enough to believe any party is without problems, or perfectly reflects the views of voters, myself included. Like Claire Fox, I'm not going to pretend that I agree with everything that Nigel Farage has ever said or done. But a broad tent requires tolerance, and democracy has to come first.

So, despite my reservations, looking at all the options, I cannot see a justification in this political moment for any other course of action. I know that, in sticking to my principles, I will alienate friends, family, and allies, potentially leaving myself politically homeless. But if defending democracy is my last political act, that's a price I'm willing to pay. History will be the judge.
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 9:00 am  

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