Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The House of Lords Soft Power Mission

by Carol S.

To quote Lord Adonis’ speech on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in the House of Lords on Jan 30th;

‘Orwell wrote that in times of crisis, “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” So it is with Brexit.’

I set up the House of Lords Soft Power Mission Facebook group as a place where we, ordinary people, could work together against the lies; a refuge for the truth if you like. The group description sets out its aims very clearly: ‘Members of this group do not consider the outcome of the referendum on membership of the EU to represent the will of the people since it disenfranchised many of us and was based on lies. We exchange information on political, legal and social methods of countering the Brexiteers' attempts to impose their interpretation of the referendum result on the United Kingdom.’ And, of course, we do that with a view to lobbying the Lords.

I chose the House of Lords because I thought they would be less vulnerable to pressure from populists than the House of Commons and I started by printing out all the Brexit Testimonials. These are short accounts from people who have been personally affected by Brexit of its impact on them. I sent them to the outspoken Conservative peer Patience Wheatcroft and to the leaders of the main political parties in the Lords and asked other members of the group to send them to other peers. It never occurred to me that I would end up going to Westminster to meet Lord Newby, leader of the Liberal Democrat peers but the referendum result was such a revolution that the usual barriers that divide us seemed to disappear for a while and indeed that is what did happen.

Since the group began work, we have sent hundreds of personal letters and postcards to peers in a number of campaigns. Our first was on the personal impact of Brexit, then we wrote to Labour peers about their general election promises, the Salisbury Convention and the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. We’re now writing to Crossbench and Conservative peers about our concerns over the effect of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill on the British constitution, democracy and the rule of law. We also have a postcard campaign running for those who prefer to keep their messages short and sweet.

I believe what we do affects thinking in the House of Lords. We’ve had many responses from peers showing that our letters are being read and taken into account (and if more people write to them they will feel further encouraged to speak out).

Perhaps, more importantly, the group is a resource for those looking for information and support to fight Brexit. I was hoping that the Lords would be a shortcut to stopping Brexit. Now I believe they are just part of the solution, and no-one can stop Brexit for us. We will have to do it ourselves.

If that’s your aim too, please join us.

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