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I could not be more delighted to welcome you to the new year in Westminster.
Yes, we’ve been through a fairly contentious 2018 as a democracy. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour made it through the Brexit vote, but this was short-lived. Jeremy Corbyn went on to launch the Nuclear Disarmament Campaign, raise thousands of signatures for his “winter of discontent” national strike vote and lobby MPs on key motions on May’s emergency budget, the public finances and the increasing divide between rich and poor.
Yes, there were international crises. There was Brexit, of course, which produced two weeks of bloody civil warfare, followed by the Prime Minister’s spectacular resignation. Then there was the endless absurdities surrounding Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s coalition with the Supreme Court and Priti Patel’s unfortunate visit to Israel. Even though a majority of MPs put their collective heads above the parapet on a little-known backbench amendment to thwart the destruction of the Iranian deal, the Government and the Liberal Democrats managed to defeat it. And that was the government’s hardest Brexit vote, anyway.
Part of this political tumult has been caused by the appearance of social media, and the politics of tweetstorms. But you don’t need to have advanced degrees in international relations to recognise that Twitter is a toxic place, and that has thrown up its fair share of bizarre stories.
Yes, I know you’ve had some difficulty and delays too. The number of MPs who have died in the last year and their resignations have been not inconsiderable. My feelings about that have clearly not been shared by everyone.
But don’t despair. The people are with you.
The people have spoken. You should not be afraid to debate the issues we face.
We were all deeply dismayed by Corbyn’s attempt to run the House of Commons on his own, because we know that the very best Parliament is when it bestows powers and responsibilities upon those who go there.
We were determined to stop that from happening, so we did the job you elected us to do. Because of our unrelenting vigilance, members are still having difficult moments trying to debate issues such as Brexit. Sometimes, one of you has to calm down everyone and try to get through this complicated issue to break it down into its more manageable parts.
And while we are not completely satisfied with the current makeup of the House of Commons, there are clearly mechanisms in place to ensure that people will still be able to bring motions of no confidence to the floor of the Commons and even to shut down a House so as to take on the agenda of a conference or convention.
Those mechanisms are, no doubt, imperfect. I was hoping for a convention that would decide our next amendments to Theresa May’s deal.
That would of course not be happening right now, but I am pleased that Parliament has remained flexible in its work. And I am confident that the principles we have fought for will have been realised at some point this year.
To be clear, MPs are not going to continue to tread water for long. The 17.4 million people who voted to remain in the EU now want their voices heard. We, in Parliament, have a duty to speak up for them. They are with us and we must listen to them.
Think of all those young women and men who took to the streets to fight for women’s rights in the 70s and 80s and to back a change in the law so that rape suspects were presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Think of all those mothers who marched alongside your husbands and sons to demand equal pay.
That basic principle you are fighting for must be reflected in everything you do.
As you take office, you have the right to change this part of our democracy. We have sent you a new resolution, which we are sending to the House of Lords.
It is a clear intention for MPs to ensure that their actions reflect the trust we give you. That is important for our future. It is also important because it shows you the level of public demand. And it shows that change is coming.
David Cameron MP
Member of Parliament for Witney