Let the People decide, says ex-Tory chair Baroness Warsi if May’s Brexit proposal fails

A former chair of the Conservative Party has backed calls for a People’s Vote if Theresa May’s Brexit deal does not succeed. 

Baroness Warsi, co-chair of the party between 2010-12, backed the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement and her leadership, but if the deal failed to get through Parliament then the people should decide. 

She was speaking on Saturday as part of MACFEST, Manchester’s first Muslim arts and culture festival, on a range of issues but Brexit was still on everyone’s mind.

She said: “There is no deal that all of us are going to be happy with but the Prime Minister has delivered the best deal that she could negotiate and in the circumstances we should bring it to Parliament and we try to get Parliament behind it.

“If what the Prime Minister has delivered isn’t good enough then let it go back to the people and let’s have a People’s Vote and let them decide what they want.”

The peer was a member of David Cameron’s cabinet but has been an outspoken critic of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, saying they are currently in “denial”. 

She again backed calls for an inquiry into the matter and discussed what risks this “unhealthy environment” poses for her party the longer it is not dealt with. 

“It also means that all sorts of arguments that we raise in relation to racism or sexism or homophobia or anti-semitism don’t carry political weight because we’re not prepared to deal with bigotry in our own backyard.

“From a pure selfish perspective, electorally it means we’re going to lose votes. 

“It means that at the next election there are people who will look at us and feel they can’t vote for us even if they agreed with our politics because they feel we’re a place that isn’t welcoming and doesn’t accommodate.”

Warsi resigned from cabinet in August 2014 because of the government’s “deeply flawed” policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict and believes she was right to do so in hindsight. 

“I felt that nothing was going to change and at that point I had a choice – I could either carry on supporting a policy which I fundamentally disagreed on and hope one day I may be able to make a difference, or to remain true to myself.”

As Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Yorkshire-born politician was the only non-white member of cabinet for some time but says diversity is not all that matters. 

“It’s not about tokenism, it’s about genuine representation. Diversity shouldn’t be about having the right face it should be about having the right understanding. 

“Sometimes you can end up with somebody in there who may come from a community visually that they feel they represent but actually is not connected to nor understanding of nor respected by those communities and therefore in some ways make matters far worse.”

Speaking to Labour MEP for the North West, Julie Ward, Baroness Warsi highlighted the threat of the far-right in Europe and the US.

With her colleague Lord Pearson inviting Tommy Robinson for tea at the House of Lords recently, the former solicitor said most of the political world had been “caught napping”.

“The centre ground has shifted so far on these issues. To what in the past would have been considered deeply distasteful and unacceptable views are now given the respectable word of alternative right views. They’re not even called fascism anymore.”

She added: “The canaries in the coalmine are British muslims. How we deal with this community amongst us will determine the kind of nation we will become.”

Author and founder of MACFEST, Qaisra Shahraz, aims to “spread honey, not hate” throughout the city and hopes to break down religious barriers through the arts. 

Image courtesy of BBC via Youtube, with thanks.

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