Reacting to ‘Britain’s Brexit Crisis’ presented by Nick Robinson on BBC 1, Thursday 18 July 2019, Lord David Owen commented:
“There is one vital message to emerge from the BBC’s TV programme ‘Britain’s Brexit Crisis’ and it must be faced now openly before a new Prime Minister takes office – we no longer have Cabinet Government. Prime Ministers now behave as US Presidents and the inevitable consequence is Parliament, sensing there is little or no representation for their views, has been in open rebellion.
“Presidential Government started under Tony Blair in 2001 after winning a second period in office and has been acquiesced in progressively by all Cabinet Secretaries.
“We now know that Presidential Government reached its apotheosis under Theresa May. That her first ground-making speech on Brexit had not been discussed with the Cabinet, let alone the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is nothing short of a democratic disgrace and must no longer be tolerated by the next Cabinet, Cabinet Secretary nor Parliament.
“That David Cameron could resign his office on the morning of the referendum result, despite promising to stay and having banned his Cabinet Secretary from undertaking a study within the Civil Service of the consequences of a vote to leave was bad enough. But his Cabinet Secretary who also tried to abolish a ‘purdah’ period in the run up to the referendum date showed how little respect within Whitehall there was for the practice and principles established in the 1975 referendum on European Community membership.
“Fortunately Parliament insisted on having a ‘purdah’ period when civil servants had to remain neutral. It was irresponsible that the new Prime Minister Theresa May and Cabinet did not have papers prepared during that ‘purdah’ period by civil servants for all likely referendum results. It is something the Civil Service Commission, as well as Parliament, should study urgently. The fact that the Cabinet on numerous occasions during Theresa May’s tenure was never fully involved must now be subject to sustained scrutiny by a Parliamentary body and urgently.
“The UK has not gone through such an undemocratic period of governance for well over a century. We, the people, must ensure this deplorable and undemocratic process cannot continue.”