Fri, 06 Sept 2019
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon – who lost the Conservative Party whip after voting against the Government – held an informal public meeting in Market Place on Thursday evening to discuss his decision.
On Tuesday, Mr Benyon was among 21 Tory MPs who joined the opposition in passing a bill that would force the Government to seek an extension to the scheduled Brexit date.
As a consequence of their actions, the rebels were expelled from the Parliamentary Conservative Party.
Mr Benyon invited people via Twitter to discuss the matter with him in the Market Place from 6pm to 7pm.
Constituents engaged directly with their MP, and were able to express their support – or opposition – to his actions.
Mr Benyon said: “I’ve come along because I don’t blame many of you for wondering: ‘what the hell is going on?’
“I think it’s important that those of us who took part in this vote on Tuesday are accountable to those of you we represent.
“I fully understood that what I was going to do would please some people, and it wouldn’t please others.”
Without categorically ruling out any future political involvement, Mr Benyon stated that he would only stand as an MP for Newbury again if the local Conservative Association nominated him.
He said: “I will stand – if they [the association] let me stand – as a Conservative candidate.”
He believes that a snap election now “has to happen” as the Conservative Party has lost its parliamentary majority.
While Mr Benyon asserted that he still wished to see the UK leave the European Union, he opposed the manner in which Boris Johnson’s Government was approaching the issue.
In particular, he found Mr Johnson’s insistence upon a fixed exit date on October 31 to be inappropriate.
“If you create absolute, determinant dates – as we’ve found in this process – then, very often, factors come along and thwart it,” he said.
Mr Benyon spoke of his experiences over the past three years, saying: “I actually thought that [the 2016 Brexit referendum] ... was the lowest point of public discourse in this country that I’ve experienced.
“In West Berkshire, we do politics in a civilised way.
“Different parties can disagree, but we can be friendly.
“Election time, we get passionate … but we play the ball, not the man.
“During the referendum, I heard things said in West Berkshire that I’ve never heard.”
But the MP of 14 years warned against a repeat referendum, a proposal which both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are now advocating.
He said: “All I can tell you about a second referendum is that, whoever wins it, the campaign for a third referendum will start the next day.”