In this week's New Statesman: Clegg's Gift

Nick Clegg’s big dilemma | John Pilger: sports fans kick back | Harriet Harman interview.

big choice-2:NS.qxd

Following the dramatic increase in support for the Liberal Democrats, this week's New Statesman looks at what the rise of Nick Clegg's party means for the future of British politics.

In the politics column, Mehdi Hasan reveals that there is talk inside of the party of providing David Cameron with "supply and confidence" in the event of a hung parliament.

Elsewhere, our political correspondent, James Macintyre, has been talking to Harriet Harman. Labour's deputy leader denies that she has been "sidelined" from the campaign and says that the "arrogant" David Cameron has been found out.

Away from Westminster, John Pilger looks at how sports fans are mobilising to rescue clubs from corporate dominance and Amartya Sen explains why Adam Smith wasn't the free-market fundamentalist many assumed he was.

All this plus Mike Smithson on the latest opinion polls, Andrew Roberts on the Second World War, Kevin Maguire's Westminster diary and Dominic Sandbrook on Tony Benn.

The issue is on sale now, or you can subscribe through the website.

Join us for the second TV leaders' debate tonight.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Michael Heseltine calls for “second referendum or general election” on the Brexit deal

The Tory peer and former deputy prime minister accuses Theresa May of having “flip-flopped” on the “intellectual conviction of the last 70 years of Conservative leadership”.

The Conservative party is deeply divided on the subject of Europe, and I don't see a short-term resolution to that position. I just reread the speech that the Prime Minister made to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers before the referendum. It was thoughtful, careful, balanced, and highly persuasive – arguing that we should remain in Europe.

A few weeks later, Brexit is Brexit. She has apparently changed her mind, and people like me have not. The idea that the intellectual conviction of the last 70 years of Conservative leadership on this subject can be flip-flopped is asking too much of those of us who believe that our self-interest as a nation is inextricably interwoven with our European allies.

I believe that this is the worst peacetime decision that Parliament has been asked to make. It is very possible, as the negotiations unfold, that members of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons who believe as strongly as I do in the Remain argument will feel that their commitment to our national self-interest is being stretched unacceptably.

I know all the lonelinesses of their position. I'm well aware of the herd instinct of party politics. Only on two significant occasions have I worked to change the official policies of the Conservative party. I have no regrets, it didn't actually do me any harm. They have to evaluate the nature of the decision they're being asked to take.

I don't believe any of the arguments that there's a two-year time scale, the guillotine comes down. If there's a will to change within the community of European leaders, change will happen regardless of the letter of the law.

I believe that there needs to be a second referendum or a mandate of a general election. I believe the sovereignty of this country is enshrined in the House of Commons, and that they must be involved in the final decision with absolute power to determine the outcome. It took Nicola Sturgeon a matter of months to be back on the trail of a second referendum and Nigel Farage would have been doing exactly the same if he had lost. So what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I cast myself in the unlikely role of gander.

[May’s opposition to a Scottish referendum] completely undermines the whole basis for supporting the referendum judgement in the first place, because they weren't in possession of the facts, and so when we are in possession of the facts, it follows there must be a second choice.

Michael Heseltine is a Conservative peer and a former deputy prime minister.

As told to Anoosh Chakelian.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition