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NEWS13 March 2019

Morgan on Brexit: the mistake was ‘not to be honest about how complex it would be’

Brexit Impact 2019 News People UK

UK – "There were lots of issues tied up with the referendum. It was a binary choice on a very complex issue," Nicky Morgan told an audience at Impact 2019.

The Tory MP was addressing a crowded auditorium at this morning’s keynote, during which she discussed Brexit, how she takes polling with a "pinch of salt" and Theresa May.

"The mistake was not to be honest with people about how complex withdrawing from EU membership would be," she said.

Morgan is a dyed-in-the-wool Tory, having joined the Conservative Party as a teenager in 1989. She was elected MP for Loughborough in the 2010 general election and has held posts including Minister for Women and Equalities and Secretary of State for Education.

She is stridently pro-EU, supporting the Remain campaign in the 2016 referendum and following then prime minister David Cameron’s resignation, said she was considering running for the leadership.

Asked about Cameron, the man whose legacy is the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, she said: "The thing about [him] is how little he’s talked about. It doesn't come up often in interviews."

But she added that "a lot of people in the cabinet at the time understood why he called the referendum and what he was trying to achieve by it", even if his intentions failed.

Morgan discussed her approach to research, which by industry standards would not be described as rigorous.

"Obviously in terms of constituency we send out surveys," she said. "And we do our own polling, which is not cheap. The point is that [our research] might be anecdotal but as long as we’re listening to wide range of people from every group, from every background, in every part of the constituency, then we do begin to build up a sense of what people think."

Morgan didn’t hold back on what she thinks about the Labour Party, describing Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as "giving people pause for thought".

"People in my constituency who are definitely Labour voters are saying they couldn't vote for the current leadership," she said.

She is barely less enamoured with the leadership of her own party. Back in 2016 she was disinvited from a Number 10 event after a jibe about prime minister Theresa May’s £1,000 leather trousers. She later apologised. Onstage today, her feelings for May were apparent.

"I didn't back Theresa May in 2016 because I'm not in her cabinet, and I've seen her in action."

She also despairs at the plethora of reporting focused mostly on those at the extremes of today’s political discourse. But she sounded heartened by non-partisan politics, in particular her work with cross-party select committees, which she described as "politics at its best".

There is hope, too, for the Tories and Labour. Asked if the two-party system was broken, she said: "I think both the main parties have the potential to have the answers and respond to the challenges of 21st century politics. I'm not going to leave my party because the Conservative Party always needs the centre right in this country. It needs to choose whether it wants to be a political force or tear itself apart over a singe political issue."

@RESEARCH LIVE

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