Based in King's College London the 1828 journal is a purely non-profit Student journal run by and for the KCLCA. our Talented writers and contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds, possessing a diverse range of political beliefs.

Ideological Puritanism is not healthy for democracy: it has to stop.

Ideological Puritanism is not healthy for democracy: it has to stop.


Politics has divided nations and peoples for centuries; Britain has one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in the world, and one of the most revered. The divisions that emerge from politics can often be wide-ranging and in some cases irreconcilable. However, more often than not, divisions within politics can often lead to solutions being found to the biggest issues that face the nation and we are thus better off as a result.

However, in the current political climate, common ground is not an option that is even considered. Instead of debate and discussion which leads to cross party agreement, we currently witness our parliamentarians embroiled in petty name calling on all sides, both claiming that their way is the right way and anyone who thinks otherwise is ignorant, or in the case of Brexit, didn’t know the full facts, thus not knowing what they were voting for.

This is a form of Ideological Puritanism, since the Brexit vote, there has been an adoption of all sides of this toxic principle.

On one side you have the hard-line Remain backing MPs who, and I accept that this does not apply to everyone of them, believe that we should re-run the EU referendum of 2016 because it was either corrupted by dirty money that fed into the Leave campaigns, both official and not, or that those who voted for Brexit did so on false pretences offered by politicians and by extension, they were too dumb to realise it.

On the other side then you have the hard-line brexiteers who believe that anything that the government bring back that isn’t a no deal Brexit, or a super-Canada deal is not what was voted for by the 17.4 million Leave voters in the referendum. They also believe that because we voted to leave, there must be silence from the other side whilst the all-knowing brexiteers drive negotiations, believing that they are the only entity in the UK that knows the interest of the UK population.

This attitude, being shown publicly by MPs slapping down others for not submitting a letter of no confidence in Theresa May because of the Agreement she has brought to Parliament is unpalatable to the Puritans within the Conservative Party, or even Nadine Dorries claiming those who have not submitted a letter of no confidence are harming the ERG and their hopes of getting a new leader in time for Brexit day next March.

I support(ed) Brexit, and although this has diminished greatly over the two years, I still support it. However, I cannot and will not support the ideological puritanism that is currently plaguing the Conservative Party.

Colleagues can have disagreements, and they can be civil; they need not be filled with insults and name calling for the sake of trying to claim some form of moral high ground. This is not healthy for our parliament, and it is not good for our democracy as a whole.

This want by some MPs to make the debate centre around one ideological presupposition is dangerous, and this form of puritanism puts at risk everything the very people who participate in it have fought for over the past 18-24 months. The majority of MPs and people in the UK accept that the country voted to leave the EU, and some disagree with the decision and want to see Brexit mellowed into an EEA/EFTA agreement.

However, whilst one can consider this to be some sort of weird centre ground where there is discussion over the best way to deliver Brexit that will ultimately benefit the people of the UK, the two extremes on either side of the argument are growing stronger by the day, and this is not a good thing, not at all.

The ideological puritanism that has begun to grip these groups with an ever-tightening grasp over these groups is proving to be something that is far beyond being reconciled. In order to achieve the ideological pre-dispositions, they are willing to eviscerate the other sides argument in the harshest words possible in order to achieve some sense of self-gratification. There is little discussion to resolve these differences, and whilst that is often the case in politics, it is toxic and in the long-term, it is devastating for the credibility of MPs and ultimately the party they represent.

This trend of ideological puritanism, which is largely taking place on the backbenches of the Conservative Party and among the different political strata in the population needs to end. Nothing can be achieved by suppressing one side of the argument or the other simply because you disagree with it. Instead, there is a serious risk that the divisions in the country now, both among our parliamentarians and us as the electorate will become irreconcilable, to the point where the differences of the referendum will still be present long after we leave.

If we are to see any form of breakthrough in the political gridlock and toxicity, then healthy political discussion must return to be the norm among parliamentary colleagues and the general public, otherwise we risk being a divided people for as long as the transition period lasts, which given the end date is ‘20XX’, we may be arguing for a good while yet.

Sir Richard Ottaway discusses Brexit, the future of the Conservative Party, and his time as a whip

Sir Richard Ottaway discusses Brexit, the future of the Conservative Party, and his time as a whip

We Shall Never Surrender: Gibraltar, the EU, and the failure of May

We Shall Never Surrender: Gibraltar, the EU, and the failure of May