Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

A great day for British democracy

Today is a great day for British democracy. One of the greatest ever, in fact. Tune out Project Fear, with its overblown claims that Brexit will cause economic collapse and possibly revive fascism, and just think about what is happening today. The largest democratic mandate in the history of this nation, the loudest, clearest, most populous democratic cry Britons have ever made, is finally being acted upon. The political class is starting the process of severing Britain’s ties with the EU not because it wants to — it desperately doesn’t want to — but because a great swarm of its people have told it that it must. This is amazing. This is wonderful. This is democracy.

This is what generations of Britons fought for. From the Levellers of the 1640s — who radically insisted that even ‘the poorest he’ should have a say in politics — to the working-class Chartists of the 19th century and the Suffragettes of the 20th, the ideal that animated every warrior for the franchise was precisely that ordinary people — whatever their standing, whatever their education —  should have the right to determine their nation’s destiny. Brexit follows in this radical democratic tradition. In fact it is its high point. The very sections of society that had to fight hard for the right to vote — ‘the poorest he’; urban working-class men; women, particularly women over 50, a large majority of whom voted for Brexit — made their political desires plain on 23 June last year. They said, in their millions, ‘Let’s leave’. Brexit is not the handiwork of Ukip demagogues or buses with false promises on them. It’s a result of decades and decades of the glorious expansion of the franchise to the kind of people who very often hold different ideas and values to Westminster.

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