Brendan O’Neill

    Democracy is hanging by a thread in this country

    Democracy is hanging by a thread in this country
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    Democracy is hanging by a thread in this country. At the start of this year, if someone had told you that in eight months’ time there would be open calls for the thwarting of the people’s will, and marches demanding the crushing of public opinion, you’d probably have scoffed. ‘This isn’t some anti-democratic backwater, it’s Britain!’, you’d have said. Yet now, these things are happening, all the time. Angry Brexit-bashers, those politicos and experts and activists furious at the masses for having the temerity to reject the EU, have helped make anti-democracy fashionable again, for the first time in decades. It’s a fashion we cannot let stand.

    Over the past couple of weeks alone, we’ve seen loads of unabashed attempts to stymie and even destroy the 17m-strong public call to leave the EU. On Saturday, the middle-class campaigners behind March for Europe — whose shocking stated aim is to ‘ultimately defeat [Brexit] altogether’ — mournfully took to the streets again. They called on MPs to vote on Brexit, and to vote it down. That is: clever people, please override stupid people. ‘Parliamentary democracy please, not mob rule’, as one of their placards on Saturday said. Oh the irony of a mob of Guardianistas trying to overturn the say-so of 17.4m people while wailing about ‘mob rule’. Mote, beams, eyes.

    Yesterday, MPs debated the possibility of a second referendum, after 4.4m people signed a petition calling for one. (That’s a quarter of the number who voted to leave the EU. And where the votes to leave the EU were all legit, a lot of the petition signatures were not.) David Lammy, who has become chief anti-democrat of the Brexit era, led yesterday’s charge for another referendum. Shortly after the referendum, he called on his fellow politicians to ‘stop this madness’, by which he meant the people’s warped will. Yesterday he said the referendum was only ‘advisory’, and its advice should be ignored. Total BS, of course, as anyone who received the government’s literature on the referendum will know: those leaflets told us ‘This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.’

    Caroline Lucas also wants a second referendum. As does Owen Smith. When a Brexit deal is finally hammered out, ‘we should give [the public] another chance’, he says. Another chance not to be so thick, another chance to tick the box their betters tell them to tick. Tim Farron says the Lib Dems will from now on run on a ticket of ‘halting’ Brexit, code for blocking the wishes of 17.4m people, the largest democratic mandate in British history. Tony Blair, meanwhile, has recovered his popularity with the chattering class by saying Brexit might not mean Brexit and people should be invited to change the minds. Then there's Common Ground, a painfully posh outfit that describes itself as a ‘progressive, liberal movement’. Someone buy these muppets a dictionary. There’s nothing progressive or liberal about wanting to ‘reverse… June’s flawed vote’, as a founder of Common Ground outlined this week. In fact I’m pretty sure plotting to block the people’s will is the opposite of progressive and liberal.

    This is the political class lined up against the demos. And much of the liberal media is joining it. ‘Five reasons why the UK must ignore vote’, said a headline to a recent piece by media darling AC Grayling. The ‘folly of Brexit’ must be ‘reversed’, says one-time liberal turned curser of democracy Grayling, because the Leave mob was driven by ‘demagoguery and sentiment’. The dumb, emotionally incontinent masses: the go-to prejudice of every anti-democrat in history. Hacks have chastised the masses for behaving as less then human: it was ‘the frightened, parochial lizard-brain of Britain’ that voted Leave, says Laurie Penny. And they have the gall to call us bigots. And then there’s my favourite headline of the whole Brexit era, and possibly of all time: it was in the Guardian and said, ‘Why elections are bad for democracy’. These people taking leave of their senses.

    And the worst of it is this: they’re dolling up their loathing for the demos as democratic. The reason we want parliament to decide is because we love parliamentary democracy, they say. (Making you wonder why they’re so pro-EU, given its dilution of parliamentary democracy.) The reason we want a second referendum is to give people another say, another go, more democracy, they chirp. ‘We the people should continue to have our say’, says Caroline Lucas. Do not buy this. For a second. It’s the greatest political swindle. They’re using the language of democracy to the highly undemocratic end of smashing what the democratic majority has demanded. Making us vote against it isn’t ‘more democracy’, any more than putting someone on trial again and again for the same crime is ‘more justice’. It’s persecution.

    As I say, democracy is hanging by a thread. The right of people to shape their nation is being explicitly called into question. The very capacity of people to understand political affairs and make a rational choice is being talked down as a fantasy. This is the most serious crisis of democracy I can remember. We must defend Brexit, because in defending Brexit we’re defending something far more important in the historic scheme of things: the hard fought-for principle that everyone should have an equal say in a democracy, and that the people’s will ought to be sovereign.