Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

The tough fight for democracy has begun

This week, national treasure David Attenborough joined the post-Brexit pile-on of the plebs. Should the little people really be trusted to make decisions about complicated matters like the EU, he asked? You know the answer: of course we shouldn’t. We’re too dim. We don’t have as many degrees as him. The point of parliamentary democracy, he says, is that ‘we find someone we respect who we think is probably wiser than we are’ and then we trust them to ‘ponder… difficult things’. That’s far preferable to asking people who’d prefer to go to a funfair than the National Gallery — he really says this, in reference to a quote from Ken Clarke’s new book — to decide the fate of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Shorter version: ordinary folk should stick to the dodgems and let wiser people do politics.

Today, Mr Attenborough (‘Lord’, I know, but as a democrat I don’t do archaic titles) got his way. As did all the other Brexitphobes and aspiring democracy-thwarters who for the past four months have been defaming the demos as insufficiently clued-up for big decision-making and calling for ‘wiser’ people — MPs, academics, economists, their own mates — to make the final call on how and when and even if Brexit is carried out. The High Court has ruled that MPs, Attenborough’s wiser people, should get to decide when and how Britain leaves the EU. Phew — the dynamic has been taken away from the funfair throng and handed to the wiser ones.

People are talking up the High Court decision as a victory for parliamentary sovereignty. Please. These are the same people who watched with glee as parliamentary sovereignty was diluted by Brussels over decades and now they expect us to believe they’re Leveller-style defenders of the authority of parliament.

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