Unreconciled Remainers continue to campaign for further parliamentary votes on Brexit. They know parliament is, for historical party-political reasons, overwhelmingly dominated by Remainers and not representative of the popular will as demonstrated in the referendum. They hope MPs who stood for election in 2017 on a manifesto of implementing Brexit may yet renege.
By a series of scandals in recent years our parliamentarians have greatly lowered their standing in the eyes of the public. But things could get worse. Having themselves decided to put the Brexit issue to the people, if they now wrest back control because the people gave them the wrong answer they will damage parliament’s reputation and standing beyond recovery.
It’s easy to forget the roots of our democracy are shallow. The UK has not always been democratic; in fact we’re still in our first century of universal equal suffrage.
As it happens I myself, though quite well-stricken in years and despite having cast my vote on every occasion I was able, have never so much as helped elect a constituency MP. I share this distinction with many others, I’m sure, because the UK constitution does not require a majority vote to elect an MP or a government.
Since The Second World War, only the 2010-15 coalition government has ever achieved the degree of support at the polls achieved by ‘Leave’ in the 2016 referendum. Strangely enough the right of the other, inadequately-supported, governments to govern was not questioned. Yet the contempt expressed for the much more convincing Brexit vote recalls the horror with which the 19th century ruling elite responded to the first proposed expansions of the franchise.
Look, I taught philosophy for a couple of decades. I prided myself on being able to argue either side of any question, whichever was needed in order to counter the prejudices with which my students arrived in the classroom. My objective was to get them thinking rationally rather than simply asserting their viewpoint. Arguing for a side you don’t actually support is quite good practice in understanding other people.
Yet in respect of Brexit on Quora I’m constantly bombarded by belligerent, expletive-laden certainties of what is right for my country and wrong about my own views from people who admit not so much as a scintilla of personal doubt, let alone the possibility of a rational alternative. Disagreement is, it seems, simply unacceptable.
All I can say is, some people evidently possess the gifts of clairvoyance and prophecy. I don’t. I have to muddle along with an M.A. from Oxford University, the experience of working through a couple of U.N. General Assemblies and a few decades spent trying to make sense of economics. Maybe that doesn’t qualify me to form an opinion, but it seems to me not unreasonable that it should.
Any number of superficially-plausible reasons have been put forward to justify trying to overturn the referendum result, but in the end only one thing matters: such a precedent, once set, cannot be unset.
And the alternatives to democracy aren’t very nice.