Brexit: Democracy to anti-democracy.


It’s an odd one, is democracy. It brings out all the hypocrites spectacularly quickly, and they rather like to scream the loudest. 

I voted for the United Kingdom to remain a part of the European Union. Naturally I was called a traitor, as I suspect a lot of Leavers were called racists. But not only did my side lose, the town that I live in voted to Leave. I lost. My side lost. And whilst I don’t particularly feel comfortable with 51.8% of the population stripping me of my European Citizenship and rights without my full consent, I wont be signing the petition calling for a second referendum like some in the remain camp are doing (and apparently Nigel Farage).

I wont be doing that, because if the result had been the other way around, I wouldn’t be calling for it, and nor do I expect most remain voters would have called for it. I wont be doing that, because I was fine with the rules of the referendum and made no complaint in the lead up. I wont be doing that, because I respect democracy. Something that a few Leave voters have already decided to abandon.

The dust had barely settled at the polling booths, before the Leave elites were taking to the air-waves to distance themselves from their leading arguments during the campaign. Hannan was much more subdued in his comments on immigration, despite Leave whipping up fear of immigration in the final days of the campaign, with hideous leaflets about Turkey, and posters with queues of brown people. Farage insisted there will not be £350m extra to pump into the NHS, despite a Leave voter just moments before explaining how she was excited for that extra money to be pumped in. They never claimed the NHS would have more spent on it, said the voices of the Leave campaign who have in the past expressed their delight at the idea of privatising the health service. They never implied it, they said. Except when they did, which was always, and except when they were confronted on it, and simply refused to answer, turning instead to empty substance-less sentiments like “make Britain great again!“. Except here:

NHS
As well as completely distancing themselves from manipulative claims that essentially won them a momentous vote, they’ve also appeared to distance themselves from the very democratic values that they’ve run an entire campaign on. Indeed, Boris insisted the result of the referendum was a victory for democracy! They – along with the Mail, Telegraph, and The Sun – had defeated the establishment. No longer would elected elites appoint unelected leaders to govern as the head of a large state. Boris Johnson. A man – a Royalist man, incidentally – likely to be appointed by a small group of Tory elites, to the role of head of the UK government, with a new agenda that apparently I shouldn’t be allowed to vote for or against. But wait!, say the Brexit hypocrites! That’s how our system works, so it’s absolutely fine to abandon the “let the people beat the elites!” mentality. In this instance, because it’s ‘just the way we do things around here’, it’s fine apparently. A new government is going to be distinctly more anti-EU than the current lot, a completely different ideological mentality. A Brexit government. Let’s be clear; no one voted for a Brexit government. This wasn’t on the ballot paper. No one voted for Boris to lead the country. No one voted for Farage to have a place in it (which he likely will). They will be appointed, not elected. But it’s our system, so they say it’s now fine to adopt a principle you fought against 24 hours prior. If I had run an entire campaign against the ‘establishment elites’ who are appointed by elected officials, and then I – an establishment elite – agree to be appointed by elected officials, and not the British people, I suspect I might feel like I’d completely abandoned an essential principle.

In the run up to the referendum, Nadine Dorries – from a Party that has forever referred to anyone implying that great wealth may not understand great poverty as indulging in the ‘politics of envy’ – went on a grand rant about a millionaire like David Beckham not understanding ordinary people. The hypocrisy at that point was at ‘breaking point’. But she isn’t the only one. The politicians positioning themselves as the great protectors of the British working class, against the elites, are the same politicians who vote to cut essential services, aren’t a fan of minimum wage, vote to cut taxes for the wealthiest at the expense of a safety net, & think the NHS should be abandoned. This is matched only by the utter uselessness of the current Labour leadership to wrestle those voters back.

And then there’s Toby Young. His article criticising the hyperbolic response by some remainers (the suggesting that Thursday was like waking up to find out the Nazis had won the war was a little bit bizarre, though if you search ‘nazis’ on Twitter, literally everything on the planet is compared to them at some point, including voting to remain) was going so well, until this:

“Over 33 million people have had their say about the future of these islands and those who woke up this morning to find things didn’t go their way must accept the result and work with the majority to do their best for the country.”

– I have several issues with this. In the space of about four hours, the UK had voted to leave the European Union with no plan in place for what comes next, the pound tumbled to 31 year lows, the Prime Minister resigned, Corbyn was under pressure to go, and the markets lost billions, but Toby Young would rather we all just moved on, despite a seismic shock.

The implication that a result of a democratic exercise – regardless of its instant ramifications – should not be scrutinised and we should all just accept it and move on, to be made by a political commentator is just bizarre. The arguments now being quickly abandoned, we should just get past it and move on. The dangerously divisive posters that imply sinister dark skinned men are about to swarm the country, we should just allow those who knew exactly what they were doing when they created it, to get away with no scrutiny and we should move on. People are genuinely scared for what has just happened, for the future, for their family’s future, and so those who voted for this do not get a free pass from criticism or political scrutiny. Indeed, I would argue that a very fundamental principle of democracy, is holding to account the winning side. Gove had dismissed the importance of experts, with their knowledge and reason, replacing it with pure belief… a very religious and irrational sentiment that I find unnerving to say the very least, because as the pound tumbled to its lowest level in 31 years (my entire life time), Young would rather we all didn’t scrutinise what led to it. The voices of belief over reason, and “I believe in Britain!” sentiments over practical implications win without question, when we imply their rhetoric, their narrative, should just go unquestioned.

Whilst Young criticised Remainers on social media, I will take the time to criticise Leavers on social media convinced that “It’s just my opinion” is a rhetorical shield that protects their opinion from criticism. It doesn’t. Your view is as open to debate, to mocking, to scrutiny, to contempt, as any other, just as Soviet Communism is, just as Islamism is, just as Nazism is. No view is to be protected. Including mine. And to scrutinise your view, is not at all similar to an all-out Saudi-style attack on your right to free expression. Express whatever you want, but do not expect complete silence. Whilst your right to a view must be respected and unmolested, whilst your absolute fundamental right to express your view in words and in art is to be absolutely defended and protected…. the substance of the view itself has no such right, and when it is aired in public, it opens itself up to scrutiny. That’s democracy. The very democracy you voted to protect. Deal with it, like I have to deal with my EU citizenship stripped from me.

So, the leading claims that they made and that arguably won them the vote, they now back away from, the democracy-over-elites narrative they pushed, they now adopt the opposite, and the fundamental democratic aspect of holding to account the victorious side, scrutinising their motives, actions, and ramifications they want you to put aside and forget…. for the good of this (my hand is on my heart) great country of ours. Democracy to anti-democracy.

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5 Responses to Brexit: Democracy to anti-democracy.

  1. kpspong says:

    Anyone might think that, for BoJo and co, this was all about a handful of small fish trying to shrink the pond.

  2. Peter Connolly says:

    The Brexiters stole my country with a pack of lies. I want my country back! That’s why Democracy demands a second referendum. As you say – Farage would be in full agreement having asked for the same within seconds of the polls closing when he thought he was on the losing side. Also, only 37% of the electorate voted “out”. Sitting back and watching our country, and all it has achieved, just go down the pan thanks to a few unbearable lightweights does not sit comfortably with our history – or our future.

  3. Stuart says:

    The Brexiters stole my country with lies. If this is true, then Cameron must be afraid that world war 3 is due to start ! Or was that a lie by the Remainers. The lies and distortions that were told in this campaign, are not different to the lies and distortions told in general elections. Just because you Remainers lost, it does not give you the right to demand a second referendum. If you feel so strongly about this, how come there have never been calls for a second general election, due to all those liesthat get told. No doubt selective amnesia and throwing your toys out of your Pram play a large part. Instead of whinging ! Try being a part of a new era for the British Isles and helping to rebuild the divisions in our country and in our society. So that we can all prosper. As Junker has already said, ” The EUs best days are already gone “

  4. Hi Stuart,
    I’ll reply to this in depth after the extra £350m a week has been pumped into the NHS.

  5. Saul Sorrell-Till says:

    Like you, I felt pretty queasy about the petition, but I signed it. Not in the expectation that there’s any chance of a second referendum(aside from considerations of fairness, I think the idea that a second referendum was even being considered would mean blood on the streets) but simply because it’s the only immediate way for half the country to express its dissatisfaction. The more signatures the louder the reminder to the other side that this was not a landslide; 48% of this country said no. We have not become a Brexit country overnight. The UK is more sharply divided than it’s ever been and if the gaggle of free-marketeers, reactionaries and opportunists who make up the Leave side think that the population will simply ‘move on'(as I’m sure the ever-gracious likes of Farage would’ve done if they’d narrowly missed out instead…) they’re being stratospherically complacent.

    The focus of the left, the centre-left, liberals and Remain centrists should be firmly on making sure that the 48% don’t have to continue living in what, right now, amounts to a one-party state. Jeremy Corbyn would make the first decent move of his dismal reign if he were to resign. The leader of the opposition cannot be a far-left dogmatist who openly scorns the idea of democratic compromise, a man with a masochistic Stalinist as campaign manager, a man who can legitimately be accused of having swung the vote for Brexit. Labour cannot continue to be guided by a worldview that sees the next ten years of Tory rule as a necessary price to pay so long as it precipitates some kind of utopian, left-wing uprising sometime in the distant future. Half the country is crying out for an effective, realistic counterbalance to Conservative Leave dominance. Beyond the establishment of an entirely bespoke, liberal centrist party I can see no hope beyond the resuscitation of the Labour party, and I can in turn see no hope of that unless Corbyn and his slow suicide of a leadership is removed.

    There’s an opportunity here, but it needs focus, determination and unity on the part of Remain politicians – fortunately, it could be argued that the latter group are significantly more united at this moment in time than the squabbling, fissiparous aggregate of cutthroats on the Leave side. In fact, the focus and single-mindedness of the Remainers and their message could be a serious advantage as the Leave side bicker over who’s to blame, why immigration won’t be going down as they promised; as socialist Leavers and laissez-faire capitalist Leavers stop pretending to have anything in common; as Daniel Hannan’s relatively liberal style of Euroscepticism bumps up against UKIP’s… I’m scrabbling in the dirt for good news I admit, but there are reasons for a certain low-level optimism. I cannot see the Leave side growing in popularity over the coming months, put it like that.

    Excellent, principled post as usual. Keep it up.

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