Thursday, 25 April 2019

Beware those defending 'democracy'

The arguments put forward by the Brexiteers at the time of the 2016 referendum were far from honest much of the time, but they did, at least, try and present the case as one with some benefits attached.  That has largely gone by the board by now, and they are reduced to the simplistic argument about democracy.  Never mind what people thought they were voting for, never mind the false prospectus they were sold, never mind that new facts and information have come to light since then, never mind that people might just have changed their minds, never mind the results of the subsequent parliamentary elections – from their simple perspective, ‘democracy’ demands that a vote, once taken, must be implemented.  This is likely – nay, certain – to be at the centre of their campaigning for the European elections and for any second referendum.  It’s probably as good a tactic as any for them to use; they can no longer win the argument about Brexit itself, so they’ll try and win an entirely different argument about something else, i.e. the meaning of ‘democracy’.
It means, though, that they have to gloss over some of the nuances of what that word ‘democracy’ means.  Farage provided an example of that yesterday in a speech in Clacton.  During the speech, he told the good people of Clacton – or at least, the audience who turned up, many of whom seemed to be from elsewhere – “Here you are, one of the biggest leave towns in the country and yet you are represented by a remainer. Doesn’t that sum up everything that is wrong in the country today?”  Leaving aside the accuracy of his claim that the local MP is actually a ‘remainer’ (accuracy never having been his strongest suit, and such evidence as is available is, at best, mixed), the flaw in his argument should be obvious to anyone who is really interested in ‘democracy’ – the current MP was elected with 61.2% of the vote in 2017, and although UKIP won the seat in the 2014 by-election and held it in the 2015 General Election, their candidate in 2017 ended up in third place with 7.6% of the vote.  (Details available here.)
Arguing that having the MP that the electors chose by such an enormous majority sums up “everything that is wrong in the country today” is not the argument of any sort of lover of democracy.  The voters were given the choice of a successor UKIP candidate to the retiring member, and only 7.6% of them decided to vote for him.  Demanding that people should only be allowed to vote for a committed Brexiteer – because that’s the way the town voted in the referendum – is a negation of democracy, not an affirmation of it.  What the election of a ‘remainer’ in a ‘leave’ town shows (if that’s really what has happened here) is that there’s a lot more to this democracy lark than a single vote on a single issue on a single day.  The bigger danger to democracy is from those like Farage who claim there isn’t more to it than that.

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