I liked democracy. Let’s bring it back.

I live in the United Kingdom, a parliamentary democracy. Let’s recap where we are right now:

  • We stand on the brink of the greatest constitutional change in living memory.
  • Leading the charge is a Prime Minister who has never won a general election.
  • In fact she has never even won a leadership election of her own party, having won by default when her opponent dropped out.
  • We are proceeding on the basis of a whitepaper that was thrown together literally overnight and than contains no meaningful analysis.
  • Debate has been squeezed into hours, compared with weeks for the much less important Maastricht treaty.
  • MPs for the devolved Scottish and Welsh assemblies have been allowed almost no time to speak (though Mark Harper took a full hour).
  • The supine opposition party has pledged, before even knowing which amendments if any are to be accepted, to vote for the bill.
  • Oh, and the policy that May is forcing through is one that she does not believe in, but has adopted from Nigel Farage –a man who has stood for Parliament seven times, and lost every time. But he gets to dictate policy.

This doesn’t feel like a democracy at all. It feels like a dictatorship, and one totally unprecendented in my lifetime.



10 responses to “I liked democracy. Let’s bring it back.

  1. The last time we had a prime minister who won an election, he did so with a proportion of the vote that was very much smaller than the number who voted for Brexit, but the latter is somehow less democratic?

    Maybe I sound weary of it all, but speaking as someone from the regions, it’s always seemed to me that democracy is about the South East saying “jump!” and everyone else saying “how high?” To suddenly show concern for the Scots and Welsh seems a little disingenuous.

    Though I do to some extent feel the concerns about the tyranny of the majority, also speaking as someone with a disability and the majority apparently saying that I should be persecuted for it because I’m probably a scrounger and a waste of life either way, rhetoric I’ve heard far too often. But nobody cares all that much about that. Which could lead me to draw some unflattering conclusions.

  2. Maybe you should have a referendum. A referendum is as democratic as you can get, right?

  3. Sigh. Usual disclaimer – voted Remain.

    1) You mean apart from when we entered the EU, which was indeed within living memory? Or when we moved from the Economic Area to being subject to EU law? Or when we joined the ICC or UN and became subject to international law in various degree?
    2) So what? Why is this ever brought up by functioning adults? You do realise that many of our previous prime ministers didn’t win elections initially? Nowhere in our constitution, the very thing you mentioned in point 1, is that a necessity. You’re perhaps yearning for a presidency – fabulous examples which might include Trump, Hollande, Putin and soon Le Pen. How much time did you dedicate to complaining about Gordon Brown’s ‘unelected’ status when he was in a similar position? And let’s not forget Winston Churchill when debating this particular meaningless point. We have a parliamentary democracy, not a presidential democracy. There is a clear distinction and process involved.
    3) Do you suddenly care about the mechanics of conservative party leadership elections? In most other races or competitions, the opposition dropping out rather counts as a victory. That said – not sure what this has to do with living or not living in a democracy.
    4) If the white paper contained ‘meangingful’ analysis, then we would live in a democracy? How do you denote that characteristic? Again – if it was the most meaningful analysis since the discovery of the double helix – in what way would this make the process more or less democratic? Are adult MPs, with fully functioning brains (well, to a degree) only able to vote if the bill itself is a masterpiece of analytical prose? The basis for the vote was pretty simple. Go with the referendum result, or against it.
    5) Disregarding all the debate that has occurred since the referendum – you’re talking about the debate to just trigger article 50 – not any of the surrounding debates that will occur for the actual policies or aims for withdrawal, nor the associated cabinet and select committee discussions, which will be and have been extensive. I would argue that no level of debate will ever be sufficient from your perspective, unless it changes the outcome of the referendum.
    6) Again – on *just* the triggering of article 50. And so what of it? Even Corbyn is correct in the basic observation that fighting the actual result of the referendum would be futile, or even anti-democratic. The much longer debates will concern the nature of withdrawal, not the fact of it.
    7) See above.
    8) So what? Is every minister obliged to believe whole-heartedly in every bill they propose, and every rule change they champion? Whether or not Nigel Farage wanted the policy is entirely irrelevant. What if we had a series of referenda, and then multiple elections on just this one issue, and had still come up with a result that Nigel Farage personally approved of – would they become invalid? Nigel Farrage and his personal preferences are not germane to the issue of democratic accountability.

    And then you finish with the notion that we live in a dictatorship. Which is laughable. No shades of grey? Your post suggests any result you disapprove strongly enough of is exactly the same as Hitler! Mike doesn’t like the referendum result? Hitler! Somebody somewhere thinks Trump might be okay? Hitler! I got a parking ticket but only my front wheels were touching the yellow lines?


    Chortle. Actually I’ve cheered up now, so thanks. :-)

  4. Michael P suggests:

    Maybe you should have a referendum. A referendum is as democratic as you can get, right?

    Yes. That is exactly what we should have.

  5. >> Maybe you should have a referendum. A referendum is as democratic as you can get, right?

    > Yes. That is exactly what we should have.

    You had your referendum on Brexit but that was not good enough. You started whining that you didn’t like the result… (“I do not accept the Brexit result” post from 6 months ago, remember it?)

    Could you *please* tell us what it actually is you wish for?! Do you even know yourself….?

  6. The rule, whoever they are, have decided it’s time to do what has to be done, and that means there’s no time for democracy or debating with a stubborn populace. I feel that Theresa May seems more like some puppet needed for getting these changes through, rather than the actual PM. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next few years, and who the UK will turn to now that they’ve left the EU. My hunch is that it’s already been decided that the U.S. will fill the needs created by leaving the EU.

  7. WeZzy, I don’t think there is any ambiguity about what I want. I want the same population that participated on the initial referendum, which was consistently lied to in the run-up about what it would mean, and which has now seen the initial results of that vote, to have laid out before it the specific terms on which we would leave, and to have the chance to vote on whether or not to do that.

    I can’t see how that is even controversial. It most certainly is not “undemocratic”. I can’t escape the notion that Leavers’ sudden affection for democracy both began and ended on 23 June 2016, and that their position is that we’ve had quite enough democracy now.

  8. Don,

    My hunch is that it’s already been decided that the U.S. will fill the needs created by leaving the EU.

    I know that is generally considered to be the plan — if we even deem it worthy of being described as such. But consider: 1, we already trade with the USA; 2, our non-inclusion in the EU’s treaties with the USA will make it more difficult and expensive to trade with them going forward; 3, expert opinion is that trade agreements tend to take about a decade to negotiate; 4, the current president of the USA is clearly and explicitly protectionist, and will only consider a treaty a win for the USA if it’s also a loss for the UK. You only need to look at what’s being being written in hard-headed periodicals like the FT and the Economist to see that virtually everyone who understands international politics and economics foresees that the USA cannot, does not want to, and will not save us.

  9. rjubber:

    Well, yes, why not — I’ll take your points in order.

    1. Yes, more important than any of those. Because those actions in aggregate brought us to where we are now, and the present action seeks to undo all of them at once.

    2 and 3. I am not arguing that May’s lack of general-election or ever Tory-leadership-election wins makes her an invalid Prime Minister; just that the strength of her mandate is nothing to write home about, and one would expect her to bear than in mind in deciding how to conduct herself.

    4. I tried to keep the post short so I didn’t say much about the white paper. The real issue here is that Labour voted for its contents the day before seeing it; then when they saw it, it turned out to contain (roughly) no actual information on what the proposed Brexit would entail or what its consequences would be. Not enough to base a serious debate on, that’s for sure.

    5. I am talking about parliamentary debate on the specific bill that will make this thing happen. It is hardly controversial to observe that the time allocated to it is in no way proportional to its complexity or importance.

    6 and 7. You say “The much longer debates will concern the nature of withdrawal” — but those debates will never happen, will they? Because once this bill is passed and Article 50 is activated, that’s game over. The opportunity to discuss this is now. And it’s being thrown away in order to meet a completely arbitrary timetable (which itself was never discussed outside Number 10).

    8. You ask “Is every minister obliged to believe whole-heartedly in every bill they propose?” I think a Prime Minister (not a regular minister) with integrity would not wholeheartedly pursue something that she did not believe in. And I especially believe that an opposition with integrity would not whole-heartedly throw itself become a Government policy that it did not believe in. My issue with Farage is probably tangential, you’re right. But it certainly burns that he has ended up dictating the foreign policy of both major parties.

    I do not finish with the notion that we live in a dictatorship; I say that what it happening right now feels like a dictatorship. Which is at least as valid a point to make as the motivation for this whole debacle as articulated in the white paper: “Parliament has been sovereign the entire time we’ve been in the EU but it hasn’t always felt like that”.

    I don’t understand why you have brought Hitler into this discussion.

    If you go back to the original post and read it carefully, you will see that it contains literally nothing about whether Brexit is a good thing or not. I don’t conceal that I think it’s stupid, but that was not the point of this post at all. My issues this time are purely procedural. I don’t think this is being done in the way a representative democracy should do things; I am confident that if we had a written constitition, this would be found unconstitutional.

    The fact that the unconstitutional thing being done is one that I disapprove of is really neither here nor there.

  10. Pingback: Why Trump matters to me: I love America | The Reinvigorated Programmer

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