Representative Democracy

Of course the Supreme Court was right to insist that Theresa May has to get the backing of Parliament before proceeding to trigger Article 50! I’m surprised that its decision wasn’t unanimous. I must read the three dissenters’ opinions – I assume they’re on the Internet. I don’t suppose they were the three traduced by the Daily Mail as ‘enemies of the people’ some time back? Trying to make amends? Probably not. Don’t these three know their English constitutional history? And don’t the Brexiteers? They’re always going on about ‘repatriating British laws’. This is one of the most basic of them.

The crucial point here that is that Britain is a Parliamentary democracy, not a plebiscitary one; and for good practical as well as historical reasons, which I outlined in a previous post: Parliament allows the democracy time for careful deliberation – a bill, three readings, a Committee stage, then on to the Lords, and the rest. The ‘people’s’ decision in this case – the referendum – was momentary, by contrast, and distorted by extraneous considerations, especially a wish to give the government a bloody nose over anything; as well as by the grossly misleading propaganda – or what we’re now being invited to call ‘alternative facts’ – on especially (though not exclusively) the Brexit side. (See So, by one single moment of collective unrest, or madness if you like, the whole character of our country is fundamentally altered: our wider freedoms curbed; one of our identities taken away from us; and our economy weakened and put more at the mercy of global markets. (So much for ‘taking back control’.) Isn’t that a decision that ought to be deliberated on? It’s as though a sick person were being asked to make a crucial life decision at the highest point of a fever. And on this occasion, unlike after the recent American Presidential election, there’s little chance of our coming back and reversing that decision after four years.

I imagine that’s why the leading Brexiteers are so passionate, even violent, in their insistence that Brexit go forward without further debate. They got this little moment of time, to the surprise of nearly all of them, when the public’s dissatisfaction with things more generally gave them the vote they wanted; delay any longer, or go through the normal constitutional procedures, and that moment will probably have passed. Personally, I would have thought that this was a good enough reason for Parliament to reject May’s upcoming bill if they want to. I would, if I were an MP. (And I’ll ask my MP to.) But of course the Mail and the Sun, speaking for ‘the people’, would have its guts for garters if it did.

Hurry up, Migrationsverket, and restore my European (via Swedish) citizenship to me before it’s too late.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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