Brexit and the delusion of democracy

If Brexit has been good for one thing it has been in showing how the forces of democracy work not in support of the will of the people, but against it, writes Christopher Goff.

It was with a certain amount of amusement that I listened to the words of Nigel Farage, the cheerful and ebullient leader of the Brexit Party, in the run-up to the 2019 elections to the European Parliament. You know, the elections we weren't even supposed to be taking part in. Speaking during a debate with the Liberal Democrats' leader Sir Vince Cable, Farage explained why he thought people should vote for his new party:-

"Democracy, it's quite simple really. We had a referendum, a full, free and fair referendum. We were told by the government whatever [the result] was, would be implemented. That couldn't be clearer. We then had a general election in which about 75% of people voted for Labour and Conservative parties, both of whom promised they would honour the referendum and deliver Brexit".

He continued:-

"We are a democratic country, our great tradition is that we've always been a great democratic country … I think this is a moment whether you're a Leaver or a Remainer to say 'promises must be kept' because if they're not, trust in the entire democratic system breaks down. So let's deliver Brexit. We have a new date now, the 31st of October, we absolutely must leave on that date if we are to be in the eyes of the rest of the world a credible, democratic nation that obeys the rule of law".

Democracy is like a force of divine providence to Farage. He sees democracy as being something that is on the side of the people, something that works with the people, and he holds democracy up as some kind of shining beacon which has throughout recent history served the citizens of this country so well. But what he doesn't quite realize is what we have in this country is something very far removed from the democratic ideal that Farage learnt about from books in the Dulwich College school library and sees through rose-tinted spectacles. If Nigel Farage hasn't quite noticed, the forces of democracy have been mobilized against Brexit, not in support of it.

Most people are either too naïve or not insightful enough to have ever noticed Britain's democratic deficit. Such people enter polling booths never quite understanding that the candidates or parties listed on ballot papers are only the ones which have over time become approved, while others have been deliberately squeezed out of the democratic process. These same people also believe the Conservative Party's 'conservatism', the Labour Party's 'socialism' and the Liberal Democrats' 'social democracy' to be genuinely contending ideologies, and that the box on the ballot paper in which they put their cross actually matters. Just as they also believe Britain's 'first past the post' electoral system to be one which provides an honest reflection of the will of the people when it is more accurately a fraudulent system invented by those that have power to ensure they retain that power.

If Britain's process of democracy isn't already a hollow one by the time someone enters a polling booth, any last hope of democratic representation evaporates as quickly as his or her ballot paper vanishes into the slot on the top of the ballot box. Okay, the votes are counted and the results published, but one wonders just why since it is more likely than not that the democratic process delivers us political leaders who consistently fail to represent the will of the people on a range of important matters. It is as if there exists a hidden agenda, where no matter the party allegiance of any particular elected politician, be that Conservative Party, Labour Party or Liberal Democrat, they choose instead to subscribe to a certain set of political sensibilities with a greater level of commitment than the conservatism, socialism or social democracy that they are supposed to uphold. And this because in the case of our system of democracy the values that elected politicians have in common are much greater than any of the things that divide them.

It is this prevailing set of political sensibilities, or over-arching philosophy, that democracy serves to protect: any new movement which emerges in opposition to this orthodoxy is described as 'extremist' and a 'threat to democracy', and is something that must be crushed because in the opinion of our political leaders such movements have 'no place in a democratic society'.

I would on one hand say it is virtually impossible to put the ordinary people of this country in a position of having less power over national affairs and less freedom to choose how to be governed than they have in this modern age. So then it came as a great surprise that David Cameron, in his capacity as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, allowed the holding of a national referendum on whether or not we should remain a member of the European Union. Something, I think, which our democratically elected politicians are never likely to forgive him for because in their eyes the ordinary folk of this country are too right-wing to be asked such important questions.

Did David Cameron's decision to allow ordinary people their say on our continued membership of the EU have the effect of vindicating the process of democracy? No, I don't think so. And this because how since the holding of the referendum the forces of democracy have been working incessantly in opposition to the will of the people, rather than in support of it. As you will no doubt have noticed, the forces of democracy have been agitating for the holding of a second referendum in an attempt to undo the result of the first one that is nothing short of pathetic – a move which in any other game would be called cheating.

Brexiteers aren't just in a battle to extricate Britain from its membership of the EU. They are in fact in a battle against something far bigger, and something which throughout recent history has proven to be the greatest barrier to the creation of a political system which works in favour of the will of the people of this coutry rather than in opposition to it: democracy. And the sooner that "trust in the entire democratic system breaks down", to borrow some of the words of Nigel Farage, the better.

Copyright © Christopher Goff
Tag: Brexit
Uploaded: 5 June, 2019.