What do Remain-backers think would happen if they succeeded in ensuring Brexit is stopped? I find myself asking this question more and more. And the more I hear the Remainer establishment, the more obvious it becomes that either they are so detached from reality and from the mood of the public that they just cannot see where they are trying to take us, or that they understand completely what they are doing and are happy to do it.
Because, understand this, as Stewart Jackson MP said in this interview on ConservativesHome.com:
“…we either have a break-up of the political system in the UK or we get Brexit, it’s barking mad.”
He’s absolutely correct in this assessment and it is no exaggeration.
Wisdom (or emotional intelligence) is not given, it is gained through experience. It is why many societies are governed by elders. It is why the Romans didn’t allow citizens to take public office until they were 30. It is also why we have a House of Lords. If there is any learning from the reaction to the Brexit vote, it is that Remain supporters are generally ignorant about how democracy works proving that wisdom has little to do with education.
The collective wisdom of the demos (the voters) is the basis of all democracies. Our democracy was forged in pain and blood. After three bloody civil wars, three revolutions, one executed monarch, one fired, two major wars against foreign tyrants and many instances of heavy-handed reaction by the authorities resulting in the deaths of protestors (Peterloo, Hexham etc.) the British eventually settled on a constitutional monarchy where ‘The Crown’ governs through ministers who are appointed from elected MPs to form a government. Parliament makes laws and is meant to debate each Act of Parliament to discuss its merits or faults. We send MPs to Parliament from our constituencies. Political parties began as groups of MPs who were roughly in agreement on various issues. For example, Reform or our Union with Ireland, forming the Whig (broadly Liberal) and Tory (broadly Conservative) parties. Our MPs and therefore our government govern with our consent but only because we elect them, by majority vote, to represent us in Parliament. Our elections for Westminster MPs are decided by majority vote, not by Proportional Representation. It matters not a jot if the margin of majority is 10,000 votes or one vote, the decision is made by the fact that it is a majority.
Yes, we have a Parliamentary representative system of government. However, there are times and events where it is agreed in Parliament to put decisions which are of high consequence to the people directly, in the form of a referendum. The terms of the referendum are debated and set in Parliament so everyone understands what they are and what they are not voting for. So thoroughly are these issues debated that the very form the question takes is debated at length. The terms of the referendum are, like all Acts of Parliament, voted on my MPs.
As we have a representative parliamentary system and are not governed by referendum, to get around the parliamentary process referendum results are referred to as advisory. However, like so much of the unwritten British constitution, it is understood that Parliament has a duty to implement the decision. In the same way that the House of Lords cannot reject a Bill on its third reading. The House of Lords is unelected but sits with our approval, as long as they realise that their powers to challenge legislation drawn up by the elected House of Commons are limited precisely because they lack democratic mandate. The authority of the courts sits with The Crown but like everything else in our unwritten system, the tradition of majority rule through democratic vote, underpins not only the making of laws but our agreement to submit to the justice of The Crown.
This is broadly known as the ‘Societal Contract, or social contract’. That we, the voters, only summit to the rule of law because we realise that a society needs to be governed to ensure the safety and prosperity of the members of that society. But, we only grant power to the politicians we send to parliament, though the act of electing them by majority vote. In short, the very foundation of our society is the majority vote. Without the political mandate a majority gives a politician, that politician has no power.
Until very recently, this was accepted by politicians. There are numerous examples throughout history, where governments and Prime Ministers have fallen because they no longer enjoy a majority of support: Neville Chamberlain, Sir Robert Peel, Mrs Thatcher to name but a few. Indeed, as one of the many unwritten precedents in our system, it is incumbent for a Prime Minister to resign the moment they realise they no longer enjoy the majority support, either of their MPs, the House of Commons or the voters themselves.
Remainers will tell you that the political crisis is Brexit. In this they are wrong, the political crisis is far deeper than that, it is a threat to the very foundations of our democracy and therefore the stability, prosperity and safety of everyone in this country. It is deeply ironic that Remainers justify their objections to Brexit as being a threat to prosperity and peace when the very act of disregarding the precedent of majority rule is in fact, a far greater threat to this nation than any breakdown in trade relations with the EU.
What is so astonishing to an eager student of this country’s history is: how in God’s name did some of our politicians become so conceited that they think they can happily disregard the critical importance of a democratically arrived at decision? Indeed, there appears to be a complete ignorance with some of these politicians about where their political power comes from.
This is extraordinary as it has never happened in the past. It is also very dangerous. In trying to work out how and why some politicians (and I dare include Mrs May in this group) appear to see their loyalty as not being to the majority vote but to some other group of interests; I have come to the conclusion that it is a combination of the structures of the EU itself and how ‘EU Democracy’ is fundamentally different from ‘British/Anglo-American Democracy’ and the increasing issue around government through ministerial decree. Both of which have been identified, at various points throughout the last 30 years, as existential threats to democracy in this country.
Firstly, how does EU democracy differ from British democracy? Ask the majority of Remainers this question and you will quickly realise that many of them see the EU democratic system as entirely similar to that of the UK. The reality is that the EU system has its roots in the Napoleonic system. Here a highly educated class of unelected civil servants (The European Commission) do all the actual governing. They come up with the ideas, they draft and write the laws and once finished the European Parliament gets to hear the law and to either accept it or veto it. “Seems pretty democratic”, many will say. Well yes, it has its merits, but the main difference is that in British democracy it is not an unelected civil service who draft legislation, it is Parliament i.e. elected MPs acting as Ministers of State. The European Parliament MEPs may be elected (by proportional representation) but they have no power to either draft legislation or repeal legislation. They get to veto it, yes, and they get to approve appointments of unelected members of the Commission, but they have no power to remove European Commission members.
It is a fundamental principle of democracy in Britain that we have always, until recently, had the power to remove those who make laws over us from power. This is British ‘bottom up’ democracy. Under the European Union system of ‘top-down’ democracy, the voters have no ability to remove those who make laws over us.
Which system is better? Well, many Remainers appear to think that the European system is better because the voters are simply incapable of understanding the complexities of modern economies and trade treaties. We hear this ad nausea from Remainers and it makes us very angry indeed because, not only is it deeply patronising, but it presumes that the appointed ‘experts’ – the professional nomenklatura – are more capable of understanding the consequences of decisions than we are when the evidence suggests that this is simply not the case.
Again, I turn to history. When Churchill famously said “Democracy is the worst form of government… except for all the other forms of government” he was not referring to ‘European Democracy’ he was referring to our democracy. Because Churchill, who was a historian himself, understood that our democracy had been forged over ten centuries of conflict. His entire career was his fight for democracy against the tyrannies of Bolshevism and Fascism. It is no accident that Britain was able to avoid the catastrophic impact of revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We had had our civil wars and revolutions in the seventeenth century, the last hurrah for tyranny being the Jacobite revolution of 1745. Our slow but consistent reforming and extension of democracy over the centuries, through accident and experience rather than through design, had forged a system of government far more able to weather social movements that those of our European cousins. It is no random happenstance that Mosely’s BUF were laughed off the streets. Nor is it any wonder that Communism has consistently failed to sow its roots in our country.
In 1986 Mrs Thatcher’s then Press Secretary, Sir Bernard Ingham, said that the greatest threat to British democracy was government by decree. And it is the habit of governing by mistrial decree that is the second reason why our politicians are showing such conceit.
Since 1997 there has been a need for government to be seen to be ‘doing something’. In the first ten years of Labour, more legislation was introduced onto our statute books than there had been between 1945 and 1997. The years in the political wilderness for Labour were over and Tony Blair wasted no time in using his significant majority to drive through legislation.The problem was that since the 1970s increasing numbers of Acts of Parliament had been enacted through Ministerial Decree, rather than through Parliamentary Debate. By 1997, the volume of legislation was such that there was simply not enough Parliamentary time to debate and vote on every Act. Therefore, Acts of Parliament and Amendments were introduced without any debate at all, at the authority of the minister responsible, on the assumption that they would have a parliamentary majority if the Act was debated and voted on.
There are obvious problems in governing by decree. In fact, most of the abysmal bits of legislation we’ve seen over the last 30 years were invariably enacted by decree rather than by debate. It’s a dangerous way to govern because it essentially circumvents the democratic process. Rather than looking in detail at each Bill and debating them point-by-point, the whole is passed, usually with ‘consultation’ replacing any debate unless there is a significant objection. If you’re wondering how the half dozen individual pieces of legislation that make up our ‘Hate Speech’ laws came to be on our statute books, despite the obvious consequences for freedom of speech, then it is to the folly of government through ministerial decree that you must turn.
The truth is that we currently have a political class who have been completely corrupted by the power granted to them by the habit of governing by ministerial decree, and, because that is effectively how the EU governs, they don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s practical, it is quick, and it allows ‘good’ decisions to be made.The problem is that it is not democracy, at least, not in the way the British practice democracy.
Brexiteers are often accused of being awkward, stubborn, confrontational, of being suspicious of authority and challenging of those who presume to lead us. It frustrates our European friends utterly, in particular the logical and sensible Germans. It’s inefficient, it’s clumsy, it assumes that a fisherman or a welder has the same ability to make decisions on economic policy as a highly qualified Economist. But the point is, and it’s a point the Germans and others rarely admit to, is that the reason we never had a Hitler or a Bonaparte is because we are awkward, stubborn, aware of our rights, suspicious of authority and anyone who presumes to use it to rule over us. Yes, this may make us less efficient, but it has given us the stability and internal peace Britain has enjoyed since 1746.
The Brexit crisis is an expression of a political volcano that has been brewing for 30 years. Namely the slow drifting away of the decision-making process around legislation, from its democratic roots and the imposition of an alien method of government that leave voters impotent.
To any keen observer of our political history, the fact that the voters have eventually said ‘Enough!’ was inevitable. It was just a question of when, not if, this would happen.
Remainers who see the Brexit vote as nothing more than a desire to leave the European Union are sorely misinterpreting the significance of the result. Because they do not understand why most of us voted to leave the EU, or, they do understand but are chasing to deliberately ignore them. They think it is entirely appropriate to call for a re-run; to ‘stop this silliness’; to appoint a national government of ‘sensible MPs’.
They appear to have no comprehension of the consequences if they succeeded in overturning Brexit. They are happily chopping down the very tree that they are standing on in seeing to dismiss the referendum result. The vote was not just about leaving the EU. It was a warning shot that MPs and the Establishment have moved dangerously far away from the voters and we are calling them to heel. They have happily ignored those calls for decades so we are now using the whistle. If they do not respond, then we will force them to heel. Because if we do not, you would be looking at the break down of our entire political and legal system. No government would have any power because the societal contract to respect the majority vote would be irreparable. The result would be revolution, anarchy and eventually tyranny.
Democracies are flawed but they are the most stable system of government. This is why it is in democracies where innovation, creativity and economy thrives because freedom of thought and of action are essential for innovation and business. Democracies are also fragile because to live in one demands that the individual places the rule of government into the hands of the majority of voters, even if that individual personally disagrees with the views and policies of that majority and the individual does this for better or for worse because he or she understands that the consequence of not doing this is anarchy.
It is profoundly disturbing that Remainers, especially those who either sit in parliament or have held high office, are happy to risk the very obvious consequences of disregarding the referendum result.
Brexit is about the existential battle between the return of democracy to the UK versus the removal of democracy from the UK and the formal submission to unelected oligarchs who have been effectively ruling us, without any democratic mandate to do so, since 2000.
By CJ Strachan
Standing up for those without a voice in Britain