January 25, 2017

Our democracy must pass the Brexit test

Our democracy must pass the Brexit test

A reversal of the Brexit result would be a dramatic assertion of elite dominance, and would signal to the British people that they lack a democratic avenue for effecting change, says Henry Hill.

One of the best summaries of the reaction to Brexit on the part of some Remain supporters comes from Professor Anand Menon – not a man with whom I always agree – from The UK in a Changing Europe:

“It is hard to avoid the feeling that the sense of bereavement that ran through Remainer reactions stemmed not from its anticipated impact, but from the fact that it was not their preferred outcome.  These, simply put, are not people who are used to losing. As Manchester Professor Rob Ford put it, in my second favourite Brexit quote of the year, Remainers are now simply experiencing what UKIP voters have had to put up with for years.”

That line – “not used to losing” – puts its finger precisely on the sense of outraged entitlement emanating from certain parts of the Remain coalition. It explains their dogged refusal to abandon the cause after the referendum, and illustrates how important it is that they do lose.

I wonder if I’m alone in feeling much more strongly that we ought to leave now we’ve voted to do so than I ever did about whether or not we voted to leave in the first place. I was a swing voter in the referendum, my once-ardent Europhilia washed out by the realisation that the EU seemed unlikely ever to embrace the sort of reforms I’d hoped for.

Once David Cameron had put our membership on the line and got so little, the options looked to me as either walk the walk, or validate Brussels’ dogmatism and complacency. Not necessarily an inspiring choice but not, when it came to it, a very difficult one.

Once the Leave vote was in, I found my residual concerns gradually giving way to excitement at the prospect of bringing control of so many areas of policy back to London – a sense of unfolding horizons brilliantly expressed by Andrew Marr in the New Statesman. There was also a sense of slightly giddy disbelief that something so obviously opposed by the powers that be had actually happened.

But of course, it hasn’t happened yet. And when the High Court first upheld Gina Miller’s case against the Government triggering Article 50 there was a real sense that Brexit might run aground against an unnavigable reef of sheer, elite disbelief and disapproval.

This sense of entitlement isn’t confined to the Brexit vote: it’s been very apparent in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s blindside victory in the United States, to pick just the most obvious example. If you’re a connoisseur, you should check out the Twitterati rending their shirts after Colombian voters rejected a peace deal their President had negotiated with the FARC guerrillas. Most of those objecting hadn’t had the slightest involvement with the Colombian conflict, and few had a clear idea about the terms of the ceasefire or why a bare majority of voters rejected them. But still the familiar cry went up: democracy had got it wrong. Again. Damn it, 2016.

That it is very difficult to stop some things happening once the powerful have decided on them, especially in the EU, was well-known before Brexit – see all the running jokes about Ireland voting again until they get it right. But last year marked the first time in recent history that opposition forces, albeit of rather different sorts, appear to have scored actual victories against the settled opinions of those in charge, and the prospect of the results getting overturned isn’t quite so funny.

Brexit highlighted the breadth of the gulf between the political world and much of the country, and engaged a huge number of normally indifferent or under-motivated voters. If the sole result of leaving the EU was to make our leaders and parties more responsive to that body of opinion which they’ve previously overlooked, it will have been a very good thing for our democracy.

On the other hand, a reversal of the result would be a dramatic assertion of elite dominance, and the dangers of that were well laid out by Professor Vernon Bogdanor, the constitutional expert, in a letter to the Times. It would alienate a huge number of voters and signal to them that they don’t have a reliable, democratic avenue for effecting change. That could well be the spur for the rise in this country of the more radical populism we see blossoming on the continent, but have been largely spared to date.

Brexit is about more than trade deals, or benefits, or even immigration. It is a test of whether British politics is a sport where, when everybody participates, the insiders can lose. If not, they’ll have nobody but themselves to blame if turnouts slump or radicalism rises. Nobody has much patience for rigged games.

5.00 avg. rating (99% score) - 17 votes
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Henry Hill
Henry Hill is a freelance journalist. He is assistant editor of ConservativeHome and also works as a communications officer for a Tory MP, as well as a commentator for BBC radio and television. He tweets at @hch_hill.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see https://mises.org/blog/goal-socialists-socialism-—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. https://mishtalk.com/2017/03/29/bad-brexit-deal-better-than-no-deal-mathematical-idiocy-odds-of-no-deal/ and https://www.worldheadlines.info/2017/03/after-brexit-9-reasons-to-be-bullish-on-great-britain/

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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