The democratic process is being undermined by an increasing unwillingness among the losing parties to accept the verdict of the ballot box, says Peter Bingle.

Democracy only works if all the participants in the process are prepared to accept their political opponents winning an election and implementing their policy agenda and doing so with grace, tolerance and even good humour. This is surely a given in Western democracies…

Yet there are disturbing signs that the defeated are no longer prepared to accept the verdict of the ballot box. In our own country, it seems that for many members of the liberal metropolitan establishment the Brexit result on 23rd June 2016 is not the final word on the matter. The will of the people is not sufficient for them. They know best…

And in the USA Donald Trump's decisive electoral college victory can just be dismissed by political opponents and challenged by the mob on the streets. What on earth is going on?

It is a truism that in a democracy the winners in any electoral contest should govern in a way that is respectful of minority views whilst delivering on their mandate. There can be the tyranny of the majority. Until recently the 'middle ground' was the favoured political terrain, although the public (at least for the moment) have grown tired and resentful of dull pragmatism. Yet the losers in any electoral contest also need to accept that somebody else has won or the result is violence and anarchy.

A topical example of the defeated not accepting the results of a democratic election is the Blairite faction of the Labour Party who continue to refuse to accept that their time is up. Corbyn may be an electoral loser but it is an indisputable fact that for the foreseeable future he has the backing of hundreds of thousands of individual party members. Sometimes the defeated must accept a new political reality no matter how difficult.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to:

Another is the SNP who accept the result of the EU referendum in Scotland but not the vote on independence which went against them.

There will always be a role for peaceful demonstrations in a democracy. What cannot be tolerated, however, is when the losers  attempt to mobilise their supporters on the streets to overturn the democratically elected government. Mob rule is dangerous. Mobs have no conscience.

Winners caring about the views of the losing party and defeated parties accepting the results of an election is all part of the democratic process. It only works, however, if there are rules which are accepted by all the participants in the process. This is where the problem lies. The democratic rule book has been torn up and thrown away.

In recent days the language used about the new US President, the First Lady and even his young son has gone way beyond what is acceptable. Unless senior figures within the Democratic Party call for a truce and a return to civilised politics a difficult situation may turn very ugly indeed. These are not good days for political establishments.

Likewise the tone and language used by those who lost the EU referendum vote needs to be tempered. The same applies to those supporters of Brexit who attacked senior members of the judiciary because they dared to do their job. It doesn't follow that a political disagreement requires either side to hurl political abuse at each other.

John Major may have been a pretty hopeless Prime Minister but in one respect he was exemplary. When he and his government were humiliated by Tony Blair in 1997 what was his response? He went and spent a day chillaxing at the cricket as a new political era commenced. When all the passion of an election campaign is spent and the people's decision is clear the victors must be humble in victory and the losers must be gracious in defeat. Otherwise democracy is buggered…

29 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy