Thursday, 30 June 2016

ConservativeHome: Will too much democracy bring the United Kingdom to an end?

ConservativeHome: Will too much democracy bring the United Kingdom to an end?

by Garvan Walshe

"Lacking a codified constitution, and with a political class no longer versed in British constitutional history, we ended up with the wrong kind of referendum. The proper way to leave would have been to elect a pro-Brexit government that then put a deal it had negotiated with the EU to the people who would have had something concrete to vote on. Instead the very vagueness of what Brexit was to entail allowed the leave campaign to fight a highly successful culture war and marshalled a revolt of the tax-eaters against the tax-payers. My side were too timid, disorganised and boxed in by government policy to match them. It is no good for us to complain that the leave campaign lied: we knew that was how they would campaign, and failed to prepare for it. As Barack Obama used to say, “politics ain’t beanbag.”

Having spent the last 40 years campaigning to overturn the result of the last referendum on Europe, Brexiteers now insist that this one should, like the revelations of Mohammed, be final. They claimed that new generations who hadn’t voted in 1975 deserved a say; but it was the old, who had had a chance to vote then, who gave them victory. I don’t want a second referendum – one was bad enough – but if leavers are so confident they represent the settled will, and not just the fleeting appetite, of the British people, why not hold another? After all, Nigel Farage and Dan Hannan both suggested that if the result had been 52-48 the other way, a re-run might be required. If parliamentary sovereignty means that no parliament can bind its successor, then popular sovereignty has to mean that no referendum can bind the people forever."

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