This is a response to A C Grayling’s article: Referendums, Elections and Democracy. I am surprised it has not received a rebuttal or counter. For it suggests that members of parliament should only take heed of election results as to action rather than an advisory referendum. This view, played out, would undermine any sense of popular legitimacy parliament might claim when it deliberately ignores the freely expressed opinion of citizens. Who were promised by their elected government that whatever the result of the referendum, they would carry it out, in a leaflet sent to all households.
For those that stand for parliamentary sovereignty over the plebs, the best advice to be given is never agree to ask the people what they think if you do not trust them to come up with the right answer. If the decision is too complex, please shelter us simple folk from having to think. On any matter beyond the great unwashed, burn the constituency mail bag without opening. Appear to listen at meetings, nod and even tilt your head to one side sympathetatically. Just ensure you do not have a microphone on when you jump into your car and say what you really think.
Grayling and I would perhaps agree if you live in a parliamentary system, then let them make the decisions and be accountable to us at election time, having given some indication before they were voted into the Commons how they would act. Referendums bring up the notion that the public might actually have a say in the running of the country. The fools.
The EU countries that have had referendums on various treaties have shown that one way of responding to citizens whose answer you do not like, is to hold them again till they give the right answer. This might work for a professor telling a student to do their homework again. In a democracy of equal citizens the facade of equality is broken. The elite is created to serve the country. The guardians, with learning and advanced information, know what is best for you. Your job as a citizen is to empower them at an election to get on with it.
Such a view is why the far right have taken advantage of the democratic deficit in Europe. Using popular sentiment on immigration they are beginning to take power in Eastern Europe. In mainland Europe, we hold our breath to see if this could happen there too.
The main irony for me is Grayling hopes parliamentary democracy can keep populism in its place. Yet where fascism has ever won at the ballot box it is because of the contempt of what ordinary people might think by their betters. Democracy ends when you no longer trust citizens to act as citizens.
That is more dangerous than leaving the EU. But to misquote John Cleese in “The Life of Brian” the British public may have told us to fuck off – but how do we fuck off out of the EU? There, parliament has a moral duty to be involved.
Please, no more referenda. But an election over whether to accept the deal government has hammered out or an opposition manifesto to stay in EU would be parliamentary democracy at its best. I suspect A C Grayling and myself would be shoulder to shoulder then on the streets.