Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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The cheated voters will agree to withdraw . . . their trust in politicians for ever


ANOTHER day, another twist in the Brexit saga. Rees-Mogg, Fabricant and other ERG members worry that Brexit might be cancelled if Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement isn’t voted through.

Some political commentators feel they should have thought about this earlier:

‘I do not know why some Brexiteers cannot see this. If it’s no deal or revoke, and May’s deal can’t get the numbers, MPs will vote to revoke Article 50. Diehards will then have years of fighting to look forward to. But they will have failed to get the UK out of the EU.’

Let’s just stop and think about what’s been said there. Iain Martin reveals something very sinister with this paragraph. If the deal doesn’t go through, there is no other way to express the people’s will. There will be no Brexit, and the referendum decision will not be carried out.

This isn’t some minor dispute over petrol prices or nursery top-up fees. This is a vote to secede from a major international organisation. This was the biggest vote in Britain’s history. Mr Martin seems to accept that this expression of democracy will be ignored. We have a choice between a bad deal and a potential cessation of democracy.

Instead of missing the wood for the trees, and fretting about the loss of the WA, maybe Mr Martin should consider how people will react when they feel they have been abandoned.

Many I know are not political. They’ll put football results on Facebook, and maybe say something about the (generally manual) work that they do for a living. Brexit has changed that. Over the past year I have seen them discuss parliamentary procedure, go over each vote in detail, discuss the markets, you name it. I have seen political engagement that would make Douglas Carswell jump for joy.

However, there has been one common thread to everything they say: ‘Politicians are all in it for themselves’. The more they see of Parliament, the more they hate it. Each vote confirms their suspicions of a political class that shies from democracy, shies from implementing the popular will.

When politicians and their well-heeled supporters go from reluctantly pushing through Brexit to talking up a second referendum to calling for Brexit to be cancelled, all my friends’ suspicions are validated and made stronger.

There are millions more out there with the same reservations about Westminster. If their one act of political engagement is cancelled, what do you think they will do?

I don’t think riots will happen – we are very slow to anger – and why get a criminal record? No, they will simply turn away, back to their old habits of ignoring the well-dressed men on telly. Remember when Blair got in on 30-something per cent of the vote? Imagine that happening, every election, with fewer and fewer people interested in propping up the banana-republic nonentities that stand outside No 10.

Mr Martin might want to ponder what will happen if a precedent is established with the failure of Brexit. If the politicos can ignore the people now, then why not again? What is to stop us sliding into oligarchy?

Be under no illusions – that is what we risk becoming. On the most important issues of state, the people could be increasingly ignored by a political class that now has a taste of unfettered defiance of votes they don’t like.

The Withdrawal Agreement no longer matters. We now have a true crisis of democracy. What does a man’s vote count for?


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Geoffrey Hicking
Geoffrey Hicking
Geoffrey Hicking is an academic and researcher.

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