This fascistic contempt for democracy is frightening – we don't run our country by opinion polls

Out of touch politicians are all expenses fiddling randy hypocrites. Well, maybe – but then that’s democracy, and it’s better than all the other systems

Sean O'Grady@_seanogrady
Tuesday 13 August 2019 11:12
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeats his Brexit plans: 'We are going to leave the EU on the 31 October'

The news that a bare majority of voters, in one opinion poll, want to see Brexit delivered "by all means possible”, including suspending parliament, proved only one thing – how precarious parliamentary democracy now is.

The respondents, as ever, were not offered any guidance as to what a no-deal Brexit might mean, though I admit there’s a lot of public discussion about that now. It’s also significant that when it was pointed out it might mean the end of the Union, and Scottish independence too, many changed their mind.

We don’t run the country on opinion polls. They are useful, of course, but the fallacy of populism and the current tyranny of the “17.4 million want this” argument are part of the same phenomenon: that you take one vote, referendum or poll on a matter, and that marks the end of any debate or deliberation. People who dissent from this view are called anti democratic, elitist or "enemies of the people".

But they are no such thing. This latest ComRes poll for The Telegraph does not, in itself, give anyone a mandate for a no-deal Brexit. Neither, as a matter of fact, did the narrow Leave majority back in 2016. Even if some people thought, and knew, it would mean leaving the European Union without a deal in place, that cannot have accounted for all Leave voters.

I know this because I was one of the slim majority of British people who did vote to Leave – and I certainly did not expect, nor did I desire, a no-deal Brexit.

So where does this leave us? Given that parliament is unable to take on the role it needs to, to decide things through the traditional representative deliberative methods that have served us well until now, then the question does need to be put to the people once again. A Final Say referendum does mean exactly that. If we're heading for no deal, then parliament and the people need to be given the vote on that. And if they vote for it, fine; it’s game over.

A “politicians versus the people” general election is a toxic idea. After all Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove are politicians, are they not? To borrow a phrase, you can’t choose which politicians you respect the legitimacy of.

Ridiculing and despising politicians is easy, and always has been. They’re "all in it for themselves", they're "out of touch", they're expenses fiddling randy hypocrites. Well, maybe – but then that’s democracy, and it’s better than all the other systems.

Denigrating the democratic political class is shadowing into a fascistic contempt for parliamentary democracy, as if all our lives could be delegated to a strong man plus the occasional opinion poll or plebiscite.

It’s authoritarian populism. And it's not the Brexit I voted for.

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