Some Brexiteers do not play the democratic game

Democracy, in a civilised society, has its rules. One of them is, if not the respect, at least the polite tolerance of others. Humility and caution are two additional requisites, I would suggest, for whoever wishes to express political opinions.

A number of Brexiters, learning of a growing desire among many to see another people’s vote take place are, like bad sports players, now sliding into disrespectful and even injurious behaviours. The Spectator for example, published a few days ago an article entitled ‘The People vs Brexit‘. Its author, Mr Rod Liddle, writing:

The People’s Vote monkeys now buttress their demands for another referendum by citing polls which suggest that opinion has shifted.

Mr Liddle continues:

Hell, they call us gullible. The infallibility of opinion polls! The polls on the eve of the referendum showed a clear majority in favour of Remain,  which was one of the things which made the outcome even more delicious. But these dupes still believe it all. How thick are they?

It will not have escaped the reader that Mr Liddle, while referencing a characterisation of leavers as ‘gullible’, ‘dupes’ and ‘thick’ in fact refers to the remainers, which added to a despising reference to our simian cousins, is properly injurious. That the editor of the Spectator not only allowed its publication but made it the very cover of the issue is not only regrettable but unworthy of a publication expressing conservative views, and often very well.

That some do not play the democratic game is now a marking European trend. Mr Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, is one such bad player, and for eight years a persistent offender of European rules who has built a system of governance that no longer resembles a democracy. Last week, the European Parliament addressed Mr Orban, before taking a vote for unprecedented sanctions against the Hungarian government. How MEP Sophie in’t Veld tackled Mr Orban head on may be seen here and is well worth watching:

 

Part of her argument included the following:

why do we [the EU] have to respect the rules and the Hungarian government does not have to?

Mr Orban aligns himself with Mr Salvini, Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, whose radical views and actions, particularly against immigrants, break not just European rules but also its fundamental values.

Mr Liddle states:

The malevolent and spiteful approach of the EU to the Brexit negotiations should convince still more people that we were absolutely right to leave this organisation.  So, too, should the EU’s bullying of Poland, Hungary, Austria and Italy.

Bullying? Ask the Hungarian people who bullies who? The Orban-Salvini north-south alliance is in fact to the student of history reminiscent of one we have seen in the past. No need to say which.

I am just back from Darmstadt in Germany. As I stood on the main square, I could not help but imagine the screams of the 11,000 people burned to death and 20,000 maimed by incendiary bombs and the firestorm technique on September 11th, 1944.

So, yes, in order for us to safeguard against such consequences in the future, let us play by the rules and aim for unity whichever direction we take. And let us understand that the first referendum is not a cup final where results cannot be overturned by referees. People and parliament can indeed overturn results if the context changes where an original decision was based on a misrepresentation of reality. Whatever the outcome of a new people’s vote, we will need to avoid behaving like disappointed supporters, or worse hooligans, but instead like true democrats.

* Christian de Vartavan is an eminent scholar and now CEO of a London blockchain consulting company.

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32 Comments

  • I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    It could only be a Frenchman that uses the British bombing of Nazi Germany, that was instrumental in freeing Europe from terror as his example of choice. Speaks volumes.

    I’m a euroscpetic, Leaver, Brexiteer, and over the years I have been a spectator to how the British body politic given too much power, will cynically just ride roughshod over the views of the electorate on matters EU.

    The Liberal Democrats have been front and centre to every dodgy scheme to deny the British public a voice on the EU since 1973, and since 2016 have shown that even the largest democratic instruction ever in British politics is not enough for them to stand down.

  • Bill le Breton 21st Sep '18 - 10:56am

    The following written apparently without any sense of irony, “That some do not play the democratic game is now a marking European trend.”

    This country is now a tinder box. Any steps have to be taken with extreme care.

    I have little time for Mrs May (even though I remember some of our Coalitionists speaking well of her at the time) however the treatment handed out to her yesterday was unacceptable. Macron showed himself a bully and Tusk – the President of the European Parliament demonstrated appalling conduct when offering May a tray of cakes, getting it photographed and then tweeting something to the effect of ‘no cherries’. I hope we would all condemn such behaviour.

  • John Barrett 21st Sep '18 - 11:08am

    If another vote takes place. whether it is called another referendum, or a peoples vote on the deal, or no deal. The party must make it clear what it would do after the result of any such vote.

    What do those who support another vote think the party’s position should be, if the result is either the same as last time, or is close, but in the opposite direction?

    Will it be to then offer another vote at a later date, after the consequences of remaining in the EU for another period of time become clearer, or will it be to ask for another vote to reverse the decision to leave after a period of time out of the EU?

    I suspect that calling for another vote is an easy thing to do just now, and it pretends to offer a solution to the current problem, but it actually solves nothing on its own.

    Making it clear exactly where we will stand, in all circumstances after that vote is essential if we are to regain the trust of the electorate, but this is not something I have heard from any contributor or party spokesmen and women so far.

    Unless it is made clear exactly what course of action the party will support after another vote, in each of the potential ways the result could go, then it is failing the electorate to simply call for another vote in the hope that it will go the “right” way.

    Democracy requires parties to accept the votes made by the electorate, even though they will continue to campaign to change the minds of those who might have voted the “wrong” way. May defeats at many elections for Liberal and Liberal Democrat candidates, at all levels, have made sure we are well aware of that.

    This happens to be our party’s stand north of the border regarding the electorate’s decision to remain ion the UK, despite having told people that only be remaining in the UK could the Scots be guaranteed to remain in the EU. We have strongly opposed any second vote on the issue.

    As I have said many times before on this site, both sides in both referendums were guilty of making false claims, which ones were the greater ‘porkies’ will only become clear in the decades to come.

  • Richard Underhill 21st Sep '18 - 11:19am

    On Question Time on BBC tv on 21/9/2018 David Dimbleby (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Dimbleby
    corrected one of the speakers by saying that the first referendum was in 1975.
    It is simpler and safer to refer to the 2016 referendum.
    In the Commons Sir Vince Cable had referred to the Swiss history of confirmatory referendums. Compared to the Swiss the UK is rather new to referendum politics. The question now is who will move a motion in the Commons to have a People’s Vote on the EU terms if the current government will not? An Opposition Supply Day?
    Opinions from the audience at Question Time showed a number of people updating their views from 2016. Worth a look, Question One.

  • John Barrett, with whom I very often disagree, is correct in his assessment of a ‘People’s Vote’. In the unlikely event of a further referendum, it seems to me to be the most blind optimism that the result will be a vote to remain in the EU. Unless the result is overwhelming – as in 1975 – then there will be never-ending calls for additional referendums at each and every twist and turn of the EU story.
    As I pointed out in the conference debate our party cannot guarantee that the franchise for a further referendum will be any different from last time with 16-17 years olds, ex-pats and EU citizens in the UK denied a vote, nor can they guarantee that the shenanigans that despoiled the 2016 event will be any better controlled than they were then.
    No-one has yet grasped that the most likely outcome of a ‘Peoples’ Vote’ is a leave majority and no-one has yet expounded a Lib Dem view of what the party would then do. I see little sign that remainers have learnt anything from their shambolic campaign in 2016 or that they would campaign differently in a ‘Peoples’ Vote’. If we are either to remain in the EU or rejoin at a later date then we have to convince the people of the benefits of the EU, not try to frighten them with the disbenefits of leaving.
    I think some of our leaders have begun to grasp the very real problems of convincing voters, but far too many think a ‘Peoples’ Vote’ will be a shoe-in for the remain cause.
    Referendums almost never answer the question they pose. A ‘Peoples’ Vote’ risks stymying the very cause we champion by ensuring we leave the EU on the worst possible terms. Recovering from that will be far far more difficult.

  • @jack Graham –“I’m a euroscpetic, Leaver, Brexiteer, and over the years I have been a spectator to how the British body politic given too much power, will cynically just ride roughshod over the views of the electorate on matters EU.”

    So how will leaving the EU address the issue of the “British body politic given too much power? What Brexiteers fail to see and understand the root of the UKs problems with the EU stem directly from the not fit for purpose Britich body politic; by leaving the EU we (the UK electorate) will have even less control over the excesses of the British body politic.

    As for the “Frenchman” using the British bombing of Germany, I took the reference to refer to the level of suffering and what it took to bring a previous transgressor of rules down. It wasn’t “anti-British” if anything it was an unstated acknowledgement of the role Britain played in Europe, a role that might be called upon again, as one thing is sure, we currently have no understanding of just how far events triggered by Brexit will go.

  • jack Graham 21st Sep ’18 – 10:50am…….I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
    The Liberal Democrats have been front and centre to every dodgy scheme to deny the British public a voice on the EU since 1973, and since 2016 have shown that even the largest democratic instruction ever in British politics is not enough for them to stand down……………………..

    I couldn’t disagree more. The ‘largest democratic decision ever’ (to use your words) was decided by a ‘whisker’ against the background of absolute lies and false promises that were the bedrock of the Leave campaign; so much for ‘dodgy schemes’

    I was/am a remainer but was against a referendum on the final deal; I thought such a decision to stay or leave (with the final terms, open and unambiguous) should be taken in parliament. However, it has become clear that May will not allow anything other than a ‘My way or the Highway’ decision (which looks like a ‘no deal’) with all that entails; a bizarre situation considering that even the staunch hard liners concede that such an exit will harm the UK economy in the short, medium and even long term .

    I now believe that a second referendum on the final terms WILL happen; not through any democratic desire but because it will turn out to be the only way to break the impasse that the negotiations will come to.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 1:08pm

    Dear Roland, thank you for clarifying what the ‘Frenchman’ meant…as it is exactly that. Dear Jack, thank you for commenting. I am again surprised to see a Brexiter read the LibDem Voice and be again the first to react. I did not realise it had such a wide circulation.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 1:18pm

    Dear John, yes for a second referendum or peoples’vote ‘Making it clear exactly where we will stand’. We are now divided and we must regain unity. A second vote will clarify and end the costly Brexit debate one way or another.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 1:25pm

    Dear Richard, a very good point and question ‘The question now is who will move a motion in the Commons to have a People’s Vote on the EU terms if the current government will not? ‘. This may happend and if so the LibDems will have to back up that person.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 1:31pm

    Dear Mick, you are right when you state: ‘If we are either to remain in the EU or rejoin at a later date then we have to convince the people of the benefits of the EU, not try to frighten them with the disbenefits of leaving’. This was a very big mistake of the remainers’ 2016 referendum campaign. It should not be repeated.

  • Jack Graham 21st Sep '18 - 1:40pm

    @Christian de Vartavan

    Christian,

    Didn’t you know that there are LibDem Brexiteers, some who post on here.

    So your comment on Darmstadt was a sort of back handed compliment to the RAF for killing and maiming 33000 Germans, but helping to save democracy. Well I never!

    I’m surprised since it was 11th September 1944 and you were only 1000km away, you couldn’t imagine the screams of the people of Warsaw as their city was raised to the ground around them, with 16,000 Polish underground fighters killed, and somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 innocent Warsaw civilians killed, mostly executed at the hands of the German Army in the name of a Greater Europe.

    I suppose you could have also imagined the screams of the people of Dresden, which seems to be the usual choice for political effect, if your visit had been in February.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 1:57pm

    Dear Jack, thank you again for your comment. We all know what the Nazis did and what had to be done to defeat them. Would you not agree that we do not want to see or do this again? Well in my opinion the European idea and unity has preserved us from such horrors and offered a period of peace seldom seen in European history.

  • Jack Graham 21st Sep '18 - 3:56pm

    Christian,

    I wouldn’t agree at all that the European idea has saved us from such horrors, it has been NATO, a collection of independent nations many from outside the EU, that has preserved the peace in Europe, and continues to do so. It is Nato that is defending the EU eastern borders, not the EU, and the UK will still be doing it even after we have left.

    In the only example of this type of post war horror happening on mainland Europe the EU was completely impotent. As always it took the armed might of NATO to enforce peace, after the UN also failed miserably to deal with the crimes against civilians, causing the massacre at Srebinicia after the UN Dutch troops ran away.

    On the substance and conclusion to your text:

    ” Whatever the outcome of a new people’s vote, we will need to avoid behaving like disappointed supporters, or worse hooligans, but instead like true democrats.”

    A Peoples Vote would be anti -democratic as we have not even carried out the instruction of the first Peoples Vote. You are disappointed supporters, and have spent the last two years showing your disappointment through trying to undermine a democratic decision. I wouldn’t call you hooligans more petulant.

    “True democrats”, not this side of accepting the democratic will of the electorate.

  • Christian
    So you believe that without the EU Germany is so innately war like it would try for WWIII.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 5:03pm

    Dear Glenn, I do not believe the Germans have any belliquous intention. But what of Russia or China? From there could indeed come a major conflict. A disunited Europe may play Mr Putin’s ambitions or geopolitical influence…at our expense.

  • Cristian
    I think that is baloney. I’m pretty sure US military dominance has more do with making war with China or Russia unthinkable than the EU. Also Russia and China are very different. One is still a communist country.

  • Christian de Vartavan 21st Sep '18 - 6:08pm

    Dear Glenn, are you aware that Russia and China have jointly made a few days ago the largest military manoeuvres seen in decades. Just shows that different ideologies are no obstacle to these super powers to ally themselves.

  • Glenn,
    Bless if you think China is communist I’m afraid your thirty or so years behind the times. A one party state certainly but communist only in name. Christian the Brexiteers tend to have an inflated opinion of the UK, we have many virtues but a super power we are not. The thing about the EU isn’t its military power, even the thought of an EU army gives Brexiteers the vapours, it is the economic power the combiened states have and they demonstrated that to some effect on poor old Tinkerbell. We are like the black knight hopelessly out matched but screaming “We’ll call it a draw” . We can scream be kind to Tinkerbell don’t be mean but we have no way of enforcing it other than to storm off in a huff. Tinks is rapidly turning into Violet Elizabeth Bott, she may scream and scream until she’s sick but they care not a jot.

  • China is run by the CPC (the Communist Party of China). This is the sole governing political party of The People’s Republic of China! I rest my case.
    I don’t have an inflated view of the UK. I simply have a lower one of the EU.

  • Christian
    What has that got to do with the US military dominance that is plainly the deciding factor. In terms of strength, the EU is a soft power reliant on the technology, spending and goodwill of the USA.

  • Frankie
    It is. The one party is the Communist Party of China.

  • Christian de Vartavan 22nd Sep '18 - 7:55am

    Dear Jack, there is no doubt that NATO has contributed to preserving peace in Europe and still does but it is the European idea which made only ten years after the war Germany become a member. As to a new people’s vote being undemocratic I think the opposite for the reasons I have explained in my previous article.

  • Christian de Vartavan 22nd Sep '18 - 8:02am

    Let us remember that the idea of the creation of an European Army was already Winston’s: ‘While the US military – as well as their German colleagues – preferred to see Germany join NATO, both former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a speech at Strasbourg and French Prime Minister René Pleven urged the creation of a European army’. https://www.nato.int/docu/review/2005/peace-building/Germany-accession-NATO/EN/index.htm

  • Peter Martin 22nd Sep '18 - 12:08pm

    @ Christian

    You say: ” I do not believe the Germans have any belliquous intention”

    I wouldn’t disagree. But if they don’t who does? If it there’s no-one, doesn’t it undermine the argument that we need an EU to keep the peace?

    That doesn’t mean we can’t have some sort of ‘Europe’. What was the problem with the old EEC? That worked well enough. I could support something like that which was essentially a trading alliance of independent countries. Each with their own Parliaments and, of course, sovereign currencies which I have been known to argue the importance of from time to time 🙂

    The move from a ‘Community’ to a ‘Union’ was essentially something foisted on the people of Europe by the ‘elite’. The ‘ever closer Union’ is their pet project. There’s been no popular clamour for it. If it all goes pear shaped then it will increase the chances of war rather than diminish them. One sign that it is all going wrong is the rise of the far right throughout the EU. I seem to remember they were the culprits in the last major conflagration.

    How do we get back to the old EEC? Is that at all possible?

  • Christian de Vartavan 22nd Sep '18 - 1:51pm

    Dear Peter, thank you for your very interesting comments. The European idea is not only about peace. It is about uniting several nations which have a common European heritage and history for a better life and a better future. Trade is one aspect but who would argue that happiness is only based on wealth? Open borders to benefit of imported goods surely helps. But open borders to see one’s relative or reach one’s house abroad equally, or simply to travel at will without visas or change each time currencies. Far more importantly, to know whether one is a Dutch in Italy or a Brit in Slovakia that above all the language obstackes, despite all the geographical distances, we are part of a common human family sharing values which have been painstakingly shaped over two millennia or more. These values are precious. They affect our laws and our lives. Yes often theses laws are not perfect, frustrating many of us to the point that we might wish to regain more control or simply outright slam the door. But laws are made by humans and can be improved. As for the passing of any bill the process is long and in between many of us suffer. Hence the necessity to push reforms at great pace. In the latter we have not done well enough and Brexit is a consequence of it. But this should not, in my opinion, be a cause to abandon the European idea and leave the European Union.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Sep '18 - 3:43pm

    @ Christian,

    ” It is about uniting several nations which have a common European heritage …”

    Yes, I agree that is what it about. But do the people of these nations want to be ‘united’ in the same way as the ‘elites’ do? Irish people don’t want to be united with the UK. They fought a war of independence. Catalans and Basques don’t want to be part of Spain.

    The Flemish and French people in Belgian are fiercely separate. So a degree of separation can be a good thing. Of course, not everyone feels this way. Some people do feel truly ‘European’, but I don’t believe there’s enough to make what is being attempted work properly. French people want to be French and Germans want to be German. That doesn’t mean they want to go to war again though.

    I don’t normally quote Milton Friedman but I do believe that he was quite right in this very prescient article written in 1997.

    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-euro–monetary-unity-to-political-disunity

  • Christian de Vartavan 22nd Sep '18 - 4:24pm

    Dear Peter, I think indeed that, as for a couple, a ‘degree of separation’ is a good thing :)! If not moreover because in diversity there is richness. This is the very principle of family life where each member retains his own character, history, possessions and destiny while being part of a whole. Mutual respect, fairness or mutual assistance are among the principles which make a family hold or dislocate. These fundamental principles may indifferently be applied to individual, national or supra-national level. Fail to be fair, for example, and a situation like Brexit may arise. But again success is often the result of successive failures and trials. The right balance for a fairer and more efficient European Union is clearly yet to be found, but in time it will be if there is the will for this to be.

  • @Jack Graham – “A Peoples Vote would be anti -democratic as we have not even carried out the instruction of the first Peoples Vote. “

    Err no, remember even though you (and many Brexiteers) may have convinced yourself of some other interpretation, the referendum was only advisory and the question contained the word “Should”, not “Must”, “Will”, “Shall” or some other similar word. Also remember our “sovereign” Parliament, regardless of the many disingenious statements spouted by the Conservative party, is not bound neither by the referendum or by the Conservative party, so if it decides on a second referendum or even to totally disregard the first referendum it can do so.

  • Jack Graham 22nd Sep '18 - 8:21pm

    @Roland

    Why have I to convince myself of anything, we voted to leave in 2016, and in less than 200 days we will be leaving.

    It is people like you trying to kid yourselves that you can stop Brexit, whilst running around like chickens with their heads cut off, looking for the next ‘cunning plan’, over 2 years gone and less than 200 days to go, and to date you have been about as effective as a chocolate poker. Granted plenty of you huff and puff to great length seemingly spending all your waking hours trying to come up with another ruse to no effect.

    Brexit is not going to be delayed, there will be no ‘Peoples Vote’ no matter how many pennies you throw into the wishing well. In the meantime, I’ll just metaphorically sit here, do absolutely nothing, enjoy a few pints in Wetherspoons and in a few months all will be well in the world.

  • Dear Jack, jumping to conclusions again I see, whether Brexit can or can not be stopped is another matter, I was explicitly referring to your “anti-democratic” point, where you very clearing implied that the result trumped democracy – I seem to remember a certain German politician deciding similarly that ‘democracy’ meant what he wanted…

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