The new revolutionaries threaten our constitution

Yesterday evening I gave an interview to BBC local radio about the High Court judgement. It emerged that the station had been receiving emails from listeners saying it was time to take to the streets to protest.

It would have been easy to dismiss the emails as hysteria from a few right wing extremists but this morning’s tabloids clearly show that the British constitution is under attack from much of the traditional right.

The Daily Mail never ceases, of course, to push the boundaries of the unacceptable, as it has consistently since the 1930s. Today’s headline has the three judges (wigged, of course, but that it how they like to be photographed) over the headline ‘Enemies of the People’.

The Sun attacks the plaintiff as part of a ‘loaded foreign elite’. The Telegraph, which can know better, has ‘The Judges versus the people’.

I won’t repeat the obvious points about the court case: suffice to say that it was about the rule of law and the sovereignty of Parliament, which the Leave camp pretended it wanted to restore during the referendum campaign.

The issue this morning is not so much where next with Brexit as where next with our Parliamentary democracy? I am always slightly reluctant to turn to the seventeenth century for guidance, but the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution were about just this: whether Parliament or the Crown has supremacy. This was settled broadly in favour of Parliament, with the rule of law being protected by an independent judiciary.

The novelty of referendums (sic) has arguably changed the constitution but not in ways that are fully worked through. Does a referendum make permanent law in a way that Parliament cannot? That is the basis for the devolution settlement for Scotland, which we all feel Parliament cannot abolish. But the 1975 referendum on membership of the EEC was regarded by some as timed out, thus justifying a further attempt this year.

More to the point, given the headlines, can a referendum overturn the rights of citizens, cause judges to be sacked (as demanded by a UKIP leadership contender) or remove the sovereignty of Parliament?

The traditional approach has been No to all of these. The new revolutionaries, by contrast, would contend the opposite and seem unconstrained in what they might do to enforce a new constitution, more akin to tyranny than democracy.

* Chris White is a member of the Liberal Democrat Voice Editorial Team, a Liberal Democrat Councillor from St Albans and Deputy Leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group.

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71 Comments

  • “The Sun attacks the plaintiff as part of a ‘loaded foreign elite”

    The Sun is owned by a member of the ‘loaded foreign elite’.

  • Good point David!

  • John Peters 4th Nov '16 - 8:43am

    Don’t worry. What could possibly go wrong if the population the Lib Dems dehumanise as racist and belittle as uneducated should gather on the streets.

  • Firstly “taking to the streets to protest” is a legitimate response so long as it is peaceful protest.

    However the problem is the way the judgment has been reported. David Davis stated that the ruling means there would have to be an act of Parliament, but this was not make clear in the reporting I watched on TV yesterday. I think it would have been possible for news reporters to have reported that the ruling had stated that triggering article 50 would change UK law and so the judges had ruled that according to UK law only an act of Parliament can change UK law hence their ruling.

    I think newspapers (and TV and radio news etc.) should be made to report the news accurately and not give opinion as news. And this should be made law.

  • Barry Snelson 4th Nov '16 - 8:50am

    I am afraid I have a different view, even though I remain a Remainer.
    Parliament clearly delegated the decision on membership of the EU to the people. It was in writing. It was a pledge. This has nothing to do with the courts and they should not have been brought in. Now even the judiciary are facing serious disrespect.

    I thought the better choice was to remain others felt leaving was preferable.
    So far, so good.

    Our parliamentarians should have promptly honoured that pledge and then after, and not before, taking that crucial step debated the subsequent moves to their hearts’ content.
    We now have one side calling the other racists and stupid bigots. The other responds with charges of elitist and traitors.
    This has to be stopped by serious and responsible politicians if there are any left.
    This could end in serious civil disorder and is getting badly out of hand.

    I don’t like the referendum result any more than you but it was a clear decision and the continuing guerilla war to thwart and confound it is opening a truly horrible Pandora’s box.

  • Laurence Cox 4th Nov '16 - 8:53am

    The referendum is Athenian democracy in action (all citizens voted). When we see the results of this form of democracy, as in the trial and forced suicide of Socrates simply for making prominent Athenians look foolish, we can understand why Plato was so sure that democracy would in time degenerate into the rule of the mob. If the referendum and subsequent events have proved anything, it is that our system of representative democracy is still better than the alternatives.

  • Haven’t there been street protests and almost Daily calls from Remain to ignore the result?

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Nov '16 - 9:16am

    If individuals wish to involve themselves in peaceful street protest that is their right.

    There will be an appeal of course, but one cannot but be struck by the irony that many of those who might do so, voted Brexit because they wanted a return to the supremacy of British Laws.

  • And one cannot help be amused by those who champion the legal supremacy of the EU now claiming to be great parliamentarians.

  • John Peters 4th Nov '16 - 9:27am

    @Simon Shaw

    Have I got it wrong? Did I misread all the comments and articles on this and similar sites which characterize leave voters as racist and uneducated?

  • I don’t think there will be many protests. Leave voters tend to be older, less prone to grandstanding, less easily lead by professional organised protest groups and less into making public exhibitions of themselves than youngsters. I should imagine there will be lot quiet fuming and letters to MPs

  • John Peters

    “Did I misread all the comments and articles on this and similar sites which characterize leave voters as racist and uneducated?”

    That’s pretty much how I read it John and I voted remain.

  • Roger Billins 4th Nov '16 - 9:51am

    Barry, the point is that the majority of the people voted for Brexit but had no clue how that would happen-single market, customs union, the Norwegian model etc because none of the Brexit politicians had a clue either and are still bitterly divided as to what they want. It is for parliament to tell the Government what it should go for and the courts have so ruled. The decision is an important blow for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law-there is a real danger of mob rule and government diktat.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 4th Nov '16 - 9:51am

    It could be argued that Parliament has already voted to trigger article 50. Parliament voted to hold a referendum, and to implement the decision of the public, whatever that decision might be. By doing so, they appeared to consent to the triggering of article 50 in the event of a Leave vote

  • Glenn

    “I don’t think there will be many protests.”

    I think it depends if it’s delayed or not. If this time next year Article 50 still hasn’t been submitted and it’s bouncing around the Lords you will see a great deal of frustration.

  • Roger Billins

    “and are still bitterly divided as to what they want”

    Remainers appear very divided, but the leavers seem to be rock solid. They want to leave the EU and if that means leaving the single market that’s fine by them.

  • Reading the ‘Mail’ headline reminded me of Jones, Aaronson and Rutherford in Orwell’s 1984….especially as some of the comments demanded the judges be dismissed and even executed

  • Malc,
    I agree there is and will be a great deal of frustration, but the fact is Leave are mostly sensible older people who will just protest at the ballot box. This article tries to make it seem like Leave is a hotbed of revolution, but really if anything it’s a counter revolution against fairly recent changes to Britain. The EU is only 23 years old, most of the freedom of movement stuff only goes back to 2003 and the Lisbon Treaty didn’t even come into force until 2009, being the last dismal act of the dismal Gordon Brown. This is what amazes about Remain. They talk up all the EU stuff as if its been in place forever and has been a rip-snorting whirlwind of success. When really it’s all very recent and has been a dreadful failure almost from day one.

  • @ Glenn ” And one cannot help be amused by those who champion the legal supremacy of the EU now claiming to be great parliamentarians”.

    And I’m always amused by your comments except when it comes to having to pay more for my petrol and heating oil now and expect inflation to rise by up to 4% next year.

    Please don’t bother to reply – go and find something else to amuse yourself with.

  • Mick Taylor 4th Nov '16 - 10:46am

    @glen. The EU has only ever had competency in a few areas, most particularly trade and the UK Parliament has been supreme in over 80% of what it does. Wherever EU law has taken precedence it has been because all the member countries agreed to that particular treaty. You appear to have swallowed hook,line and sinker the falsehood that the EU could ride roughshod over any and all aspects of the work of the UK Parliament, otherwise you would not make such fatuous comments. I can agree to give the EU power over certain areas of social policy – like the working time directive, over single market rules, over some aspects of environmental policy and at the same time expect it to butt out of education, social services, defence, housing and a whole raft of policy areas where it has no remit and never has had.
    So there is no contradiction whatsoever in being pro EU and pro Parliamentary Democracy and the right wing media who are now seeking to undermine the very Parliamentary Democracy they claimed to support, either – to be charitable – because they don’t know anything about the British constitution and how it works – or most probably because they refuse to let anything as trivial as the constitution get in the way of what they want. Either way, whether one is a retainer or a leaver, one should be prepared to let our very British, largely unwritten, constitution work itself through and then accept the result. This isn’t in any event about Brexit itself, rather the way the government is going about triggering Article 50. It won’t stop Article 50 being triggered – mores the pity – it will simply ensure it’s done constitutionally.

  • Glen,

    A large number of leavers I know don’t vote in elections and take it as a sign of stupidity if you do “They always get in” being their battle cry. I doubt they’ll riot on the streets but vote unlikely.

  • “The novelty of referendums (sic) has arguably changed the constitution but not in ways that are fully worked through.”

    The value of referendums is that they are the best non-violent way of resolving an issue, just so long as everybody abides by the result. The alternative to direct democracy and referenda, always starts in a similar way… :

    ~ A group of self satisfied elite citizens ignore, often with derision, the plight of another group of disenfranchised citizens, and even rub salt in the wound with a ‘let the knuckle draggers eat cake’ attitude, and then,.. through the haze and daze, of their faux moral outrage,.. find themselves faced with flying rocks,.. spears,.., pitchforks,.. brickbats… and Kalashnikovs.
    I’m shocked I tell you,.. Edvard Munch level shocked. I mean,.. It’s not like we have 3000 years of human history to give us a clue to how such events always pan out.?

    I think abiding by a referendum result, is a much saner political option than dodging a brickbat,….. not least because it leaves a lot less bruises.?

    ——–
    The real shock of the day for me, is that some folk didn’t get the memo,..and are still using *heating oil*.?
    Seems that COP 21 hasn’t filtered through to everybody just yet,.. and I’ll bet it’s the same ‘carbon frugal folk’ who have booked a flight to Marrakech, and a fully air conditioned 5* hotel, to celebrate COP 22.?
    You really couldn’t make it up.

  • Barry Snelson

    “Parliament clearly delegated the decision on membership of the EU to the people. It was in writing. It was a pledge. This has nothing to do with the courts and they should not have been brought in. Now even the judiciary are facing serious disrespect.”

    Nope, the legislation bringing in the referendum was clear that it was advisory and was voted for by members of the current cabinet. If they didn’t understand what they were voting for they shouldn’t be in government.

    The process of activating A50 involves an act of parliament, so the one of the three members of the cabinet responsible for Brexit (or the PM, who is supposed to have it as her priority) should get on with drafting the bill and take it to parliament, wailing that they have to write a bill and take it through the normal processes suggests that they are unfit to be MPs.

    If I win the lottery tonight (or any other time), I would (presumably) have to call a claims line, supply my details, show my ticket to the organisers, provide my bank details for the money to be transferred and probably some other stuff. If I won and then went around complaining to everyone that the money wasn’t in my bank account people would have no sympathy, I would have to do the basic administrative roles of claiming the money. The “outers” have been dreaming of this for years, if they can’t be bothered to do the basic leg work to turn the result in to what they say they wanted then they should resign and let someone else do they job they are to incompetent to perform.

    The press should stop wailing about this judgement (including apparently the sexuality of one Judge in earlier editions), and start to ask why three government departments are incapable of drafting one bill?

  • Well john Peters – we are still waiting. Provide the evidence or admit an error or apologise

  • David Evershed 4th Nov '16 - 12:02pm

    We should await the decision of the Supreme Court who may need to seek guidance from the European Court of Justice.

  • Patricia Smith 4th Nov '16 - 12:46pm

    Mick Taylor’s summation of the present situation is spot on. I am 72 and voted remain as did my husband. I spoke to a lot of people in the run up to the vote and some did have what can only be described as racists views. Others were worried about the thousands of Turks that they were told would be arriving on our shores. Most, however, weren’t sure whether to vote remain or leave because they didn’t understand all the issues; in particular the economic ones and said that no one was explaining it to them. These weren’t uneducated people. Economics is a complex subject as is other issues regarding the EU. To say that that average person in the street didn’t understand all the issues is not to imply that they are uneducated. I am a regular reader of this site and I have never seen anything written that ‘demonizes’ the leave voters as uneducated and racists.

  • Simon Shaw
    I think you will find John Peters is right here. It tends to be by implied as a general statement of the motivations of the Leave vote, not targeted at legitimate racist acts (or even specific acts of particular politicians).
    I would look at the impression certain people give:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/are-you-prepared-to-take-the-risk-of-leaving-the-eu-50872.html
    “[…] Have you thought about the consequences of your vote, not just on you or your own prejudices […]” after reference to Enoch Powell etc.
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/bbc-call-it-for-leave-51059.html
    There are probably better examples but these were top in a google search.
    If you don’t think people on here are quick to assume the worse about others:
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/how-to-address-concerns-about-immigration-52126.html#comments
    In response to my suggestion (11th Oct ’16 – 4:38pm) that we should avoid labelling people racists and engage with them:
    “[…] Less judgement of people who disagree with us would go a long way to helping ensure there are less and less of them over time.”
    Followed by expats (11th Oct ’16 – 5:09pm) Holly Matthies (11th Oct ’16 – 5:10pm) insinuate that I am Racist and despite repeated opportunities (11th Oct ’16 – 10:49pm and 13th Oct ’16 – 7:20am) to correct or clarify, these were not taken.
    As I expressed in that thread (before giving up), if a pro-immigration LibDem Remain voter is called a racist for suggesting that, describing those we disagree with as such is counterproductive the LibDems have a serious problem.

  • david
    “Well john Peters – we are still waiting. Provide the evidence or admit an error or apologise”
    This is the internet. People dip in and out as and when they have time, expecting a response in just under three hours is a bit much.

  • malc

    “If this time next year Article 50 still hasn’t been submitted and it’s bouncing around the Lords you will see a great deal of frustration.”

    If anyone is upset by any delay the only people to blame is the Government who should have drafted legislation and got on with it but instead spent time scrambling around trying to challenge the obvious legal approach in court.

    Any Leaver should be demanding that the ministers responsible come and explain themselves for having made such a pigs ear of it.

  • paul barker 4th Nov '16 - 4:18pm

    The crucial point is that The UK is a Parliamentary Democracy, we normally only use Referenda when The Governing Party wants to chicken out of making a decision itself because it is split. That describes both 1975 & 2016.
    Countries that use Referenda as a normal part of the Democratic Process usually have all sorts of safeguards attached, The Leave Vote had none.
    Our Country is split down the middle & the only place where the issues can be properly discussed is in our Elected Parliaments. They are far from perfect but they are all we have.

  • Chris White says on the other threat that he didn’t think it could get more complicated.

    Not at all Chris, it can still get a lot more complicated.

    The Welsh Assembly Counsel General has announced that it is intervening in the Article 50 appeal to ask the court to look at Sewell convention issues and the implications for the Welsh Assembly. Remember, invoking article 50 has implications in devolved areas.
    http://gov.wales/newsroom/firstminister/2016/161104supremecourt/?lang=en

    The Scottish Government is known to be considering its own intervention.

    In that context there is a rather curious reference in paragraph 19 of yesterday’s full judgement… “Although this court has only jurisdiction to apply the law of England and Wales, we note that no-one in these proceedings has suggested that such parts of constitutional law in Scotland and Northern Ireland in relation to the interaction between statute and the Crown’s prerogative powers as are relevant to determine the outcome in this case are any different from the law in England and Wales on this topic.”

    This appears to be suggesting that the judges are willing to entertain the possibility that constitutional law in Scotland could be different to that of England and Wales it is just that no one has suggested the idea in these proceedings so far. Remember that although some of the battles took place on Scottish and Irish soil, the events of the English civil wars of 1642 and 1688 took place before either act of union. Scotland had no doctrine of divine right of kings. The kings of Scotland and their successors reign by contract with the sovereign Scottish people. The Lord President of the Court of Session ruled in 1953 that, “the principle of unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle and has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law”. What, in the present situation are the constitutional implications of that?

    Can open. Worms everywhere.

  • Simon Shaw
    I think perhaps John Peters expression of it is a little too strong but not that far off.
    I would point out that that paragraph come before one when leave voters are asked about their prejudice, in that context a leave reader could interpret that as an indirect accusation (a direct wouldn’t be expected to stay up). I don’t know if that was the intention or not, not knowing the author. All this comes in . It is interesting how many claims of “racist” don’t actually choose a specific target (like the politician who said it or presented the poster etc.) which could be carelessness but is likely to be interpreted as just a more general comment on Leave voters.
    On “uneducated” In some ways I may even be an example. I obviously regularly argue against calling people racist (or a number of other thought terminating phrases), and don’t think I have used the phrase “uneducated.” I have certainly stated a significant number of leave voters were misinformed or hold misconceptions about the EU/immigration you put that in a thread with the undirected accusations of racism and it becomes very hostile.
    As you would expect, I don’t have a problem with people saying anyone else’s position is wrong due to bad information, misunderstanding of context etc. but have serious issue with suggestions about people’s motivations (like calling people racist, xenophobic, [or in one bizarre case I was accused of being your sock puppet?] etc.). A number of remain voters on here get the impression of the LibDems accusing Leave voters (or a more than insignificant portion) of having bad motivations.

  • Ian Hurdley 5th Nov '16 - 8:10am

    The main lesson to be learned is the danger of using referenda. The judgement restated the constitutional position that because Parliament is sovereign, no referendum can be binding unless Parliament explicitly declares it so (which Parliament didn’t do). Parliament’s responsibility is to scrutinize, propose amendments to, and only when satisfied, ratify legislative proposals put forward by the government of the day, as drafted by Whitehall. The electorate on the other hand is under no obligation to scrutinise what is proposed, nor to put forward amendments, but simply to vote whichever way they feel inclined to do on the day.
    So now we have a situation where ‘the people’, egged on by the right wing media are convinced that the matter is now decided. Worse, neither Tim Farron nor Jeremy Corbyn are prepared to challenge this belief, instead muttering that they will ‘respect the referendum result’. The constitutional duty of Parliament, however remains what it always is; to scrutinise the results of the referendum in all their complexity, to scrutinise also all other relevant considerations, to call for such amendments as appear necessary, and only when satisfied that what is proposed is in the best interests of the United Kingdom, to enact the necessary legislation.
    If the result of Parliament’s deliberations is to conclude that it would be right to leave the EU, they pass the necessary act; if its conclusion is that we should remain, then they refuse to ratify the Government’s proposal.
    That is the Parliamentary democracy people wanted to see restored to Westminster. If that process is followed, then irrespective of how I voted in the referendum, I will respect and accept the will of Parliament.

  • Ian Hurdley
    I couldn’t agree more. I would add that I think one issue for the electorate to consider apart from voting “whichever way the feel on the day”, is that you should consider an idea (or a party) in the round, and you should consider what effects your decision may have on others. There seems to be a feeling around that all the advice given by those from other countries and international organisations was given in their own interest and therefore against “ours” as Britons. Only two prominent international players advised us that leaving the EU was the best option – Putin / Russia, and Donald Trump!

    We in Britain also have a responsibility to look beyond our shores to actions that will assist in moving to a better world, which is also in our self-interest in the medium term too – I fail to see how cutting ourselves off from a major political player, the EU, will be helpful in that respect.

    As to John Peters’s complaint, it is not good to be patronising to others, but good politicians at any level DO help with political education. Most of us are asked for advice by others within the electorate when people know they don’t fully understand a situation or possible implications. When someone points out that such and such has not been considered in an argument it should not be considered “calling somebody stupid”. The way it is done of course is key. As for calling people r*cist, it needs to be called out where it happens – public discourse is on a slippery slope at present. This is not a matter of protecting feelings – this has led to and will lead to abuse and worse if not curbed.

  • Stevan Rose 5th Nov '16 - 10:20am

    I was surprised the Government thought they could effectively repeal primary legislation via Royal Prerogative. Less surprised by the High Court decision. Shocked at the media response that judges should be labeled traitors for stating the law that Parliament has to trigger Article 50. Astonished that the Mail should use “openly gay” as part of its attack.

    Parliamentarians have an obligation to ensure we leave the EU per the referendum result but not to agree to a form of hard Brexit that does not have a mandate. Plan B, soft Brexit, probably has 60%+ support of all referendum voters. That is what this party should be fighting for instead of being distracted by unrealstic remain objectives.

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 10:21am

    Malc
    If Leavers are so united why has one of them just resigned from Parliament over the direction Leave is taking?? There is an appearance of unity amongst the UKIP supporting Press and no doubt half the Leave voters agree with that, but the views of the relatively undecided on both sides of the debate are not getting an airing..

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 10:36am

    On racists and the uneducated:

    I do not believe that most Leavers are racist or that expressing doubts about immigration is racist. However some of the campaigning by UKIP and on social media was racist, and significant numbers of non-British EU residents of this country have experienced racist comments since the referendum. If I was a Leaver having such people on my side would make me uncomfortable.
    On education, the votes of uneducated people in a democracy are worth exactly the same as educated people, and society and government have to act in the interests of all citizens. It is a fact though that life chances and prosperity in the modern world correlate with education, so the uneducated typically have harder lives and feel resentful to the educated class who pay them little or no attention. This was reflected in the referendum vote where it is a well-established fact that a majority of university – educated people voted Remain and vice versa..

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 10:48am

    I think where the Remain campaign really failed was in not taking a positive message about the EU out into less educated and more disadvantaged communities. Lib Dems and Labour were both guilty of this. I knocked up on referendum day in Leeds because there was no Remain operation in Kirklees where I live. I knocked up in student and young professional areas where every other house had a Remain poster. But I was with Labour Party workers for Yvette Cooper who had given up campaigning in Pontefract because of the poor reception they got on the doorstep… if Labour had given a stronger lead in their core areas the vote might have been different, but it is human nature to preach to the converted and I do not blame their activists for that…

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 10:57am

    Finally, it would be a big mistake for parliament having got the powers over article 50 that they should have, then vote to stop Brexit. Seeking to influence the direction of Brexit is perfectly legitimate however. And I really fail to see how calling for another referendum when the exit terms are known can be classified as “undemocratic”. Such a referendum could be made binding, unlike the last one… the worst that can be levelled at our policy is that it may be impractical, although I suspect the EU would make room for it somehow…

  • Ian Hurdley 5th Nov '16 - 11:18am

    @Andrew McCaig
    I f Parliament carries out its constitutional role, then its decision as to whether Brexit should be triggered or not, or in what form is the legitimate, democratic decision in a parliamentary democracy. The mistake is to act on the view that an advisory referendum must somehow be morally binding on Parliament; the judges rejected the idea that the ‘will of the people’ can frustrate the ‘will of Parliament’. To indulge in sexist language, what we need now is for MPs to have the balls to do the job we elected them to do and which we pay them to do. Full scrutinity, full debate and then a free vote in both Houses, since this is an issue which transcends party affiliation. If that happens then I may not like what they decide, but I accept the sovereign authority of parliament and bow to its judgement.

  • ALASTAIR Forsyth 5th Nov '16 - 11:35am

    I would like to draw attention to Lord Salisbury and the case of Tokelau
    Lord Salisbury said I am against democracy if it means 7 men telling 6 men what to do. For 7 and 6 read 52 and 48%.
    Tokelau is a tiny state in mid Pacific. It is one the few remaining territories on the UN decolonization list because the administering authority is New Zealand. The UN supported a referendun so that the population (less than 2000) could choose between the link with the “colonial power” and complete self-determination, It was a condition of the referendum that those in favour of constitutional change should have minimum 60% support. They achieved more than 50% but less than 60% so the referendum was void and had no effect. Despite the UN effort, Tokelau remains on the UN decolonization list. The logic of the minimum 60% requirement was that a clear majority would promote unity rather than division. The UK having no tried and tested referendum tradition failed to provide for such a minimum acceptance level.

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov ’16 – 10:48am…………..I think where the Remain campaign really failed was in not taking a positive message about the EU out into less educated and more disadvantaged communities……….

    I think the problem was that “Exit” offered instant windfalls (akin to winning the lottery); £350 million to the NHS, etc. In addition, these communities had been fed stories demonising the EU over many years (especially from their most popular source of ‘information’; the ‘Soar-away Sun”)…..

    The desperate will always look for quick answers….The ‘Leave’ campaign played to the desperation…

  • nvelope2003 5th Nov '16 - 12:01pm

    Whenever I read comments on social media about the result of the referendum they are almost always abusive and full of unpleasant attacks on anyone who disagrees with the decision to leave the EU.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Nov '16 - 12:06pm

    Andrew McCaig: WHY would it be a mistake for MPs to vote against Brexit? By that argument, MPs should not vote down any government legislation: the government was, after all, democratically elected, so anyone who speaks out against its plans is “subverting democracy”.

  • To resort to threatening violence because a court made a decision you disagree with — even if that threat is couched in hypothetical and deflecting language — is a clear sign of one’s intellectual bankruptcy.

    I take this as another sign of the moral degradation of political conversation in this country.

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 1:42pm

    Martin,
    There have been various interesting large polls on Brexit including the British Election Study. Of course a causal link between education and voting is hard to establish. However Leave voters were much more likely to think the the opinions of their neighbours were more valuable than the opinions of “experts”. In other words they distrust educated people.. this lack of respect for education is a relatively new phenomenon (meaning post Thatcher) in my experience..
    What I have not seen so far is an attempt to separate correlated factors. For example we know Remain voters were on average younger, better off and better educated. But were young voters without a university education more Remain than old voters without a university education? That analysis will tease out the truth and I am sure someone is doing it with the BES data…

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 1:49pm

    Alex Macfie

    It would be a mistake because it would deepen divisions in society and by any rational description of democracy would be undemocratic. Calling for another vote is not undemocratic however, but the second vote would have to be final…

    I think MP’s who voted against holding a referendum and represent constituencies that are strongly Remain can get away with it.. And so can the SNP. But in England and Wales that is a small minority..

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov '16 - 1:52pm

    Expats,
    Yes, of course those factors were persuasive. But the lack of campaigning by Labour gave people permission to vote as they wanted, since Labour showed that this vote was less important even than local elections..

  • Actually.
    Leave voters tended to be older, which means they tended to have left education in the days before going to university was the norm or even that common. In truth the vast majority of them live in rural and suburban areas, which also implies that they are likely home owners in stable communities. In other words middle England voted leave. All this stuff about Left Behinds and being denied opportunity is mostly nonsense. it is in truth more likely it is youngsters burdened by debts imposed on them by the last three governments, by housing costs that price them out of the market and who exist on either loans or zero hour contract low paid jobs who have manipulated into voting against their own self interests.

  • Oddly, there are many who still think that there will be no consequences in trying to block, or reverse the EU referendum result. They also don’t seem to understand that this ‘mass EU rejection thing’, is only a small piece, of something much bigger.

    This is about a growing body of people across the western world, removing their willingness to be governed by knaves and fools who,.. [with classic Dunning-Kruger attributes], believe themselves to be experts. Thus, a small group of self selected elites think it is their moral right to govern, and that it is the duty of the rest,.. to just shut up and obey. They are taking the hard route, to finding out just how wrong they are.
    History is for learning lessons, but strangely, a long history ‘packed’ with the dumb antics of people who were both elite and stupid, doesn’t seem to deter or forewarn of what is coming.

    So just for the record,…when the brown stuff hits the fan, just don’t feign shock and moral outrage, by pretending you didn’t see it coming, because the flashing red warning lights are everywhere you care to look.

    J. Dunn ~ 5th November 2016

  • Richard Underhill 5th Nov '16 - 4:13pm

    David Raw: Rupert Murdoch tops a pyramid of companies. Non-voting ordinary shares carry risks without influence.

  • It is frightening that so many who voted for Brexit, and their cheerleaders in the tabloid press, have no grasp of the concept of separation of powers or independence of the judiciary, or feel these matters are of no importance, of interest only to elites, I imagine.
    Were that not bad enough, we seem to have the worst sort of Tory government, one which is both right wing and populist and has scant regard for parliamentary process when it thinks public opinion is behind them.
    Much of this, I would suggest, was predictable. I did not vote to remain in the EU because I thought it was a wonderful institution, but because the chaos which would follow a vote to leave would provoke an ongoing crisis. And it has only just started. The Scottish and Irish aspects of Brexit have not even started to play out and there hasn’t been a single meeting between the Govt and their EU counterparts about what happens when we leave.
    @J Dunn. There may well be repercussions if Brexit is delayed, but the Scottish government have a democratic mandate to resist a “hard” Brexit and many others will feel they have a moral duty to ensure that the country is not crippled by the terms of our exit.
    Reading todays papers I am reminded of the Coen Brothers film “Burn After Reading”. Towards the end there is a scene where a CIA agent tries to explain to his boss the catalogue of misfortune that has overtaken the films main characters, who they have been tracking. The boss, bemused, mutters “Jesus, what a cluster f**k”. Says it all, really.

  • @ J Dunn

    Your view of history seems incorrect. I don’t see every country’s history having a revolution to overturn the rulers, some countries have replaced their rulers with others, but this has not always resulted in the dictatorship of the majority. It is a shame that the nature of a liberal democracy and the need for checks and balances is not taught or has not been taught in schools. Also in a democracy there is a need to respect the views of the minority. We can see from recent history that where a country has a minority based on their ethnicity who are discriminated against and have no way to protect themselves by coming to power that democracy has failed. I think the recent history of Egypt might be an example of a government elected by the majority which discriminated against those who did vote for it, being overturned.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to try to identify who were those who found out they didn’t have a “right to govern”. With regard to Scotland, England and Wales I don’t recall there ever having been a revolution to replace the ruling elites. In England the civil war executed a king, but those in Parliament who became the rulers were already part of the ruling elite. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 can be seen as the ruling elite protecting itself from a monarch who wanted to reduce their power by adding people of a different religion to the ruling elite.

    Of course there are example of successful revolutions. The American Revolution kept the elite already in power in the colonies in power in the new state. The French and Russian Revolutions and the Chinese Civil War replaced the ruling elites with new ones.

  • Barry Snelson 5th Nov '16 - 6:08pm

    My concern is the ever deepening divide that is now tearing apart our nation. I was, and am, a Remainer but the situation is getting rapidly getting out of hand. There is real anger coming through many posts on this thread.
    Unfortunately, that anger is easily matched by those in the opposite trench on the other side of the barbed wire and that is manifest on “their” front pages.
    My fear, and it real, that the Supreme Court’s decision will lead to even more of this horrible stuff and a debate in parliament on Art 50, however it goes, will lead to ending any shred of connection between rulers and ruled – at least for many, many millions of our people and be used to justify whatever they do in answer.
    I didn’t vote to leave the EU either but at the risk of being flamed, feel we have to move on and close these wounds. That means those on the losing side have to unconditionally accept the result and then try and make the best of it and move forward together again.
    I realise this will inflame many but the other side has the result on their side and won’t budge either. That path is easy to follow but hard to walk back from.
    I hope, and pray, that responsible politicians from both camps could stand together and shake hands somehow and we can follow their lead.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Nov '16 - 6:09pm

    Andrew McCaig: The society is already divided. Do you think the divisions will heal through the losing side accepting a moral obligation to abandon their principles and fall behind a majority “groupthink”? Regardless of whether or not Brexit happens, the divisions that the referendum exposed will still be there. They will not disappear through self-censorship by one side.
    And as for “undemocratic”, this is a REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY. How MPs vote IS democracy by definition. MPs are NOT delegates. And democracy does NOT mean everyone accepting the majority opinion and no-one being allowed to support anything else. That is tyranny.

    For what our MPs should do, the question is whether they stick to the party’s long-held principles, or become the kamikaze politicians who shamelessly pander to public opinion, as represented at one point in time by a flawed plebiscite.

  • Chris Cory
    Remainers are quite rightly, trying to defeat the Leavers argument using reason,.. and Leavers are quite rightly, trying to defeat the Remainers argument using reason.

    If it were an issue were both could ‘agree to disagree’ and walk away, it would be fine, but some issues don’t fit that easy choice. More worryingly, a point occurs when both sides grasp that using reason, isn’t going to sway things.
    At that point,.. the tool of reason gets abandoned, and other forces take its place. Once the tool of reason is abandoned, a tipping point occurs, whereby anything,.. unreasonable,.. illogical or otherwise will take its place to gain the upper hand.

    I’m reminded of the film,.. The Dark Knight,.. where Michael Caine tries to explain the point at which humanity, logic, and reason becomes lost, and sheer anger takes over. At that point,. of lost reason.. he observes. :
    ” Some men just want to watch the world burn “

  • Word on the street is the revolution is not imminent and any alleged serious divisions are mostly in the fevered imaginations of sub editors.
    My feelings as a Leave voter are that it’s perfectly reasonable for Remain bods to continue to bemoan the result and that it’s up to Leave to stick to their guns, but be magnanimous in victory as we exit the EU which will still happen despite the pointless delaying tactics and gnashing and wailing of teeth.

  • Sorry, there was a missing “not” in my previous post.

    It should have read:
    “I think the recent history of Egypt might be an example of a government elected by the majority which discriminated against those who did NOT vote for it, being overturned.”

    Another recent example could be the suggestion that al-Malik tried to limit the power of Kurds and Sunnis in Iraq as being against the norms of a liberal democracy and this was a factor in the rise of ISIL in Iraq.

  • Andrew McCaig 5th Nov ’16 – 1:52pm….Expats……Yes, of course those factors were persuasive. But the lack of campaigning by Labour gave people permission to vote as they wanted, since Labour showed that this vote was less important even than local elections….

    I’m sorry but the facts do not support your view…Over 65% of Labour voters voted remain (Close to the 68% of LibDems)…Less than 40% of Conservative voters voted remain…

  • Andrew.
    People do not need permission to vote as they see fit. Neither Labour nor the Liberals own their supporters votes. I note no one ever seems to expect Conservatives to vote according to guidance by their community leaders, representatives, spokesmen, gurus or what not. Is it perhaps because great chunks of the left believe that people on low incomes are incapable of independent thought?

  • Jonathan Hawley 6th Nov '16 - 8:32pm

    It seems to me that the one person most responsible for the post-referendum chaos is Theresa “safe pair of hands” May. In my opinion a true leader would have said at the outset:

    ” Thank you to all the people of the U.K. for your advice in th matter of our membership of the E.U. The government will now seek guidance from the elected representatives of the people of our four member nations to establish priorities. We will then proceed to open and comradely discussions with our friends and partners in Europe to establish the parameters for departure from the E.U. and to determine what such a departure would entail. I will work tirelessly for a deal which is in the best interests of all the citizens of the U.K. and of the E.U. and which preserves social cohesion, economic growth and prosperity and Britain’s place as a leader in the world. With these principles guiding negotiations I will establish the likely shape of our departure from the E.U. Once clear, I shall report back to Parliament and to the people of the U.K. to check that the plan for departure is consistent with the advice given in this referendum. Given the importance of this decision and at Parliament’s discretion, an opportunity may be offered to the people of the U.K. to approve the departure prior to it becoming irrevocable. I promise to secure a future vision for the U.K. around which we may all unite”.

    That’s not what she’s done.

  • Steve Trevethan 6th Nov '16 - 8:32pm

    Oligarchy and its near relative, plutocracy, are always with us, always seeking more power and wealth and always using a mask.

    “Orders in Council” is oligarchy with an historical/heritage mask.
    The EU is an oligarchy with a technocrat mask.
    The Main Stream Media is an information oligarchy with a populist and/or “expert” mask, according to circumstance and/or the wishes of the boss.

    A significant use of proportional representation might provide us with a continuous, “rolling” form of referendum. A single item referendum is but a snapshot and not the continuous motion picture we need. “Feature length” democracy is more democratic than the snap shot because it continues and and connects across time, actions and consequences of actions.

  • Simon Banks 10th Nov '16 - 4:53pm

    Don’t know, John Peters. They could lose the fight, maybe?

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