There are a lot of angry people online complaining that people wanting to stay in the EU are anti-democratic. We hate democracy, allegedly. We’re terrible people, we’re spoilt youths, we’re fascists, we’re traitors, we’re nazis, blah blah blah. Some of the commentary is more measured than others, but it’s all very angry and it all comes down to hating democracy.
Well, hang on, there’s something very wrong here.
I could expend many words explaining that democracy is a process, not a one-off event. I could argue that literally less than 1% of the population (a 600,000 vote swing) making a decision for the other 99% is not an obviously democratic proposition. I could predict that by the time Article 50 is invoked enough pro-EU 16-17 year olds will be old enough to vote and enough anti-EU 85+ year olds will be dead that the June 2016 result will be obsolete. I could put forward my opinion that the EU actually improves democracy in the UK by limiting the power of our exceptionally unrepresentative parliament. I could point out our prime minister hasn’t even been elected, and is leading a government nobody voted for, which seems to be hinting it’s going to do an about-turn on the economic policy people did vote for, and yet here people are accepting this while whinging about democracy.
I have lots of options, but my simplest one is as follows:
If you think the referendum was an upstanding example of democracy in action, answer this: Did you vote to stay in or leave the single market?
Single market membership impacts your daily life far more than membership of the EU, and as a result of the leave vote, the PM will eventually have to decide whether or not we’ll stay. So which option did you vote for? That’s right – you don’t even know.
Some people will say they voted to leave the single market and the PM must respect the full implication of the result and implement a total European exit regardless of the consequences. Other people will say they voted to leave the EU because they wanted to ditch the bureaucracy while believing we would retain single market membership so our economy would continue to function as normal, so the PM has no mandate to remove us from the single market. Other people who voted to leave don’t even know what the single market is.
The course of action chosen by the public was almost completely unspecified, which means that the mandate the PM now has is a mandate to do whatever she wants. This is the precise opposite of what democracy is supposed to be, and would be correctly referred to as a bit of a stitch up.
It is simply unbelievable to me that anybody could spend five minutes thinking about it and honestly regard the referendum as a respectable piece of democracy. The ‘anti-democracy’ noise is coming from people who are just perpetually angry for no real reason other than they can’t control their emotions. And that’s fine, you can be angry all you like, but that sort of anger comes at the cost of not being able to make good decisions because it interferes with the rational evaluation of a situation.