Brexit and Democracy

9 Oct 2019

In the name of Brexit, democracy is being driven like a once fine motor car with neither oil or water in the engine so that it overheats and the destination, wherever it lies, is no longer attainable. Rather than stop and take proper stock, maybe even consult the map, our drivers, there is more than one, I’m sure, are speeding on, fearful of stopping lest the engine give up the ghost for good. We can fix things once we get there, or so the thinking goes. 


Good luck with that!


Whilst I recognise that the referendum result was for the UK to leave the EU it is hard to have any faith in that result because, even as the vote was taking place, there was no clear idea that was even close to definitive about what Brexit actually is. Our driver, Boris Johnson, and his crew want to keep things simple. “We know the result, let’s just get it done”. That was even the mission statement of the recent Tory Party conference.  Meanwhile, there are numerous attempts to thwart his efforts that are as likely to be effective as Santa is to bring me an actual present from the North Pole. And of course, Boris and crew know full well that once it is done, it’s done, and it can’t be undone. Time enough to pick up the broken pieces and try to fix them afterwards. 


When one looks at the various social media streams one can quickly see that there are many sincerely held views about Brexit and what the UK should do with regards to the ongoing engagements with the EU. And while there are as many views and opinions as there are blades of grass in the fields, they all have one thing in common. No one actually knows what Brexit is, and no one knows what the government is up to. There are people who are very cross and believe the EU are simply out to keep the UK under its collective thumb while others despair at the thoughts of actually leaving the EU. But all are as equally uninformed about the process as the rest of us, myself included.


For me, democracy is an ideal that people contribute to and build on over time. At its core, however, is the principle of consent. That is to say, the people consent to being governed by an elected government. For this to work and flourish, those who run government must be seen to be above reproach insofar as their motives are, so to speak, ‘pure’ and ‘transparent’. There are undoubtedly those in politics who are driven by the vocation of public service who will never use their elevated position to further their own aims or personal careers. But there are others whose motives are less easy to divine and then there are those whose word simply cannot be trusted at face value.  


A little while ago I wrote that those who take on the role of helping others through their public service are given a special and trusted place in our society. To be let down by someone who is purporting to help you is one of life’s more serious betrayals precisely because in being helped, we are placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability. We place our trust in them, just as we do when we elect a government and the politicians to run it. We place ourselves and our livelihoods in their hands with the expectation that they will operate good governance for all. 


The process of Brexit is not even close to good governance. Personally, I am beyond caring whether the UK leaves or stays in the EU. I am much more concerned with the sheer inadequacy of democracy and democratic representation. We are being treated to a daily diet of almost meaningless utterances from all sides. Anyone of us, confronted with a sales rep with that kind of banter would immediately end the transaction and go elsewhere with our business. Yet, year after year, we allow politicians to treat us like we don’t have the capacity to participate in meaningful dialogue. 


Brexit is a project that has not been delivered in over three years, a bit like HS2. Perhaps, just as they are with the High-Speed rail line, the Government might want to pause and think about what they are about and consider asking us again about Brexit.


Speaking to the BBC, the Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, said that it was important that the house had all the information before making a decision on what is the largest infrastructure project in Britain. 


Wouldn’t it be lovely if they applied the same logic to Brexit?



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