This weekend has seen thousands of Remain voters (or if you prefer, 0.01% of the electorate) descend on London to protest against the referendum result last week. The ‘March for Europe’ event, is a culmination of a week of anti-democratic, sneering contempt from those on the losing side in the referendum.
We have seen over 4 million people sign a petition for a second referendum. Ignoring the fact that that’s still roughly 13.4 million short of being even remotely relevant, many of those signatures were found to have been added by bots, including 39,000 from Vatican City, which has a population of 800. This is probably why the petition is being investigated for fraud.
Not content with leading the Lib Dems to a glorious 6% in the polls, and abandoning any pretence of being liberal or democratic, Tim Farron announced that his party would stand in the next general election on a platform of taking us back into the EU. David Lammy, a Labour MP, has already called for Parliament to ignore the result, and there has been a wailing across social media, from the public and celebrities alike, for the Government to do just that. Shockingly, the UN Special Representative for International Migration, Peter Sutherland, has said ‘somehow this result must be overturned’. The UN rightly condemns African or Asian dictators who ride roughshod over the will of their populace, yet when it comes to Britain, they’re apparently calling for exactly that.
The whole thing has been frankly ludicrous. Remainers would be rightly uproarious had the referendum result been reversed and parliament decided to ignore them and leave the EU anyway, but they see no problem in calling for our politicians to ignore the majority of the electorate in this instance.
There’s a huge irony in these people calling for as many people to register to vote and make their voice heard in the run up to this event, only for them to then call for those voices to be roundly ignored, despite leaving the EU gaining more votes in favour than anything else in British history.
Because if there was one thing that this vote represented, it was the will of the people. The issue has engaged more people in politics than anything I’ve ever seen. My Facebook feed is usually full of daft (if occasionally hilarious) memes and videos of dogs doing pointless yet adorable things, and yet in the run up to the referendum I saw a plethora of posts and articles from people who are usually much more content informing us all about the make-up of their dinner.
This engagement was reflected in the turnout, which was higher than it has been for any plebiscite in over 20 years. Add to that the fact the winning margin was over 1.2 million votes and the claim that there is no mandate for leaving is as accurate as a blind man in a darts competition. The argument that many Brexiteers are now regretting their vote is also laughable when you consider that the source of this argument is a poll stating that 1% of leave voters are unhappy with the result. The same poll indicates that 4% of remain voters are happy with the result, indicating a greater regret about their vote amongst those that voted to remain than those that voted to leave.
Much of the argument has centred around the claim that the Leave campaign was full of lies and voters were misinformed and thus should be ignored. That argument is staggeringly patronising. All of us, on both sides of the debate, had access to the exact same information.
Moreover, this wasn’t a snap referendum. Cameron gave his Bloomberg speech in which he set out his plans for a referendum in January 2013, over three years ago. The Conservatives won the election last May so from that second we knew a referendum was definitely coming and thus could begin looking into the issue and trying to make ourselves as informed as possible.
I’m not for one second claiming that everyone who voted was an expert on the EU, but the insinuation from Remainers that they did their homework and Leavers were somehow brainwashed by propaganda is outrageously arrogant. There were of course lies and misinformation from Vote Leave, but there was just as much from Stronger In, and they had the weight of the Government behind theirs to boot. I personally voted the way I did in spite of Vote Leave, not because of them, and I know many others who are in the same boat.
There’s something laughable about the suggestion too, given that the title of this protest once again conflates the EU with Europe. It seems churlish to point out, but we are not altering the UK’s geography. Not one person on the leave side has advocated cutting ourselves off from the world, turning inwards, or becoming ‘Little Englanders’. The argument has always been about a global Britain, looking out towards more distant horizons than those across the English channel. We have always advocated trade and co-operation with our friends and allies on the continent.
Ironically, by buying into the notion that the UK is leaving Europe rather than merely extricating ourselves from a supranational political institution, Remainers have succumbed to the very brainwashing they accuse their opponents of. Claiming that one should love the EU if one loves Europe is like claiming I should love Flintshire County Council because I am fond of my home county. It is a nonsense.
There’s also an argument that the whole point of the sovereignty of Parliament is to keep a check on the whims of the electorate. Funnily enough, I actually think that it’s the whole point of the electorate to keep a check on the whims of Parliament. Ironically, it’s precisely this argument which is why people like myself voted to Leave in the first place.
The EU was deliberately designed so as to not be susceptible to the populism that brought Hitler to power in the wake of the first world war. But that lack of accountability to the electorate is precisely what’s facilitated the rise of populism, both left and right wing, across the continent. When people get angry at those that rule them, and have no recourse through the ballot box to remove them, then they inevitably get drawn to the more extreme ends of the political spectrum.
According to polling by both Ashcroft and ComRes, the number one priority for leave voters wasn’t immigration, but democracy and sovereignty. This howling against the democratic will of the people is precisely why we voted to leave, so that our law makers and tax raisers would be accountable to us. Advocating parliament to ignore the result of the referendum and plough on with EU membership and all the integration that entails regardless, risks unleashing something very ugly in this country.
If lefties hate UKIP now, they would only see the popularity of Farage’s party soar in the wake of such an act. It would also exponentially increase the feeling that a vote counts for little and makes no real difference. There were no ‘safe seats’ in this referendum. Every single vote counted towards the result. If that result is ignored, there could well be riots, or worse, complete and total disengagement and apathy towards politics on a scale we’ve never seen.
I pushed for a leave vote because I believe that the electorate should decide how we are run, and should take that decision through the ballot box. I believe that Brexit has the potential to truly revolutionise our democracy, getting people more involved in politics and making our politicians more accountable. This idea that our rulers know best and the little people should shut up and let the politicians get on with it is exactly the idea we’re trying to defeat.