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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

In the Mother of Parliaments, This Is How Democracy Dies

The so-called “mother of parliaments” is providing a high-speed case study in the transition of a stable democratic polity into oligarchy.

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The UK used to be properly regarded as a representative democracy built on broad principles of liberty.

As of 8 April 2019, that is no longer the case, and Britain’s situation is now a close analogy to that of the colonists in the 1770s.

Democracy to Oligarchy

The American Revolution was essentially a conservative enterprise—like all revolutions in Anglo history—as it was conducted by part of a population asserting basic rights that it knew it already had against a political elite that was in the midst of ignoring them to the point of oppression.

A few days ago, I listened to a British radio talk-show in which a regular 50-something guy in the UK said he is ready to take up arms. Born British, I feel the same. It is probably just as well that I am now American and have chosen to make my life on this side of the pond.

The so-called “mother of parliaments” is providing a high-speed case study in the transition of a stable democratic polity into oligarchy.

Distracted by all the technical details, much of the world seems to be oblivious to the fact that the country that gave it the so-called “mother of parliaments” is providing a high-speed case study in the transition of a stable democratic polity into oligarchy.

The phrase “people vs. politicians” is much used these days to capture the increasing sense of the disenfranchisement gap between the governed and those who govern, but in the UK, you can actually watch that gap become formalized and institutionalized in real time.

It is the most terrifying political transition I have ever witnessed in the English-speaking world—and I live in Trump’s America.

The Day Democracy Died

Democracy became essentially defunct on the 8th of April because that was the date on which parliament criminalized the implementation of the result of the Brexit referendum.

Let that sink in.

Specifically, a parliament that comprises representatives of which a majority voted to hold the Brexit referendum, to honor the Brexit referendum, and were later voted into office on a promise to implement its results, just passed a law to require the prime minister of the UK not to implement the will of the people on the day on which British law already required that it be implemented.

Figure 1. It couldn’t have been simpler. Everyone knows what “Leave” means.

This law against-the-people, preventing the implementation of their simple instruction to “Leave the European Union” (quoted from the actual ballot card), prevents Britain from leaving the European Union—except under a treaty that, based on the Commons’ other votes, requires the country remain under European Union jurisdiction in many respects.

Of course, that isn’t “leaving” at all. And that is their whole purpose.

To be specific, British lawmakers are requiring that Britain remains in many of the important institutions that both sides of the referendum debate back in 2016 made absolutely clear would be exited by Britain in the event of a “Leave” vote.

Dishonest Politicians

And if all of this sounds like too blatant an act of treachery to be believable, here are some examples of the shameless dishonesty of the politicians who perpetrated it. As you will see, many of them are the grandees of British politics.

Sir John Major, former Prime Minister

Then: “There will not be another referendum on Europe. This is it.” – May 2016, before the referendum

Now: “The moral case for a second vote has never been more powerful.” – Evening Standard, October 2018

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader and Islington North MP

Then: “This is a one-off vote… between staying in the EU or leaving completely.” – June 2017

Now: “We are committed to… supporting an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country.” – February 2019

Philip Hammond, Chancellor and Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge

Then: “We are leaving the EU. Because we are leaving the EU, we leave the single market, and by the way, we are leaving the customs union.” – June 2017

Now: “A second referendum is now a perfectly credible proposition that deserves to be tested in Parliament.” – Peston Show, ITV

Lord (Peter) Mandelson, former Cabinet minister and EU Commissioner

Then: “This is a once-and-for-all decision. We will not be taking a decision like this again in our lifetime. I say that with all the conviction and sincerity that I have.” – During Brexit referendum campaign

Now: “We have got to make sure everyone feels able to live with the result [by having a second referendum].” – April 2019

Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central

Then: “You vote to Leave. We are out. We are going.” – Before the Brexit referendum in June 2016

Now: “It is now clear that… leaving the EU without an agreement would be a disaster. If it turns out that there is no alternative deal that can win a majority in the Commons, then… the only way we will resolve this is to go back to the people.” – December 17, 2018

Anna Soubry, Independent Group MP for Broxtowe

Then: “We are leaving the EU and must now get a good deal… Many people voted Leave for genuine and respected reasons. We have to respect the result.” – After referendum in June 2016

Now: “We have to plan for a People’s Vote. The current deal we have with the EU [i.e. remaining inside the EU] is the best deal.” – February 2019

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras

Then: “We all have to accept and respect the referendum outcome. I campaigned to stay in the EU. I would have expected the result to be honoured if we had won it.” – After the 2016 referendum

Now: “A public vote ought to be between the option of a credible Leave deal and Remain.” – March 2019

Chuka Umunna, Independent Group MP for Streatham

Then: “We will Leave if Leave wins even by one vote.” – on the eve of the 2016 referendum

Now: “A People’s Vote is our final chance to get it right for generations to come.” – October 2018

Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrat party and MP for Twickenham

Then: “The public have voted and it’s seriously disrespectful and politically utterly counter-productive to say: ‘Sorry guys, you’ve got it wrong. We are going to try again.’” – After the 2016 Brexit vote

Now: “We are a Remain country now with 60 percent wanting to stop the Brexit mess.” – People’s Vote rally, March 2019

Sarah Wollaston, Independent Group MP for Totnes

Then: “We must accept the [Brexit] result.” She added: “A second referendum… is a direct incentive for us to get the worst possible deal. We should not be going back and saying we don’t accept the result.” – During 2017 election

Now: “I don’t think we have anything to fear from a second referendum now. It’s not about blocking Brexit; it’s about saying to people: I think you have the right to give informed consent.” – August 20, 2018

Heidi Allen, Independent Group MP for South Cambridgeshire

Then: “We must respect the democratic outcome of the referendum and work positively together to ensure we make Brexit a success.” – 2017 election

Now: “There is no alternative. We need to go back to the public to decide what they want us to do next. The referendum should include the option of staying in the EU under existing terms.” – September, 2018

Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP for Beaconsfield

Then: “What is clear to me is that the decision of electorate in the referendum must be respected and I should support a reasoned process to give effect to it.” – 2017 election literature

Now: “I believe that a further public consultation through a referendum offers the best way forward.” – January 2019

There are plenty more where those come from.

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again

Figure 2. The Brits knew exactly what they were voting for. And they were told they’d only have to vote once.

The powerful people who want another referendum don’t want their second go at it to be a choice between leaving the EU with or without whichever treaty the British government negotiates with the European Union as part of our exit, which could at least be defended in principle and wouldn’t violate the result of the Brexit referendum of 2016. Rather, they want their repeat referendum to be between that treaty (which, as we’ve already seen, doesn’t take Britain fully out of the EU) and remaining in the EU!

That is all you need to know to understand their true purpose and motivation.

Those who want a second referendum say the “people” now have “more information” and so should be allowed to change their vote.

There are many legitimate conflicting claims that can be made about what individual voters thought would be the advantages and disadvantages of Britain’s leaving the EU when they voted for it back in 2016. However, what is indisputable is that, regardless of what those who voted for Brexit thought they were voting for, they all knew for sure that they were voting not to Remain in the EU because that option was explicitly and specifically on the ballot and was rejected by every single one of them.

In other words, we don’t need to speculate about the racism and ignorance of the majority who voted for Brexit—as those who wish to ignore the ballot like to do—to be certain that having “Remain in the EU” as an option on another ballot would be anti-democratic (as in, “Vote again until you get it right”) in the simplest and purest sense.

Almost everyone who wants a second Brexit referendum says it is needed because “people” now have “more information” and so should be allowed to change their vote. Yet, none of its advocates identify as one of those people who wants to change his own vote. And that’s because the only people who want it are those in the minority who want members of the majority to change their votes to alter the outcome.

The Second Referendum Is Anti-Democratic 

In contrast, none of the majority who voted for Brexit want a second referendum. They want the referendum of 2016 to be honored, as promised.

While we are it, it’s worth asking why the anti-democrats who want a chance to overturn the Brexit result aren’t inviting their own constituents to revote on their own election. After all, their constituents now have new information: they have learned that every single one those Members of Parliament were either lying when they declared they would honor the 2016 Brexit referendum or have changed their minds.

But of course, the politicians who want to deny the democratic will of the people don’t care about consistency for the same reason they don’t care about principle: both get in the way of their goals.

In other words, she has used Parliament to frustrate Brexit, and Parliament has used her for the same purpose.

Despite the dishonesty of all of those MPs, the buck actually stops with the British prime minister.

It was Theresa May’s personal choice to give Parliament, consisting of all these newly-declared anti-democrats, the power to require her to break her promise (made more than 100 times) to leave the EU on no deal if the alternative were a bad deal.

She ignored Parliament in negotiating her treaty with the EU until such time that it became clear that the law would require the automatic implementation of the Brexit vote on March 29th. Rather than let that happen, she handed Parliament the power to stop Brexit from happening. She did it again to avoid the new legal exit date of April 12th.

In other words, she has used Parliament to frustrate Brexit, and Parliament has used her for the same purpose.

Trick or Treaty

People keep referring to the “Brexit negotiations.” In truth, there have been no negotiations to deliver Brexit. Instead, there have been negotiations between a prime minister that doesn’t want actual Brexit and a parliament that doesn’t want actual Brexit to work out which version of non-Brexit they will foist on an unwilling nation.

The latest drop-dead date (yes, that is an oxymoron) for Britain’s so-called exit from the European Union is October 31st.

How so very perfect that that is Hallowe’en.

In other words, she and parliament are in violent agreement: Brexit, as voted for by the British people, must not be delivered.

No doubt, if it comes to it, May will again threaten the nation with a trick (no Brexit) or treaty.

Until a few weeks ago, she also liked to threaten parliament with a trick (Brexit without a treaty) if she didn’t get her treat in the form of her pseudo-Brexit treaty. She can’t do that anymore because now everyone in both London and Brussels knows that when she has to choose between Britain’s leaving the EU and her treaty that keeps the UK a bit inside of it, she chooses against leaving every single time.

In other words, she and parliament are in violent agreement: Brexit, as voted for by the British people, must not be delivered.

Nice Words by No One at All

At a press conference to explain the latest “agreement” between Theresa May and the European Union, we were treated to the following nice words from Donald Tusk, President of the European Council.

We’ve only good experiences with Theresa May’s government when it comes to loyalty to our rules and principles here in Brussels.

Here are some nice words that have been said by no one at all.

We’ve only good experiences with Theresa May’s government when it comes to loyalty to our rules and principles here in Britain.

That’s a great pity because the rules and principles in Britain used to be those of self-determination, freedom, and democracy, and for a thousand years, much better men and women than sit in the Mother of Parliaments today have died for them.

  • Robin Koerner is a British-born citizen of the USA, who currently serves as Academic Dean of the John Locke Institute. He holds graduate degrees in both Physics and the Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge (U.K.). He is also the founder of