UK Democracy: Brexit Breaks It

Yesterday afternoon, I taught a two-hour session on the EU Institutions. I attempted to explain the difference between the Council of the European Union and the European Council, not wishing to muddle these two bodies with the Council of Europe. We attempted to look at the respective powers and jurisdictions of the European Parliament and European Commission and their particular responsibilities. We attempted to differentiate between the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, not confusing them with the European Court of Auditors and the European Court of the First Instance. We concluded that the EU institutions were complicated and bureaucratic, unlike our own, simpler constitution.

Nevertheless, we have little of which to boast. That parcel of rogues which constitute our current Parliament has exposed British democracy as a sham. The number of MPs who have tried their very hardest to thwart the outcome of the People’s Vote is extraordinary. Greens working with Tories, socialists with liberals, nationalists with unionists. Although the government’s shambolic and incompetent handling of the withdrawal negotiations have provided them with some cover, it is clear that their underlying aim is to retain British membership of the European Union at any cost. Regardless of how one voted in the referendum, it is chilling to see elected persons seeking to ignore and disdain the many voters they claim to represent.

Several years ago, I stood for the local council as an election candidate. I was unlikely to win, but I put out leaflets, sincerely believing that I would have made a fine councillor. The good folk of that ward elected a candidate from the far right, who went on to have a brief and undistinguished political career. I could have felt resentful, I could have consoled myself by sniffing at the electorate’s stupidity and lack of foresight. Regardless of my feelings, however, the outcome had to be respected. An even better example might be Sir Winston Churchill’s removal from office in 1945. The man who had won the war and saved the nation was replaced by that well-meaning ‘sheep in sheep’s clothing’, Clem Atlee. That’s how democracy works- realising that the will of the majority will triumph even when you think they are mistaken. Not so in 21st Century Britain: if you don’t like the people’s choice, ignore it, thwart it, frustrate it, spoil it, foil it and prevent it.   

Never again must we lecture other nations, such as Russia and Iran, for their lack of transparency or democratic consensus. Our ill-functioning parliamentary democracy has very little now to teach the rest of the world. 

Never again must we think the old class divisions are healed. Well-educated Remain voters are dismayed that their intelligent votes count just as much as those cast by racists, bigots and stupid people who don’t know what’s best for them. Perhaps they would like to bring back the property qualification for the franchise, so only persons of quality can have a say.

Never again must ordinary folk expect to take on vested interest and powerful institutions and expect to be heard and obeyed without opposition and guile.


The best of them is like a brier;

The most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge;

The day of your watchman and your punishment comes;

Now shall be their perplexity.

Do not trust in a friend;

Do not put your confidence in a companion;

Guard the doors of your mouth

From her who lies in your bosom.

For son dishonours father,

Daughter rises against her mother,

Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.

Therefore I will look to the Lord;

I will wait for the God of my salvation;

My God will hear me.


Micah 7:4-7