Thursday 3 November 2016

The Brexiter U-turn on democracy

We all remember how Brexiters used "democracy" as one of their core arguments in favour of quitting the EU. Their simplistic argument relied on creating the caricature of the EU being a deeply anti-democratic behemoth, and how it would be a triumph for democracy to repatriate political decision making to the UK.

It didn't matter at the time that many people pointed out that the archaic and hugely disproportional Westminster voting system system, the deeply unequal constitutional arrangement between the four member nations,
 the unelected House of Lords, and not least the unelected head of state meant that the UK is massively more undemocratic than the EU, people bought into this "democracy" argument in their millions.

Fast forward a few months and this professed Brexiter love of democracy has been completely reversed in the wake of the High Court decision that Theresa May has no right to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of quitting the EU without first gaining parliamentary approval.

Suddenly Brexiters are out in force condemning the legal ruling and crying that MPs will try to undermine the economically suicidal "hard Brexit" they've been fantasising about. They wanted Theresa May to be able to draw up a fanatically right-wing Brexit strategy and then impose it on the British public without the faintest whiff of parliamentary scrutiny and they're throwing their toys out of their prams because the High Court has ruled that that would be undemocratic.

It's quite extraordinary how these people operate. If the concept of democracy is useful to their argument then they won't shut up about it, but as soon as the concept of democracy starts to get in the way of their hard Brexit wet dream, they suddenly prefer dictatorial authoritarianism with no democratic scrutiny whatever.

It was bad enough that Theresa May even tried to contest the case that she shouldn't be allowed to simply bypass parliament and conduct Brexit without any parliamentary scrutiny or approval. There's little better way of demonstrating to the public that she's a savagely right-wing authoritarian than trying to give herself the power to make huge decisions without any parliamentary approval whatever.

The UKIP leadership challenger Suzanne Evans has upped the anti-democratic extremism game though. She objects so strongly to the pro-democratic High Court decision that parliamentary approval is required before Theresa May can trigger Article 50 that she's calling for the judges who made the decision to be sacked.

Brexiters like Suzanne Evans want a dictatorial Prime Minister to go about the Brexit process with no parliamentary scrutiny or approval whatever, and if the courts say otherwise they want the judges sacked. Against a background of the Daily Express re-interpreting the concept of "democracy" to mean imprisonment without trial for anyone who dares to disagree with us, the idea of sacking judges for daring to rule in favour of democracy is extreme stuff.

The United Kingdom is rapidly becoming a very intolerant place where the ideology of Brexiterism is held supreme by a large number of extreme right-wingers, and other considerations like parliamentary sovereignty, democratic scrutiny of the actions of the government, judicial independence and freedom of speech are continually being slung onto the scrap heap.

Within a matter of months the Brexit camp have gone from singing the praises of democracy and asserting the sovereignty of the UK parliament, to a cacophony anti-democratic shrieking because the High Court has ruled that the UK parliament is sovereign and should have a vote about whether the Brexit plan Theresa May and the three Brexiteers eventually manage to cobble together is good enough to justify invoking article 50 and beginning the process of quitting the EU.

Of course people voted for Brexit for all manner of reasons, not just because of the "democracy" argument. But for those who did somehow buy into the Brexiter democracy argument, then this anti-democratic wailing from Brexiters like Nigel Farage and Suzanne Evans over the pro-democratic Article 50 ruling must surely be a massive flashing "you've been duped" sign that is pretty much impossible to ignore?

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