B-DAY-80. Democracy is never over

There are fears our country may be rather divided. Many suggest it is time to ‘heal the wounds’, and to reconcile.

That’s piffle.

There is a battle in progress – a legitimate struggle to decide the UK’s future – and until the issue is decided, until Britain leaves the European Union irrevocably or cancels its exit, any priest, doom-monger or heckler that tries to block your participation in that debate is denying your right to have a say in your future.

Democracy is never over. Voters don’t dispatch their decisions to the political elite like ‘fire and forget missiles’ to be interpreted and re-interpreted ad infinitum by its leaders. Legitimacy is subject to constant refresh, directly through regular elections or plebiscites, and indirectly through the judgement of elected representatives.

Only in a dictatorship does one vote settle all.

When the Labour Party scored less than 5% of the vote in the 1906 election, it wasn’t some signal to abandon it struggle – no less than defeat at Dunkirk meant it was time to quit fighting Hitler.

Should a referendum result on an important constitutional question be binding? That’s indeed a debatable question. Don’t believe anyone who thinks there is clear answer, because Britain has no fixed constitution to consult.

But it is fair to say  that in many democracies, making a major decision, such as – to name one minor example — the Brexit plan to strip European citizenship from millions of people without their agreement, would typically involve jumping through several more hoops than just a single vote. An amendment to the US Constitution, for example, requires the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and two-thirds of all states before it can proceed.

If anything is divisive, it is to base a really import change to a country on one single narrow vote, and to rip up one key arrangement (EU membership) without securing any agreement (in any forum, whether in the cabinet, parliament, or the country) of what should replace it.

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