Saturday, 16 March 2019

Brexit: no sauce for the gander

Nearly three years ago, in the EU referendum, 37% of those entitled to do so voted one way, 34% voted the other and 27% didn't bother to vote.  Lots of the people  most seriously  affected by the outcome weren't allowed to vote, the campaign was fuelled by lies and false promises, there was some illegal activity, and possibly foreign interference.

A "meaningful vote" on the the deal to implement the result of the referendum was scheduled  to take place in parliament last December, but it was postponed because the government felt that they wouldn't get the result they wanted.

It was this year, on the 15th January,  just two months ago, that the government permitted the "meaningful vote" to take place. After extensive debate in which every possible angle was explored in conditions designed to ensure fairness and truthfulness, their deal was defeated by 432 votes to 202 (a majority of more than two to one - a far cry from 37% to 34%.)

However, battered but undaunted, the government subjected their deal to another "meaningful vote" last week, on the 12th  March.  After yet more extensive debate under controlled conditions the deal was defeated by 391 to242.  The gap is narrowing!

So next week we are to have yet another "meaningful vote" designed to enable the government to get its way.

Strangely, the somewhat dubious result of the referendum result of three years ago is given the status  of sacred writ which cannot be challenged, yet the government can have as many goes as it likes to test to destruction the overwhelming view of the Commons in order to get its way.

Logic has been thrown out of the window, along with so much else that has been the proud heritage of British democracy.


  1. Indeed. It is utterly ridiculous that Theresa May has adopted the 'vote again until you get it right' tactic of the EU.

    The Speaker should rule she cannot ask the Commons to vote again on a matter which it has already rejected, and we should then leave the EU in just under two weeks, as promised.

    1. Agreed. I think there's a convention that you can't put the same motion more than once in the same session. But the Tories seem to tear up the rules when they don't suit them. Parliament could, of course, vote to revoke Article 50. That's the quickest and simplest way out. There's still time.

    2. But the Tories seem to tear up the rules when they don't suit them

      The main person tearing up the rules at the moment seems to be the poison dwarf himself, the Member for Buckingham. Which does not bode well for procedure being followed in the case of these Meaningless Votes.

      Parliament could, of course, vote to revoke Article 50

      It could… but it must not. Parliament is the servant of the people, not the other way around, and the people have instructed Parliament that the UK should leave the EU. To disobey the people, on such a momentous matter, would be — well — it would be a coup d'etat by Parliament.

      Hopefully enough of our Parliamentarians have enough sense of duty and of shame left that they would not even consider such a horrific course of action.

    3. The "instruction," technically only advisory, was a very uncertain one based on dodgy facts and promises. It is up to MPs, who are the sovereign authority, the use their judgement to do what is best for the country. That is what our constitution, honed over the centuries,requires.

    4. The instruction was a clear one.

      It is most emphatically not for our MPs to decide that they know better than the people, and that therefore the people's wishes do not need to be respected if they go outside what the MPs have patronisingly determined are their best interests.

      That would not be democracy; or it would be, well, what's the term? I believe it's 'managed democracy'.

    5. You may not like it, but our system of government, by law and by custom, is a "representative democracy." It is the legal and moral duty of MPs to use their judgement to make decisions which believe to be in the best interests of the country as a whole.

    6. No, it is the legal and moral duty of MPs to use their judgement to do as they are instructed by the people of the country.

      If they really think the people have got it totally wrong, then it is their moral duty to resign and let the people elect someone else, just as a lawyer whose client refuses to listen to their advice and persists in ordering the lawyer to do something the lawyer things is unwise and not in their best interests is duty-bound to resign so that the client can hire another lawyer.

      Similarly if a civil servant really thinks that a minister's orders are totally wrong, they should resign or be sacked so the minister can appoint another civil servant who will carry out those orders.

      The reason ministers can sack civil servants, and not the other the other way around, is that ministers are supposed to be doing what the people have asked them to do, and it is not the job of civil servants to obstruct that (to question it, perhaps, but not to obstruct).

      But when its the ministers refusing to do what the people have instructed them to do, then it is the ministers who must either put their personal opinions aside and carry out their orders, or they must quit to make way for someone who will.

      It's a question of who is in charge: the people, or MPs?

    7. And legally and morally the answer is MPs. They are representatives, not delegates. J S Mill has a lot to say about this, but I haven't time to find the reference. The error here was to calla referendum in the first place. They don't really fit in to a representative democracy.

    8. J S Mill was wrong more often than he was right.

      If you really think that MPs are in charge, not people, then… I think you've already passed beyond help, and you're way on the well to accepting a technocratic totalitarian society which is run by a Committee of Experts (we could call it a 'Political Bureau'? Unless you can think of a catchy shortening of that?) who decide what things the population should be allowed to vote on, and what the acceptable range of answers are, because they know better than the people what is good for them.

      In this you would probably fit in the the Lib Dems, who I've long thought should change their name to the Liberal Technocrats as they really do seem to hate, fear and distrust democracy.