Saturday 20 October saw the largest mobilisation of ‘People’s vote’ advocates to date. The march was attended by approximately 400,000 continuity remainers or was it 500,000, or upwards of 600,000? I guess that is dependent on which media outlet you consult… Those who participated are feeling a sense of panglossian optimism. They believe that their deeply cynical campaign to try and depict Brexit as the worst thing to happen to Britain since the Second World War is finally coming to fruition.
Let’s not beat around the bush. ‘People’s vote’ is a veneer for second referendum. It is a patronising attempt to try and reverse the result of the vote in 2016. Many affiliates of the People’s vote campaign and it’s various offshoots are irresolute, or perhaps deliberately ambiguous about the terms on which the vote should be held. One of the things I find most interesting is the linguistics of ‘People’s vote’. The expectation of who would be at the forefront of such an event, and the reality, are counterintuitive. There is thus a paradox within the ‘People’s Vote’ movement. Despite the complexities defining a term such as ‘the people it certainly doesn’t lend itself to power and affluence, unlike many of those involved in its keynote march. It seems peculiar that a march for ‘the people’ would be headed by business tycoons, incandescent comedians and vacuous Lords – all of which, of course, have no care for the interests of ordinary people. It was a march for the establishment, for technocracy over democracy, for continuing to do things the way they have been done for the forty-five years.
There were a number of schisms that the ‘People’s Vote’ march highlighted. Many placards made clear that generational divides were still perceptible. Placards reading “I’m 16, Brexit stole my future” were commonplace and accentuated ill feeling to those of an older generation, due to the age divide in relation to Brexit. Is being a devout Corbynista, while simultaneously attending a march in defence of the status quo, in defence of a quasi-imperial democracy contradictory? I also find it ironic that the same people who complained in 2016 of “deeply divisive campaigns’ want to re-open, or prolong the debate by having another say, as if discourse surrounding often controversial subjects such as migration has miraculously disappeared from the arena of public discussion. With regards to migration, there are a myriad of high-profile, establishment remainers who take the view that Brexit was somehow a nationalist spasm. I would argue that in fact the vote to leave was sober pragmatism. There are countless groups and individuals who agitated for years to revoke EU membership – whether it be due to scepticism of the EU’s freedom of movement rules, born out of an advocacy for free trade, or perhaps issues regarding sovereignty. The suggestion that the vote to leave was perhaps triggered by the migrant crisis of 2015 should therefore be consigned to the political dustbin.
One particular mantra regurgitated by a plethora of Europhiles on the ‘People’s Vote’ march is that “democracy didn’t end on June 23rd 2016”. They are right, of course. But the adoption of this particular phrase is for one intended purpose – to try and overturn the biggest democratic mandate in British political history; which would in fact be a grave act of anti-democracy. When iterating this particular statement remainers overlook the fact that the British electorate have repeatedly re-affirmed their desire to leave EU. The snap election of June 2017 saw the two parties unequivocally opposed to Brexit perform poorly. The SNP lost 21 seats while the Liberal Democrats’ national vote share fell by 7.4%. Furthermore, through their pseudo-democratic stance, and their visible intention to try and frustrate democracy, Europhiles are de-facto replicating the modus operandi of the EU which is to try and subvert democracy by initiating re-runs of democratic plebiscites. Over the past fifteen years, numerous referenda, in member states ranging from the Republic of Ireland to the Netherlands, has either been reversed or ignored. However it is this very disregard for democracy, by both EU bureaucrats and remainer zealots, that reminds us of why we voted leave in the first place; for that we should be thankful.
The crux of the matter is this: having a second referendum or ‘people’s vote’ before the result of the first referendum has been fully enacted would be an insult to democracy, as democracy is dependent on loser’s consent. It would mean a capitulation to the dystopian, pseudo-democratic language espoused by the likes of David Lammy and Alastair Campbell. It would create two sources of legitimacy in our constitution while creating a dissolution with the entire British political process. Is it really worth it?