Brexit vote: We can’t pick and choose which bits of democracy suit us.


We want to “take back control” was a the winning strapline of the UK referendum campaign in 2016. I spoke to many people at the time, people with all and no political opinions and party allegiances. Those voting Leave all used this phrase. It resonated.

Like all good straplines though, and for that matter all good communications of any kind, it was effective because it meant to the voter whatever they wanted it to mean.

So to some (including me) it simply meant that full sovereignty of the UK parliament would be taken back when EU Regulations are no longer mandated on the UK parliament without a parliamentary vote.

To others it meant (erroneously in my opinion) that we would take back control to the people. In the British Constitution the people have never held such power, except at election times when we can choose our local MP.

To others (totally deluded in my opinion) it meant take back control to stop or reduce immigration. Taking back control of immigration and of UK borders means exactly that. It means (in my opinion) that the UK decides who comes in and who stays. It does not mean necessarily or in any likelihood that control equals reduction.

People tend to read into things what suits them.

Similarly last night when 12 Conservative MPs rebelled against their party to vote in favour of an amendment which will give parliament a vote on the terms of Brexit (which frankly I think they already were goiung to have anyway), some Conservatives are up in arms.

Some seem to think they voted against their manifesto pledge to support Brexit. I’m not sure how having a vote on the terms of Brexit is voting against Brexit (yet anyway). Others are saying that the MPs should be deselected because they voted against their party. Would these same Leavers now have called for the bastards to be deselected?

When a Conservative & Unionist Constituency Association selects a candidate it would be unusual in my experience if they made it a criteria of selection that they agree not to rebel against their party on issues about which they feel strongly enough to do so.

If an Association required that it would effectively be ruling out their future MP ever voting in favour of something the majority of the local party or electorate supported but the party nationally did not.

If they wish the MP to have that freedom, then it is the same freedom for them to vote against whatever the majority of their local party, electorate or indeed national party wants.

This is the role of an MP in the British system of government and politics. They are selected and elected to use their judgement as representatives not to act on the will of others as delegates.

In the UK system there is no such thing as “the will of the people” other than when it is recognised through the ballot box to elect a local MP or of a referendum is made mandatory by parliament. Sovereignty sits with parliament.

For example, Jeremy Corbyn in his 30 odd (and I mean odd) years as an MP voted 428 times against the Labour government when it was in power. He was not deselected, because he was acting as he should as an MP and using his best judgement.

Bizarrely a lot of Leave voters applauded parliament for voting to trigger Article 50 to start the Brexit process, but not castigate it because parliament has used exactly the same sovereignty to vote a different way.

If, and I don’t expect this to happen, parliament voted to stop Brexit then (in my opinion) those of us who are Leavers but believe in parliamentary sovereignty should respect that in exactly the same way as if the vote was in favour of Brexit.

If you believe in sovereignty of parliament then you cannot attack parliament’s freedom to do something you don’t like!

However, as with the Leave strapline the same seems to be rue for parliamentary sovereignty – a lot of people only support something when it suits them. That is not British representative democracy. That is moving towards direct democracy and what I would consider to be mob rule.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s