Thursday, February 02, 2017

Political Ignorance

You know, I always get more than a little worried when people say things which reveal their total lack of knowledge about their own jobs.  In the run up to the recent Commons vote on Brexit I've heard several Labour MPs try to justify their voting in favour of the bill, even though they campaigned to 'Remain', by claiming that if the government was to be defeated, this would probably trigger a general election, in which politicians who opposed the outcome of the EU referendum would be 'punished' by the electorate.  The only problem with this scenario is that it is utter nonsense.  For one thing, since 2010, when the Tories, abetted by their then lickspittles, the Liberal Democrats, introduced fixed term parliaments, in another of their regular attempts to rig the constitution so that the electoral system is even more biased in their favour.  What this means in practical terms is that it is virtually impossible for a government to dissolve parliament and call an election early.  A vote of 'no confidence' (which could trigger a general election) now requires, if memory serves me correctly, a two thirds majority in the Commons.  So, to trigger an election, the government would require the assistance of the Labour Party - something that surely even Corbyn wouldn't be idiotic enough to give if they thought that they'd be 'punished' at the polls,

But would they be punished by the electorate for defying the outcome of a referendum, ignoring the 'will of the people', as the Brexiteers like to keep banging on about?   The referendum result wasn't exactly an overwhelming endorsement of 'Leave', despite what the right wing press and politicians would have you believe.  Indeed, nearly half of all those who voted supported 'Remain'.  Moreover, there are a lot of 'Leave' supporters deeply unhappy with the 'Hard Brexit' strategy now being pursued by the government.  So, even taking into account the vagaries of our electoral system, which distorts the national vote, a complete wipe out for anti-Brexit MPs at a hypothetical election isn't a foregone conclusion.  But, hey, one gets the impression that many Labour MPs, in the face of Corbyn's three line whip to vote for Brexit, were clutching at straws when it came to explanations for their failure to find their backbones.   Too many MPs, though, on all sides of the House, are running scared of this ''will of the people'.  A referendum does not represent the 'will of the people'. not under the UK constitution, at least.  It is parliament which represents the 'will of the people'.  Which brings us to something said by 'Brexit' Minister David Davies at the opening of the Commons debate, to the effect that defeating the bill would be tantamount to saying that we don't trust the people.  Well, constitutionally, we don't.  That's why we have a parliamentary, rather than a direct, democracy.  We don't believe that the general electorate can be trusted to make the big decisions.

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