‘Democracy’ and ‘the right thing to do’: we’ve heard a lot about both from British Prime Minister Theresa May over the past few years. Everyone claims the moral high ground on the issue of Brexit.
But this was never about democracy. It was always a power struggle: one that began inside the British Conservative Party and was allowed the spill out of pubs and sitting rooms into the political mainstream.
“You don’t want a referendum and neither do I”
When Mrs May spoke these words in her live address to the nation on 20 March, it was yet another example of the echo chamber politics of Brexit. She has only ever spoken for Leave voters.
Mrs May is as instinctively Brexiteer as her opposite number, Jeremy Corbyn. Both have insular notions of a strong, centralised state and are uncomfortable with globalised fluidity.
Carry on until you vote the right way
Before the 2016 referendum, Nigel Farage speculated that if the Leave campaign lost narrowly, it would not be the end of the issue. Yet it was remarkable how quickly Mrs May decided that the wafer-thin result had been the final, definitive will of the entire nation.
She persistently repeats the idea that democracy will be fatally undermined by another poll. Yet this isn’t principle, otherwise why does she keep asking MPs to vote again on her Brexit deal?
Mrs May doesn’t want another referendum because she is happy with the result achieved the first time out. Mr Corbyn is of the same mind, with the subtle difference that he wants to be in Number 10 instead of Mrs May.
But don’t mind me. It turns out I’m so old the only politician I understand anymore is the Right Honourable Ken Clarke.