The British people have spoken. They have voted to leave the European Union. Brexit will happen. Seventy-two per cent of the electorate turned out to make their voice heard in this historic referendum, and 52 per cent of them voted to get rid of the supranational governance which has ruled us for over 40 years. This is, from the perspective of anyone with a taste for and basic understanding of democracy, a free, legitimate and fair result; both sides fought valiantly, and the people chose to leave. This is democracy in action.
However, the response to the referendum result from many has been shocking, distasteful, and at times, frankly cringeworthy. There has been mudslinging, name calling, calls for another referendum, and perhaps most appallingly, a sheer disregard for the decision of the people. The condescending tone of so many responses on social media, in the press and from politicians claim that the British people are wrong, that they don’t know how to direct their own lives, that the people are not sufficiently astute to understand and decide what is best for themselves and their families.
All this resonates a serious problem with the nature of democracy in our country. Several subliminal messages become deafening with each angry, disdainful comment which pose a huge threat to democracy in our country:
I love democracy, when it goes the way I want.
I stand up for the people – but they have to do as I say.
The people are too stupid to decide what’s best for them.
Another slightly confusing and rather desperate approach seems to be gaining momentum, which extrapolates all of these pernicious, condescending ideas; let’s blame the politicians. I’ve seen venom thrown at Nigel Farage, at Boris Johnson, even towards David Cameron for instigating a referendum in the first place. So, for the benefit of the perpetrators, just a brief politics lesson: politicians do not decide the outcome of referendums, the people do.
That’s the point. Politicians have every right to present their side of the argument, and ultimately, to be judged by the result. The people do not vote for a certain side because they’re stupid. They vote as such because it is best for them and their lives. Some rebuke the prime minster for legislating a referendum altogether. Stupefying arrogance from those believing themselves to be gifted with omniscience so formidable that they can accurately determine the best resolutions for every citizen. Well, it’s not true. The people know what’s best for them more than a few riled flunkies.
It needs to be said that, despite this, there has been a significant section of the Remain side who have been gracious, respectful and commendable. This is the behaviour of true democrats. Not the self-elevation of individuals in order to berate the electorate for idiocy and an inability to decide for themselves simply due to a personal rancour at the outcome of a democratic process that happened not to go your way. In a democracy, things will not always go they way you want. That’s life. You want freedom, you have to show civility towards the freedom of others.
This is democracy, and this is morally right. It is the cornerstone of a free country. As citizens of a democratic state, this needs to be esteemed and embraced, or democracy – and freedom – are redundant.
Maria is Conservatives for Liberty’s events co-ordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @avemariarebecca
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty