There is a form of African post-colonial democracy where presidents, even if originally elected, nevertheless rule for life. Call it ‘one person: one vote; -Once’!
Of course, we reject this as any kind of democracy at all. Voters a right to change their minds. That is why Tony Blair has every right to argue that voters got it all wrong on the 23rd of June last year and that it is his mission to persuade us to change our minds.
I campaigned to leave the Common Market in 1975 and, whilst I accepted the referendum result, I never changed my mind and I always took every opportunity to argue that the wrong decision had been made.
I had hoped that following last June’s result, the political agenda would move to on to focus on so many of the other complicated and pressing questions facing us. Unfortunately however, every day I still receive a trickle of email correspondence from constituents demanding that I set aside the referendum result and use my votes in Parliament to prevent us from leaving the EU. Mr Blair’s intervention will, no doubt, inspire further such attempts to persuade me. What I thought was very significant about both his speech and also the correspondence that I receive, is that there is no new argument being made. Rather, it is merely the re-statement of arguments that were thoroughly rehearsed in the referendum campaign last year.
So, given that the case hasn’t changed, and that even Mr Blair acknowledged that there is currently no public appetite to reconsider, what then is their strategy?
It is to delay as long as possible until ‘something turns up’ and the public changes its mind. It is a strategy of clutching at any straw that happens to come to hand.
Their Lordships and the Opposition in the Commons will take every opportunity to delay. The Article 50 bill has, so far, proved something of a disappointment to them in this respect, but they are salivating at the prospect of the Government’s statute of repeal shortly to begin its long and tortuous progress.
The longer they can delay, the longer there is for the public to tire and to lose interest. The longer there is for cold winds to blow from elsewhere, for events to intervene, after all, we live in an increasingly unpredictable world.
The parliamentary opponents hide behind the need for ‘proper’ scrutiny, but their strategy is really one of delay and desperation. Democracy demands that they retain their freedom to continue to argue and that the voters made a mistake, but to delay the implementation of the properly made decision of the voters is a denial of democracy. In effect it is an attempt to apply the ‘one person: one vote; – but only once’ rule to the plebiscite we had in 1975.