Back in the 18th century, political reformer Henry Fox was advocating giving the vote to more people. But only, he insisted, to what he called ‘the better sort’. Not ‘the mob or the mere dregs of the people’. Heaven forbid!
Now, in the 21st century, such derogatory sentiments about ‘the people’ are dangerously back in fashion — ever since they dared vote for Brexit in Britain, and for Donald Trump in the United States.
Questions are being asked in high places about whether ordinary voters are fit to make decisions on major issues.
As a result, democracy — the cornerstone of our way of life — is being undermined, its very survival put at risk. Its modern enemies are mustering from all corners — but most worryingly from the Left, the very area where its stoutest defenders should be.
As a long-standing person of the Left, I fear that democratic freedoms are now in danger of being abandoned as elitists in our midst attempt to restrict them.
Every serious politician and thinker declares his or her belief in democracy. Yet, in practice, they seek to separate power from the people. The mantra has become ‘I’m a democrat, of course, but …’
Over Brexit, this profoundly insidious attitude was exemplified by John Major, former Tory prime minister, who denied the referendum result was binding and declared: ‘The tyranny of the majority has never applied in a democracy.’
Some of us might naively have imagined that majority rule was the very essence of democracy. But not, it seems, when millions vote against the wishes of a tiny political elite.
was, of course, George Orwell in his 1945 novel Animal Farm, who described how ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.’
Fast-forward to today and we find many Remainers similarly convinced that anyone who voted to leave the EU is too stupid to have the vote. The response was the same in America when voters failed to elect Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s victory, one U.S. professor declared, was ‘the dance of the dunces’, the result of ‘uneducated, low-information white people’ being given the vote. He added: ‘Democracy is supposed to enact the will of the people. But what if the people have no clue what they’re doing?’
The fury against the 17.4 million UK voters who dared to back Brexit — and the 62 million Americans who had the temerity to vote for Trump — brings frightening anti-democratic poisons bubbling to the surface of our societies.
The sheer bile that erupted from political and cultural elites in Britain after the Brexit vote revealed a deep-seated contempt for the people and for democracy. The Establishment reacted as if the ground had disappeared from beneath their feet. How could this have happened?