“The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of an election, is he?” goaded Margaret Thatcher. “Afraid? Frightened? Frit?” she persisted, with perfectly alliterative thrashings of her serrated tongue. “Could not take it? Cannot stand it?” she hammered home, bludgeoning poor Denis Healey with jibes of derision and contempt. He wasn’t fearful of an election, of course, but the truth doesn’t matter in the frenzy of heated rhetoric: what endures is the unmanly slander of having the jitters, panicking, being chicken. People remember that sort of humiliation and shame.
‘Afraid? Frightened? Frit?’ is now the favoured incitement of EU Remainers who are demanding a ‘People’s Vote’ on the final deal EU/UK deal – just to make sure it’s the sort of Brexit the people voted for in 2016. “If you believe the British people actually prefer the reality of Brexit to EU membership, not just the lie-filled fantasy of 2016, why are you so afraid to ask them?” goads David Lammy. “Brextremists terrified of a vote cos people changing their minds”, Alastair Campbell persists. “Time to march. Because now it’s the Brexiters who are afraid”, Polly Toynbee hammers home.
It is, of course, nothing to do with confirming any sort of Brexit: the People’s Vote campaign is a barefaced attempt to stop Brexit altogether, so that we remain forever in the ‘House of Europe’ – God’s fraternal union of peace, prosperity and security. Christians must “resist all attempts to appropriate the Christian faith in the service of a narrow, exclusive and hostile nationalism”, urged Professor Tina Beattie in her recent ‘Thought for the Day‘. So a people’s vote would offer an opportunity for national repentance: a chance for us to affirm our European catholicity and commitment to ever-closer unity, just like Jesus would want.
Quite why the people’s vote of 2016 must be subsumed to a further people’s vote so the people may be sure of what they voted for originally isn’t entirely clear. Surely if the people got it wrong in 2016, they can get it wrong again. Either the people are intellectually and morally equipped to make such a seismic decision as leaving the European Union, or they are not.
But the problem with the People’s Vote movement is not its facile strategy (they can’t even propose a question, let alone articulate how ‘truth’ will be mediated so the ‘lies’ of 2016 may be obviated): no, the problem is the danger of its consequences. If the decision taken by the people in the 2016 EU Referendum is reversed before it is given effect, then the ballot box will have ceased to function. What recourse is then left to the people to effect political change? If democratic history teaches us anything, it is that when people are denied resolution by the ballot box they may resort to alternative means. And those means aren’t always predicated on peace and reconciliation.
As was observed in the days following the Brexit decision:
The people have spoken, and our leaders must hear and obey. They must do so with humility, in a spirit of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. If they do not; if they continue in their rebellion and persist with their hubris and scheming, the current vacuum of leadership in the Conservative Party and total turmoil within Labour will be as nothing to the political havoc, social convulsion and annihilation of authority which the Holy Spirit will wreak upon us all.
This is the real fear: Brexiteers are not frit of democracy, but distressed at the thought of the consequences of a precipitous People’s Vote upon the Queen’s Peace. It took 40 years for the people to be given the opportunity to reverse their decision of 1975: the 2016 plebiscite was the second referendum. There is no harm at all in giving a third referendum in another 40 years, or even 20. But what you can’t do is keep asking the people every few years until you get the result you want, which is, of course, a favoured strategy of the EU:
Brexiteer Britons will not put up with this sort of cynical democratic manipulation. If the mainstream political parties cannot or will not deliver what the majority demands, we will surely witness the rise of the political extremes – UKIP will be considered moderate by comparison – and all hope of national reconciliation will be lost. Fear is a source of fascism: the fear of the People’s Vote is not one of anti-democratic motive or determinist intention, but the fear of each other which rejects the fear of the sovereign and so repudiates the morality of society. What, then, for community and corporate obedience? How, then, do we respect the institutions of coherence and order? Why, then, should we bother?
Remainers may allege cowardice, but Leavers should look up and admonish their foolhardiness. If the minority cannot accept the will of the majority, the onus is upon them to reason why the agape of democracy should be damned. And it would help if the debate were mature and rather more Christian: ‘scaredy-cat’ is the politics of the playground.