According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, democracy is:'the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves.'Great Britain is a country which has prided itself upon being able to stand on the world stage as a democracy, whereby its citizens live freely and have the right to express their opinions. However, since David Cameron announced in February 2016 that there would be a referendum in June of that year that would allow the people to vote on Britain’s EU membership, the country’s ability to be seen as a functioning democracy has rapidly declined.
Over the Christmas period, I spent a few days away in Aachen, Germany. My parents and I had travelled there from Ashford in just 5 short hours, and we commented on how this may well be the last time that we get to enjoy travelling with such freedom and ease across Europe before, as my dad put it, ‘Britain sends itself down the toilet’. We were visiting a country where its Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had spent her childhood growing up in East Germany without freedom of movement, and felt embarrassed to be coming from a country that seemed to disregard how lucky we are to possess this freedom. Figures such as Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson allowed the Leave campaign to manipulate the British public into believing that freedom of movement concerned refugees arriving on shores in dinghies and ‘stealing our jobs’, and was nothing to do with our own ability to travel and work in other countries across Europe. One piece of completely undemocratic, unethical propaganda by the campaign was a poster that showed a large crowd of Slovenian refugees with the caption ‘Breaking point: the EU has failed us all’. Not only did this make many British people believe that membership of the EU meant that migrants were literally queueing on mass at our border, but also that refugees fleeing war and persecution were the same as legal migrants moving within EU member states. To me, a vote being allowed to take place after one side of the argument had built a campaign purely on hatred, lies and the exploitation of refugees to further their cause is the exact opposite of what it means to be a democracy. How can Leavers truly believe that not having a referendum in 2019 on Theresa May’s Brexit Deal is what democracy demands, when they got the result they wanted through some of the least democratic means possible?
In the last few days, Theresa May has confirmed that the Parliamentary vote on her Brexit Deal will take place on the 15th January. However, it is currently looking like it won’t get the votes it needs to be passed and we will end up with a ‘no-deal’ situation, as well as an even more divided and shambolic Parliament and Government. In my opinion, the fact that the majority of MPs would rather allow the country to end up in a no-deal situation simply so that they can advance their own personal position through the calling of a general election, rather than acting as representatives for their constituents and considering what is best for them, means that democracy really has crumbled.
Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour has been a prime example of this. The closer we get to the 29th March, the more he talks about a general election so that he can negotiate a better deal, rather than properly debating the whole notion of Brexit and acting as a viable opposition which is what he and his party are meant to be doing. Democracy should not allow for individuals such as Corbyn and those in the Shadow Cabinet to operate with their sights solely on taking power. Acting as a strong and coherent opposition is just as, if not more, important in ensuring that the British people benefit from the true democracy that they are entitled to. In the same way, MPs within the Conservative party should, by all means, hold the government to account, but not simply go against everything that they do in a selfish attempt to grab power.
So, we will just have to see how the next three months unfold and if Parliament remembers that it is there as an agent of democracy, and not there solely to benefit self-serving MPs.