Thursday 27 October 2016

More on democracy.

The Guardian (and others, but let's put the boot in where it's most deserved) are breathlessly reporting that they've obtained a leaked recording which shows that Theresa May didn't support Brexit! This is being treated as some sort of scoop for some reason. Don't understand it myself. Yes, she was pro-Remain. It wasn't a secret: she said so publicly at the time. She was on the Remain side in the Referendum. I assume she voted Remain. We all knew it. What's next? Secret footage of Michael Gove saying he thinks schools could be improved?

Let's leave aside the rather obvious facts: that May only stood as leader as a direct result of the Brexit vote; that the whole and only reason the post was vacant was that Cameron was pro-Remain; that the whole point of her candidacy was "I will deliver what the people have voted for"; that, if she hadn't offered that, she couldn't have won; that therefore whether she thinks the people were right to vote the way we did is secondary. Because, even if none of that were true, it still wouldn't actually matter.

This is the great strength of democracy: that it harnesses politicians' desire for power. The whole point of democracy is that you achieve power by doing what the electorate want. In non-democracies, you achieve power by trampling all over the public. As long as they have to persuade voters, it simply does not matter whether a politician bases their policy on a deep-seated conviction or a fervent desire to do good or a cynical unprincipled hunger for power or even a lunatic conspiracy theory — because not enough voters will ever share the same conviction or altruism or conspiracy theory, and certainly not an overwhelming desire to give as much power as possible to that one politician. It doesn't matter what the voters' motives are, either — an idea the Remnants are having real trouble with. In a democracy, motives are pooled and mixed and diluted till they may as well not exist. Which is why it's so rare for democracies to give rise to significant crazed extremist movements.

Maybe Theresa May doesn't want any of what she's currently working for. Maybe she would rather the UK stay in the EU but is willing to bury her own convictions in order to get the top job. Maybe she's a power-hungry narcissist who hates us all. Yet she is still, in order to grab power, having to do what the electorate clearly voted for.

This is a feature, not a bug.

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