Democracy used to work. It was very simple. The people elected an MP and he or she voted to make decisions on their behalf. Before voting the MP had an opportunity to canvass local opinion and participate in debates to learn the facts. Although they belonged to a political party they were not obliged to follow its guidelines on how to vote. This allowed them to form their own up-to-date views on topical issues and facilitated sensible, considered, decisions.
Somehow, without consultation, this changed. Increasingly MPs were told how to vote by the party whips. The debates were rendered meaningless and individual MPs existed to waste time and money as reluctant endorsers of the ruling party’s policy, with nobody heeding any dissent. Parliamentary decisions became less sensible and less popular.
Surprisingly, the public felt disengaged. To placate them the ruling party delegated two important decisions, anticipating that their preferred outcome would prevail. In the first Scotland obliged by voting against independence then proceeded to elect a nationalist government. In the second the people defied expectations and voted to leave the European Union. This was challenged in the High Court this week. The Court ruled that Britain needs the support of parliament to leave. In other words the referendum was a waste of time and money and MPs should vote.
The problem is that most MPs in the British parliament like their parties, do not agree with the public’s decision. In the higher European Parliament, a third of the elected British representatives are opposed to the organisation that employs them and would gladly send it, along with their jobs, into oblivion. They will not get a vote.
Assuming that the proposed Government appeal proves to be a waste of time and money the MPs in the House of Commons may have to decide if they should vote according to the wishes of their constituents, their own personal opinion, or in line with party policy. That decision will determine if Britain’s broken democracy can ever be repaired.