There was a letter in the Daily Telegraph on November 23rd from a Liz Beeson in Dorset. She says that UKIP is prejudiced against a basic freedom of choice in education, employment and health. I’m wondering which UKIP she’s talking about, because it’s not the one I joined in March 2012. Indeed I moved from the Conservative Party to a more democratic, libertarian party precisely because I had decided that the Tories weren’t interested in freedom of choice in education (grammar schools?) and employment (EU directives?). We in UKIP are demanding self-determination and democracy in our country — something that Conservatives used to support. Which is perhaps why so many former Conservatives (and indeed former members of other parties and of no party) are coming to join us.
We recently had a little kerfuffle in the press over UKIP’s vote last week in Strasbourg on the “Single Seat” issue. UKIP has always been firmly opposed to two seats for the European parliament (indeed we’re opposed to any seat at all — let’s disband it). So we attracted some stick in the left-wing media, especially the Mirror, when we abstained on the vote. But the reason was simple: although we agreed with the substantive point, the text on which we voted (co-drafted by Tory MEP Ashley Fox) had a mass of verbiage praising the European parliament as the essence of democracy “at the European level”. We don’t think it is. And more fundamentally, we believe that the whole idea of “European democracy” is a snare and a delusion, a deliberate device to create a spurious façade of democracy where none exists. We simply could not vote to endorse that.
I explained this, very briefly, in a Tweet, and I got a reply from a Matthew Cunliffe, snidely observing that “UKIP couldn’t support a text praising European democracy”, and adding “That says it all”. Indeed it does, Matthew (or most of it), but not at all in the way you imagine. I replied “Just so Matthew. Because democracy needs a “demos”, and the EU doesn’t have one. Says it all”. But let me expand a bit.
It’s not just about counting votes. That’s arithmetic, not democracy. Democracy starts with a demos, a people or constituency who feel that they are, in some sense, “in the same boat”. It is this sense of being part of a group that legitimises majority decisions. So if a decision is made in Westminster, I may disagree with it, but generally speaking I accept its legitimacy. But if it’s made in Brussels by an alliance of Lithuanians, Slovaks, Croatians, Greeks and Portuguese, then I certainly don’t accept its legitimacy. Why do these people have any right to make decisions affecting me and my constituents in the UK?
And if you reply “They have that right because we signed treaties that gave them that right”, I reply that we should never have signed such treaties, and that we should be Better Off Out.
John Stuart Mill put it well in the 19th Century, long before the European Union was a twinkle in Jean Monnet’s eye. “Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of the representative government, cannot exist”. What foresight! He characterises the EU perfectly, and explains in a few words why European democracy cannot be meaningful.
Enoch Powell said much the same thing, arguing that democratic legitimacy depended on a people who shared enough in common in terms of history, language, culture and economic interests that they were prepared “to accept governance at each others’ hands”. I love that phrase. But clearly the EU’s 28 member states do not constitute such a people.
It seems to me self-evident that both Mill and Powell were right on this point. Democracy without broad consent is not democracy at all. Democracy “at the European level” is a Potemkin Village. It cannot exist. The European parliament is a fraud, designed to deceive the population into believing they have some say in their governance when clearly they do not. My only excuse for remaining part of it is to destroy it from within — or at least to get Britain out. Other member-states must determine their own fate.