Friday 20 September 2019 6:14 am

By vowing to cancel Article 50, the Lib Dems are turning their backs on liberal democracy

Brian Monteith is a former member of the Scottish and European parliaments

Liberalism has a proud history in European democracy. As a concept, liberal democracy has defined the West for over a century, but belief in the greater good can only come if the people decide what is good for them. 

For all the talk of bringing the country together, the Liberal Democrats are following the march of the Scottish Nationalists in rejecting democracy when it doesn’t fit their narrative.

Let us remember that it was the Liberal Democrats – not David Cameron – who first called for a referendum on EU membership, believing the British people would rush to endorse it. 

Let us recall it was Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, and Tim Farron who repeatedly argued that leaving the EU meant leaving the Single Market, the Customs Union, and EU institutions. 

They defined leaving as a hard Brexit – and that there would be no going back, no second referendum – and we still voted to escape.

Having lost the vote, the Liberal Democrats did not take long to forget what they had said previously. Soon they were telling us Leavers we did not know what we had voted for. Just how ignorant could 17.4m people be?

It was only a short leap to perform another backflip and recommend a second referendum at the last General Election – only to see their share of the vote fall to only 7.4 per cent.

The United Kingdom will have held its largest democratic exercise in its history and it would have counted for nothing

Now, at their recent party conference, the Liberal Democrats have turned their back on liberal democracy altogether by deciding that they and no one else may decide what is good for us. The party voted against calling an early election, which would have held the government to account. It now wishes to revoke Article 50 and prevent Brexit altogether, without any consultation or direction from the electorate.

The United Kingdom will have held its largest democratic exercise in its history, with over 33m people participating, and it would have counted for nothing. Why ever vote again? Why ever vote in a General Election? Why ever hold elections at all? After all, the Liberal Democrats know best, so why not just put them in power for good?

Three years ago, the party’s former leader, the late Paddy Ashdown, rejected this arrogant charade, saying during a TV interview: “those who asked for this, and I was the first leader ever to ask for a referendum in 1989, have said so because they believe in the act of democracy.

“I will forgive no one who does not accept the sovereign voice of the British people once it has spoken, whether it’s by one per cent or 20 per cent. It’s our duty to serve the public and make sure that our country does the best it can with the decision people have given us.”

Liberty is not natural, it is the most unnatural and unstable way in which man lives, and can only be maintained through constant attempts by vested powers trying to dominate and subordinate our freedoms.

If there is ever to be a second referendum, it can only be after the first has been delivered.

Selective democracy is hardly different to that seen in Russia or Turkey, and has no place in our so-called European values – and certainly not in this country’s future. 

After the uprising of the people on 23 June 2016, Remainers have sought to manage democracy in such a way that the result was overturned, because they feel that we voted the wrong way. 

If there is an impasse, would it not be best to dissolve the current parliament and elect another? What have Liberal Democrats got to fear – other than the wrath of the electorate.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.