SCENE: A LONDON BACK STREET…
SOCRATES: Hey, you there, why are you tearing up those placards?
ANGRY VOTER: It’s over, the racists have won. It’s a black day for democracy.
SOCRATES: Ah, you’ve been taking part in the recent election. I’m an immigrant from a fellow democracy myself, so I’m fascinated to understand your system better.
VOTER: It’s a joke. Barely close enough to wait for the count.
SOCRATES: I see, so they were very powerful then, these racists. Did they bribe the voters?
VOTER: No, they’re total outsiders. They have this crazy idea that we should leave the European Union.
SOCRATES: Ah, they want to overturn a decision that was already decided democratically.
VOTER: Actually, uh, we haven’t had a vote on that in a while. But they want to have one now just because they think they’ll win!
SOCRATES: That doesn’t sound so unfair. But they plan to bring in racist policies?
VOTER: Can you believe it? They want to give immigrants from anywhere the same treatment, instead of letting their fellow Europeans take first place in line. It’s disgusting.
SOCRATES: It’s bad if they don’t like us immigrants, but I’m not sure I follow your logic. Still, you have been engaging their objectionable ideas in the forum? Using the cut and thrust of debate to lay bare their fallacies?
VOTER: Ahem, well there were a couple of debates on the telly. I thought Nick cut them down to size. But their supporters disagreed.
SOCRATES: That must have made you determined to persuade people yourself?
VOTER: You’ve got to defend free speech. That’s what the placards were for. We’ve disrupted loads of their public meetings. I slung a couple of bricks and a, you know, a surprise or two in the mail to their Freepost address. Plus we’ve been pretty sarcastic on Twitter. It was weird though. Nothing worked.
SOCRATES: But you tried disputing their candidates’ arguments?
VOTER: Oh the stuff we found out about those guys. Pure. Gold. Thick of It meets Love Thy Neighbour. Call the language police. They have no idea how to talk like a politician.
SOCRATES: I’m confused. Doesn’t democracy allow all citizens a voice?
VOTER: Only the ones who can talk properly. You can see the sense in that. Of course, we’ve advanced since your day. We’ve got parliamentary democracy now.
SOCRATES: What does that mean?
VOTER: Not having to listen to crazy voters so much. Especially in the EU.
SOCRATES: So how does the EU handle these things?
VOTER: It keeps on taking the vote until it gets the right answer.
SOCRATES: And how does it know the right answer?
VOTER: Because it doesn’t listen to the people. You can’t take an idea seriously just because lots of people agree, that’s not democracy.
SOCRATES: I can see I have a lot to learn.
VOTER: Just don’t listen to hoi polloi. Can I recycle these, do you think?
Marc Sidwell is managing editor at City A.M.