If democracy means anything any more, Brexit must surely now happen

I wonder whether I’m the only person feeling I’m currently living in two parallel universes simultaneously. As I watched the European elections results come in, even I was surprised by the depth of support for the Brexit Party. They topped the poll in every single Council area in the North East. Across the region, they took 38.4% of the vote – more than double the number of votes that Labour did. This is supposed to be Labour territory. I can’t remember the last time Labour failed to top the poll across our region for any election at all.
But there’s another universe; a universe in which Remain purportedly won. That’s a bit difficult to swallow, given 38.4% compared with 19.4%, but apparently it’s so. In that universe, we add together the Lib Dem and Green and Change UK vote shares. That’s still only 28.9% – well behind the Brexit Party. But then, despite the Lib Dems’ campaign saying ‘a vote for Labour is a vote for Brexit’, they add in the entire Labour vote.
Well yes, adding together the votes of all the losing parties does give a figure a bit higher than that of the winners – but that’s not how elections work. By that standard, you’d have to say that no party has won any General Election since 1935. There’s another difference too. Brexit Party voters were only voting for one thing: Brexit. There’s a clue in the name. It hadn’t released any other policies on non-Brexit issues yet. It’s only been in existence for 7 weeks.
Green Party voters might have been voting on the European Union issue, but they might equally have been voting on environmental issues. Liberal Democrat voters might have been voting on the European Union, or perhaps for an established Party they’ve supported for decades. Labour Party voters maybe backed the Party they’ve supported since the days of the miners’ strike, or they might have actually agreed with Labour’s muddled mess of a Brexit vote. The only clear, unequivocal vote for a Remain party was for Change UK, who took an above-average 4% here in the North East.
It’s worth remembering YouGov’s research, which showed 32% of Lib Dem voters, 20% of Green voters, and 36% of Labour voters from the 2015 General Election went on to vote for Brexit in 2016. Things have changed since then, it’s true: some Remainers have now accepted the democratic result of the referendum. Some Brexiteers have abandoned those parties. Still, it’s an Alice-in-Wonderland type fantasy to simply add up other parties’ votes to declare winners as losers and losers as winners.
Remarkably, this huge Brexit Party vote happened despite differential turnout. The more strongly pro-Remain an area was in 2016, the more its turnout increased in 2019. Remainers voted. Many Brexiteers were so disgusted at the concept of European elections, that they stayed at home. Still, it was a Brexit Party landslide.
Normally, when Labour or the Conservatives go below 25% nationally, it’s a disaster. This time, they couldn’t muster 25% between them. The Brexit Party wasn’t too far short of beating Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives combined in the North East.
Brexiteers won the 2014 European elections. Parties pledging a referendum won the 2015 General Election. Brexiteers won the 2016 EU referendum, with more people voting for Brexit than have ever voted for anything else in history. Then in 2017, 85% of people backed parties pledging to respect the referendum result. Now, in 2019, the people have voted for a fifth time – delivering a Brexit Party landslide. The Brexit Party will be sending the biggest delegation of any national party anywhere in Europe to Brussels.
That’s five consecutive national elections (and referendum) won by Brexiteers. The people have now voted five times for Brexit. Those advocating a ‘People’s Vote’ would like to suggest that none of those five votes matter. But if they haven’t respected five votes already, why should anyone trust them to respect a sixth? Enough is enough. Samuel Johnson said that ‘patriotism’ is the last refuge of a scoundrel. The modern-day equivalent is demanding another vote when the first one doesn’t go your way, or the second, or third, or fourth. Or, now, the fifth. It’s time to end the charade. If democracy means anything any more, Brexit must surely now happen.