Reflecting on a responsible democracy

Reflecting on a responsible democracy

08 December 2017

At the risk of being utterly boring, I’m going to touch again on Brexit.  Personally, I’m weary of the whole affair but something happened recently that helps explain the agitation there is about it all.

I was having drinks with some friends – two married couples.  All are very intelligent and well educated, and I’ve known them for over 30 years.  As the drinks flowed and the chat became more animated, someone raised the inevitable Brexit topic.  Inwardly, I groaned.  I was brought up to believe that one should never discuss religion, politics or money with friends – old school, I know!  I then witnessed at first hand the divisive impact the Brexit vote is still having on families.

Each person in the two married couples voted differently.  In other words, it was husband against wife in both cases with one side voting remain and the other leave.  Fortunately, the debate did not get too emotional and there were no fisticuffs involved.   However, it illustrated two things to me.

Firstly, this issue really has become a problem in some families, which is a terrible shame.  One of our fundamental British Values is Democracy, and we each have the right to vote in elections and referendums.  Another British Value is Individual Liberty, so we are all free to vote how we choose, and this should be without fear of any kind of retribution.  The Brexit referendum is an interesting dichotomy.  It supports democracy on the one hand but the after-effects appear to be challenging the very essence of our expectation that we can exercise our democratic right without worrying about reprisals.  Make no mistake: these family rifts are serious and alarmingly widespread.

The second point really emphasises the need to exercise our democratic rights responsibly.  Both of my friends who voted to leave the EU now regret it.  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not interested in which way someone voted but I am interested in the reasons behind each vote.  One of my friends voted leave because her daughter is a doctor, and she thought she would get a pay rise if we didn’t make such huge financial contributions to the EU.  The other didn’t really research it very much and made an impulsive decision.  One might argue this is almost an abuse of their democratic rights.  Should we really have the privilege of a democratic society if we don’t take our role in it seriously and responsibly?

Brexit will rumble on and on for years to come.  All I ask is that the next time you have the opportunity to vote on anything, you make a measured and considered decision before ticking the box.  That way, you may come to regret your vote, but you’ll always know your conscience is clear and that you acted responsibly. 

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