It is distressing to watch British democracy go down the fascist road to hell 80 years after the rest of Europe

Published: November 5, 2016 at 12:43pm

Judges in Britain’s High Court have ruled that the government cannot act to take the country out of the European Union unless there is a vote in parliament.

The action was brought in the aftermath of the June referendum by a group of people who were concerned at the attempt to transition to mob rule, making the point that British democracy – the world’s oldest and most respected until now – does not allow for direct democracy.

British democracy, like the Maltese democracy which was modelled on it, is representative democracy. When decisions have to be made, they are made by parliament – by the people’s representatives, and not by ‘the people’ themselves.

When laws have to be enacted or other decisions taken, the government does not ask citizens to take those decisions. The government asks parliament.

Referendums, in Malta and Britain, do not propel laws into being. It is a subsequent vote in parliament which does that. Malta’s referendums on EU membership and divorce were followed by a vote in parliament. The government did not just go ahead without that vote. It couldn’t.

It is astonishing, truly astonishing, that Prime Minister May announced as soon as she took office that she would not take the matter to parliament for a vote, and was adamant about it. That marks her out as somebody who does not even begin to understand the democracy she is there to safeguard.

It took a court case to force the issue, and without that court decision she would have ridden roughshod over one of the most sacred principles of representative democracy. Worse, she is set to appeal against the decision. We are now further up the wedge that began at the thin end with the howls of ignorant, fascist-driven rubbish against the European Union, playing on people’s fears, ignorance and prejudices in a manner no different to the worst elements of the 1930s.

The scenes since the High Court decision have been frightening. A headline plastered across the Telegraph’s front page reads in large letters THE JUDGES AGAINST THE PEOPLE, with clear photographs of the judges’ faces, and their names, beneath.

The Daily Mail – no surprises there, really – even covered its front page with the description used by totalitarian regimes to describe critics or those who stand in the way of their totalitarian objectives, and it did so without irony: ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.

We in Malta know exactly what this means: we were there long before with Labour Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici. We know the implications, the dangers, the crazy, wrong-headedness of this reasoning. Judges are there to protect the people, and very often from themselves. God forbid that Britain should descend into the horrors of mob rule, where The People – not even their representatives in parliament – are superior to the High Court.

As you can see from this photograph, British newspapers are, frighteningly, encouraging mob anger against the judges who have upheld the rule of law and the principles of representative democracy. And British mob anger has never been pretty.

And Gina Miller, who led the legal battle in the courts, is now receiving death threats, gang-rape threats, and violent, racist and misogynistic insults.

What a sad time this is for the world, with fascist sentiment on the rise in the two great democracies which fought against continental European fascism 70 years ago.