Belfast Telegraph

I voted to stick with EU, but the demonisation of those who went the other way is an insult to democracy

Yes, Leave lied, but we ignore the public's rebellion against the elite at our peril

Fionola Meredith

Two young blokes shove a pair of elderly men in wheelchairs off the top of a cliff. One says to the other: "My grandad said he was going to vote Leave, too". This didn't actually happen, of course. It was a strangely prophetic cartoon in the satirical magazine Private Eye, published before the EU referendum result.

But the way things have been going since the UK voted for Brexit, I wouldn't be entirely surprised if we saw great crowds of people chucking their grandads off cliffs and high buildings. Surely some terminal punishment is required if the geriatric fools are to understand the harm they have done to the upcoming generation?

Being too old and demented to understand the irrefutable logic of the Remain campaign was just one of the crimes laid at the door of Leavers. They have also been branded stupid, racist, mad and moronic. There has been talk of sewers bursting, poison erupting.

Even where they are not being excoriated for their decision, those who voted leave are characterised as poor deluded dupes, hoodwinked and manipulated by populist connivers who fed them lies and empty promises.

Against the advice of the entire political establishment, business and banking leaders, and every right-on celebrity you can name (as well as plenty more you can't), 17.5 million people voted no to the EU.

This, we are now told, is a disaster that must be speedily reversed by whatever means necessary: protests, mass petitions, acts of Parliament, dissolution of the union, anything at all which could avert the looming apocalypse.

The plebiscite has been ruined by thick plebs, so any intervention by those who know better is totally justified.

Hello? What about democracy? The contempt being shown for the majority will of the people has been extraordinary, and horrifying.

And the disrespect for ordinary people's ability to listen, think and then decide for themselves - as though they would all automatically accept any trumped-up nonsense from Nigel Farage and his chums about immigration or the NHS as iron-clad truth - is almost as bad.

"Vote love, not leave," wasn't that what we were urged? Yeah right. Where has all that tolerant liberal love gone now?

Just so you know, I voted Remain. I did so uncomfortably and with great ambivalence because although I am pro-Europe and pro-migration (hint: not a racist nutter), I think the EU is deeply dysfunctional and fundamentally undemocratic: an elitist, technocratic citadel, utterly resistant to reform from within. As the writer Colm Toibin observed, "the European Commission appears like an organisation whose main enemy is the European people."

Well exactly. But I voted to stay because I couldn't bear the odious thought of Boris Johnson, who has since withdrawn, and Michael Gove (right) taking the wheel, with Farage smirking smugly in the back seat. And I was troubled by the effect Brexit could have on our fragile set-up here.

My side may have won in Northern Ireland, but we weren't voting as a separate state (because like it or not, it isn't) and we lost overall.

That's the way democracy works. You can't just whine that you don't like the result so you want to do it again, and again, and again, until you get the verdict you want.

Does this really need explaining? Clearly it does. Again and again and again, if necessary, until the message gets through. Overturn the will of the people - clearly articulated at the ballot-box - at your peril. Once you start messing with basic democracy, who knows where you will end up.

Yes, the Leave campaign lied disgracefully. But I'm inclined to agree with the grumpy old socialist John Pilger that the most effective propagandists during the EU referendum have not been the far right, but "an insufferably patrician class for whom metropolitan London is the United Kingdom", which arrogantly sees itself as "liberal, enlightened, cultivated tribunes of the 21st century zeitgeist" and which retains "ancient instincts of their own superiority".

I think that class might have got up quite a few people's noses, you know. Nobody likes being told what to think and how to behave, not if they have any independent life left in them.

With all the hysteria, the recriminations and the naked hostility, it's hard to see where we go from here. But one thing is certain. We must accept that the people have spoken, and listen to what they have to say. Otherwise democracy counts for nothing, and the elite triumphs yet again.

Belfast Telegraph

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