It is the difference between Margaret Thatcher and Jeremy Corbyn, Tony Blair and Boris of the FO. It is the difference between any serious politician you might care to mention and Donald Trump. Serious politicians don’t call for feet on the streets or hot tempered marches down Whitehall. They tend not to call for civil disorder or threaten the entire political system for their own selfish ends. Yet when Nigel Farage appeared on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, he suggested in not too subtle terms, that the public will take a dim view of the judiciary getting involved in the business of deciding Brexit.
‘We may have seen Bob Geldof and 40,000 people in Parliament Square moaning about Brexit,’ he said. ‘But believe you me if: people in this country think that they’re going to be cheated, they’re going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country.’ Later in the day, it was announced that Leave.EU have organized a rally in which it is hoped that Farage will lead 100,000 people to Parliament Square, in order to protest within sight of the Supreme Court. In his words and possibly actions, Farage is proving what he has always been: something less than a serious politician but also a quite dangerous man.
It is as unfortunate as it is predictable that June’s plebiscite will ultimately end with tear gas and police batons. All referenda propose a model of democracy not too dissimilar to that of the mob which exists for one purpose only: to change opinion through the power of intimidation, if not violence. If 100,000 people can march because of an issue, runs this spurious logic, then surely the argument they champion must be the correct one.
The problem is that the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ is rarely proven to be right. 100,000 people are usually as right or wrong as their most vocal or charismatic members. The roles of government and judiciary is to make judgements based on the law through argument, reason, and evidence, rather than the sheer weight of numbers. Whatever we mean by Brexit and whatever the eventual outcome, it must be decided inside the conventions of Britain’s constitutional framework. Our eventual decision must also be in our best interests. Farage, however, appears hell-bent on imposing Brexit with little regard for the negotiations. It is as if he is not even interested in the terms of our settlement so long as the break is made and made quickly. He would storm the barricades of reason only careful not to spill his imperially measured pint.
It is no surprise, therefore, that he has found a friend in America in the shape of Donald J. Trump. Farage’s appearances with Trump in recent weeks suggests how close they are both politics and temperament. It might give many of his supporters in the UK cause to pause and wonder. There is little to distinguish Trump’s cavalier approach to calling the system ‘rigged’ and Hillary Clinton ‘crooked’ and the way that Farage has championed the ‘oh they would say that wouldn’t they’ rhetoric when suggesting that we are ruled by the banks and some shady cartel of European politicians. The message is the same, even if the words differ. Senator Al Franken pointed out this weekend that one of Trump’s current campaign ads bears frightening similarities to fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The ads cut between images of banks and high profile Jewish figures. Even if the message was not meant to be anti-Semitic, it was familiar to anybody who was listened to British politics in the past decade. ‘We are now run by big business, big banks and […] big bureaucrats’ as Farage memorably declared in the European Parliament.
It is why we should view both men’s involvement in our political system with great caution. They would both wilfully undermine the systems in which they operate. Trump praised the FBI for pursuing Hillary’s emails last week but, now the FBI have cleared her, he again claims the system is ‘rigged’. Farage speaks about opponents challenging the ‘will of the people’ yet vowed to fight the same people when he thought the Leave campaign had lost on the night of the referendum. When they get the results they want, they say the system is working perfectly. When things don’t go their way, they claim the system is rigged or that the system is somehow ruled by an elite that protects its best interests.
Both men are, of course, correct when they say that the system is rigged because the system is rigged. It is rigged in favour of stable government. Britain and America share democratic tradition in which the people are separated from the direct election of the governments. We have a notional sense that we elect our leader. We say things like ‘I could never vote for Corbyn’ when, in fact, only those in his constituency are ever asked to. We actually elect representatives in parliament and it is in parliament that our governments and leaders are chosen. Even when it comes to electing a President in the United States, the electoral college stands between the people and the White House. Plebicites such as referenda give people an misleading belief that democracy is a simple matter of turning up and raising enough hands. It means they don’t fully appreciate that in a representative democracy we have a system designed to protect us from our often faddish opinions. If the instinct of the mob is to act quickly, it is the responsibility of government and judiciary to move slowly.
All systems of government are artificial. They emerge from and supersede the Natural order and provide us with a degree of stability. That they last for any prolonged period of time is something of a miracle. Great civilisations rise up and, for a time, appear immortal. Yet they all eventually collapse or decline. We should me minded to remember that there is nothing inherently sustainable about British democracy beyond the faith we place in it. We hope it will provide hundreds of year of further stability but that can only be a hope. It is why we should be cautious about embracing men like Farage with a glint in their eyes as they delight in being disruptive. They are not simply disruptive. They dangerously seek to destabilise the important mechanisms put in place to protect our system from the extremes of politics and extreme politicians.
The neoconservative theory of destabilising the Middle East so that a new order might emerge is a perfect reminder that not all systems tend towards equilibrium. They can rapidly spiral into chaos. With Brexit we face a similar period of instability and now is not the time to call people to the streets. What Nigel Farage is now advocating comes dangerously close to sedition and we need to be mindful of that. Brexit might provide great challenges or great benefits. We simply don’t know. There is, however, a more immediate threat to our nation. It’s the threat of abandoning the order and wisdom of a parliamentary system that has brought us the relative prosperity, security, as well as freedom, we enjoy today. It was telling that in that same interview with Andrew Marr, Farage admitted that he is ‘finished’ with party politics. Indeed it seems that he is but, in that seemingly trivial admission lies a very great danger to us all.
The article originally appeared on Reaction.Life.