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Safeguarding democracy

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LONDON - An odd thing has happened to the British system of government. Westminster has long been regarded as the seat of democracy in its best form. The Westminster model has been proudly offered round the world, and widely emulated, as the surest system for ensuring long-term stability and democratic progress.

But today, at Westminster itself, and in the British House of Commons, the Westminster model is looking very sick. The Commons has come to a grinding halt over the issue of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, unable to agree on any way forward and generally locked in paralysis.

In the country as a whole there is rising fury, with claims that Parliament is out of touch and is failing to serve the nation, and that if members of Parliament cannot decide what to do then the issue should somehow be put back to the people. It is being argued that parliamentary democracy, the mediated system that has worked so successfully for centuries past, has failed and that a broader kind of mass opinion should now decide.

But this is where the real problems begin, and where misunderstanding is at its deepest. It was precisely the mass vote of the people, in the Brexit referendum of 2016, which produced the simplistic but toxic division of views between the would-be “remainers” in the EU, and the would-be “leavers” — with the latter around a million votes ahead, which is now reflected in the complete current parliamentary deadlock.

Members of Parliament are now dug deep into their respective trenches, in a political scene........

© The Japan Times