Militant protest: a danger to democracy | Ben Glaister

When the honourable member for Huddersfield spoke in the House of Commons earlier this year, he referred to members of the house and the general public who had voted and campaigned for Brexit as the ‘Guilty Brexiteers’.

Having lunch in Surrey this summer, a few days after the results of the referendum, a particularly vocal chap in the group of a dozen (or so) of us, took the conversation to Brexit and declared that he was sure that, being surrounded by intelligent people, we had all voted to remain, looking around the table as the others nodded in confirmation. And when I confessed my guilt, he refused to talk to me for the rest of the day. I didn’t realise I was dining with a toddler at the head of the table…

It is shocking these days that so much hatred for so many can be stirred up by so few over what was an entirely democratic process. Sadly, what we saw in the House of Commons that day, and what we have seen consistently after every victory for the centre-right, no matter how small, is a wave of nastiness, viciousness and name-calling from the left when they do not get the result they want. And now, sadly, we are witness to the same vitriol, across the pond, with the election of Donald Trump.

A Trump Presidency was by no means on my Christmas list this year, and people have every right to protest against the government or President they didn’t endorse, but they have no right to behave violently toward those who did.

There is a difference between legitimate and peaceful protest, and petulance, viciousness and ironically stirring up terrifying degrees of visceral hatred against a particular candidate because he or she fails do agree with one’s own personal views. Once again, the left seems to be too blind to see that in so doing, through loud, brash and irrational hate, they are becoming everything against which they are supposedly protesting.

Fifteen leftists were arrested after the democratically elected Conservative government took office in Britain in May last year with thirty-seven percent of the popular vote and a majority of twelve. One heard no such reports about members of the centre-right being arrested after the Labour party won an even bigger majority sixty-six, with thirty-six percent of the vote in 2005. No one called that ‘undemocratic’. So how fair is it, and to what extent should reasonable protest be allowed in the wake of a result which leaves some dissatisfied?

Speaking on Question Time earlier this year, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop spoke thusly: “Even if you lose the vote you are still entitled to go on making the argument.” Quite right. I should think that there are few who would disagree with that. But what Mr. Hislop seems to ignore is the extent and length to which, and the malevolence with which a few militants on the unlucky side of recent elections/votes (first Tory-haters, then Remainers, and latterly opponents of Trump) have continued to do so. Of course, strong, friendly debate should be encouraged, and the losing side of an argument should still be entitled to their opinions, it is this that makes democracy so vibrant and healthy. But never should that be to the extent of vile name-calling, unnecessary mud slinging and the losing side effectively acting like an infant spitting out his dummy. The people spoke, democracy happened: you may not like it, but move on. No matter where you sit on the issues, and no matter how much you may scream and shout, Brexit will happen, and Trump will be President, and we all just have to deal with it.

It is quite simply wrong that someone living in a democracy should be made to feel, to use the words of the honourable member for Huddersfield, ‘guilty’ for having voted one way or another. It is this, this image of anything even slightly right-of-centre as being completely, utterly, mind-bogglingly evil that the new militant left seem to be conjuring up with such ferocity. And it is this that is the very reason why the phenomenon of shy conservatism is experiencing a resurgence – first in the UK, and now in the United States. Educated, forward-thinking, cosmopolitan people stay silent, for fear of being branded as small-minded racists would they even dream to confess of daring to do something so awful as putting a cross in the ‘Leave’, ‘Conservative’ or even ‘Trump’ boxes. And then we wonder why the polls always seem to get it so badly wrong…

No matter where you sit on the issues, and no matter how much you may scream and shout, Brexit will happen, and Trump will be President, and we all just have to deal with it.

Instead, the few, angry, militant leftists seem to make all the noise, while the majority stay silent. No wonder they thought ‘remain’ was a shoe in and then ‘Hillary’ would just clear the deck; they had no-one else to listen to but themselves…

In brief, it makes all of the noise and fuss about conservatism being branded the ‘nasty’ ideology, so ironic; the left have become their own best parody. Indeed, the nastiest thing here is to incite active prejudice against someone because of their voting intentions or to harass people for their decision with profane name-calling, cyber-bulling and inflammatory slurs, even weeks after the nation has spoken.

One can almost guarantee that, even after he is sworn in, Trump’s opponents will be trying desperately to engineer some way of having his entirely legitimate Presidency, ‘illegitimized’, by either passing emergency legislation or having the Electoral College abolished…

Freedom of choice is dying, democracy is dying. And the modern left is killing both.

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