Democracy demands a second vote - By their friends shall ye know them

So, how many generals can a cause lose before the cause itself is lost? 

First Boris Johnson, the Tadhg an dá thaobh who was a decisive factor in achieving a Leave vote in Britain, withdrew from the race to succeed British prime minister David Cameron because he was betrayed by his colleague Michael Gove even though every move, every step taken by Johnson in this deepening and dangerous farce was dictated by his visceral ambition to be prime minister.

Mr Johnson’s political career has ended in shame and defeat but his Bullingdon Club bombast, his absolute indifference to the idea of scruples or the wisdom of an occasional silence means that, as late as yesterday, he was trying to shape events he could not find the backbone to confront. Hypocrisy and cowardice all a splutter under his trademark prop, a blond bird’s nest. Good riddance.

Then, in a twist from one of the sharper episodes of Yes Minister, Mr Gove’s candidacy for the Tory leadership ran into the sand because his treachery was too much for a decisive number of Tory MPs. Such odium is not easily achieved and Mr Gove will have plenty time to lick his wounds. His future is predicated on how the next Tory leader, Theresa May if the bookies are right, balances his capacity for treachery with his ability. His best days may be behind him — and let us give thanks if they are.

Then yesterday, to complete a treacherous trinity, Ukip leader Nigel Farage resigned, saying he wants “his life back”. During the campaign Mr Farage repeatedly and without batting an eyelid played the race/immigration card to full effect. He lit a fuse and now that the bomb is about to go off, he finds he is needed elsewhere. British public life will not be diminished by his withdrawal. What a pity it is that he cannot take with him those racists emboldened by the Brexit result.

Those who voted Leave must look askance at these implosions because a version of that adage “by their friends shall ye know them” must ring true. But in this sorry instance, by their leaders ye shall know them. These capitulations must give those voters intent on quitting the EU pause for thought. How could a campaign, led by men so at ease with blatant dishonesty and treachery, be worthy of support?

All through that campaign, one that would never have happened had Mr Cameron not ignored Churchill’s maxim of “country first, constituents second, and party third”, one of the accusations levelled against the EU was that it was undemocratic. That argument holds some water, but if you accept that you must also consider the democratic deficit represented by the narrow vote to Leave. Surely, if you care for the spirit of democracy as well as the maths, you must be uncomfortable with the idea that a 52-48 vote might trigger such momentous, uncharted change? Leave campaigners are trying to shut these arguments down before the contrast between the mandate and its consequences are more widely understood. Because of that, because of Mr Johnson’s, Mr Gove’s, and Mr Farage’s reprehensible behaviour and, most of all, because the EU is worth fighting for, those working to have a second vote should be supported in every way.

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