Forget the tyranny of the majority – with Brexit it’s the tyranny of the minority

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

A new slogan - straight out of fairyland - has been coined by those disgruntled politicians who opposed, and still do so, the prospect of the UK pulling out of the European Union.

It is: “The tyranny of the majority.”

Call me obdurate, or whatever you like, but I cannot for the life of me see how this mantra can be justified.

A referendum was held and it was won reasonably handsomely by the Brexiteers. And as Sir Winston Churchill once said, if one vote will secure you a majority, then that is sufficient.

So now we have the Government, properly heeding the majority of those who voted, simply trying to implement the outcome of that referendum. I cannot fathom how that can possibly be described as tyrannical.

On the contrary, what we are now seeing is “the tyranny of the minority” by those who still refuse to accept the verdict of the people - in short, bad losers.

Several senior politicians have joined in with this, notably former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who says he is on a mission to get Brexiteers to change their minds. It is not too late to do that, he claims.

Well, I am afraid it is.

Parliament approved the referendum and the result is clear for all to see. So it surely cannot be right for the disappointed losers, like sulking football fans, to stand on the sidelines and complain: “We was robbed!”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has described Blair as “insulting” the voters, while former Tory Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith says it is arrogant to imply that only full-time politicians know what (they think) is best for Britain.

Some politicians regard their constituents, very privately, as pond life. So I suppose it is not surprising they don’t respond appropriately when the people speak.

• Sir John Major was one of the Europhiles who used the slogan “tyranny of the majority”, but I would not like it thought that this former Prime Minister was anything but kind, generous and as accessible as he was.

In fact, he once saved my life. When I was running along the Great Wall of China to catch him up, I found myself galloping out of control and possibly about to hurtle to certain death off the wall.

But he adroitely fielded me. When later I phoned the news desk, who had by then seen a picture of this incident, the news editor said: “What on earth are you doing in the fond embrace of the Prime Minister?”

He was also a great cricket man, whose only lament was that he never scored a century. Once, playing in Northern Nigeria, he was in his seventies and seemed to be heading for three figures, when the weekly plane carrying supplies arrived a day early and landed on the cricket field. The players all had to scatter. To his chagrin, the scorebook read: Major J aircraft landed on pitch 78.

I once bowled to him in the nets in Harare. He hit me all over the park. And he once said to me: “I happen to be vice-president of Surrey County Cricket Club, by far the most important post I hold.” Quite a bold thing for a Prime Minister to say.

On another occasion, in war-torn Sarajevo, he was handed a letter, rose to his feet grey of visage and said: “Very grave news - West Indies 322 for one.”

During the 1992 general election campaign, an official ran up to Major and told him: “You were off message in that speech.” Major solemnly replied: “How could I be? I am the message.”

And, incidentally, the story that he was denied a job as a conductor on London buses because he could not add up, is untrue. The reason he was turned down was that he was too tall to collect the fares in the upper deck.

• The present plight of the garrulous and hugely indiscreet Commons Speaker John Bercow is not simply caused by his obvious unsuitability for the job, but at least in part by the obsession of Parliament for what they are pleased to call democracy.

Until a few years ago, the top brass from each of the major parties got together in a huddle to decide which person would not only be good at the job, but also acceptable to all the parties. They invariably got it right.

It was deemed “undemocratic”, so a method by which MPs would elect their Speaker was devised. Since this system was introduced, two of the three Speakers, Michael Martin and John Bercow appear to have fallen short of requirements for the job. Only the magnificent Betty Boothroyd came out with flying colours.

So you could say this system has not been a resounding success, to put it mildly.

Indeed, the way in which Bercow, a former Tory MP, was elected, was little short of a public scandal. Labour knew Bercow the bumptious, as he was then known, was hated in his own party

So in a shameful bid simply to rile the Tories - and for no other discernible reason - Labour voted almost en masse for Bercow, alongside only the odd Tory.

This was an irresponsible, outrageous and frankly juvenile thing for Labour to do.

In the wake of this experience, there is now hope Parliament will revert to the former “undemocratic” way of acquiring a new Speaker.

Democracy doesn’t always work and it certainly has not done so in this case. And it is sad that you cannot trust MPs to be adult and responsible when it is most required.

• Will Jeremy Corbyn still be smiling at the end of the week with the results of the Copeland and Stoke Central by-elections? Or will his critics, if the results are bad for Labour, already be implementing their plot to ditch him? Scary times for our Jeremy.