I've never met Tory MEP Dan Hannan but going by his Telegraph blog I have the impression he's a bright and well-read chap. But I also get the impression that he indulges in convoluted intellectual gymnastics that, as a guess, is probably necessary as a result of being a member of the Tory party which as a consequence presents him with contradictions. This leaves the unfortunate, maybe accurate, view of 'yes he's bright but can he wire a plug' - i.e. does his common sense often elude him?
And so it's with these thoughts in mind I read his latest blog piece which argues against the breakup of the United Kingdom in light of a possible Scottish referendum on independence. Whilst I have some sympathy with the view that a breakup would largely be a bad thing, it's the following passage that caught my eye:
What’s so special about ‘the UK as a whole’? Why is it worth keeping? Well, look at what we have achieved together. Centuries of unbroken parliamentary democracy. No revolutions, no dictatorships, no invasions. Secure property rights and an independent judiciary. Armed forces that are respected around the world. Religious pluralism. Moderate and democratic political parties. If you think these things can be taken for granted, watch what is about to happen in some eurozone states.
It's hard to know where to start. Apparently we have achieved "centuries of unbroken parliamentary democracy". As one of the authors of the book the Plan - in his words an attempt to renew Britain's democracy - this seems a rather odd statement to make to say the least. Is Hannan really suggesting that omitting half the UK's population from having the right to vote until 1918 or that full universal suffrage wasn't achieved until 1928, or that the unelected House of Lords had the same powers as the 'elected' Commons until 1911 or indeed that the rotten borough of Old Sarum which existed in the 19th Century constitutes a "centuries old parliamentary democracy"? If so, one has to wonder what version of democracy Hannan believes in.
But even by Hannan's established Parliamentary democratic terms, leaving aside the flaws in the basic principles of representative democracy, we can only argue that the UK's system of 'parliamentary democracy' has only ever really existed between 1928 and 1973 (when we joined the EEC).
But even this is not enough. If we indeed argue that genuine democracy existed in those short 45 years - this is undermined by the fact that under a genuine democracy, we'd never would have joined the EEC in the first place. In 1970 only 15% of people approved of EEC membership and joining never cropped up in the 1970 election as an issue. However just 2 weeks after being elected Heath began negotiations for entry with no obvious clear mandate. A wonderful example of 'parliamentary democracy'.
Hannan then states that we've had "no dictatorships". Really? Presumably being fair when Hannan says 'centuries', he's not going back as far as the mid 17th Century. However since 1973 that is precisely what we have had in effect. The Oxford dictionary lists a dictatorship as:
Absolute authority in any sphere.We cannot elect the EU Commission nor throw Barroso nor Rumpy Pumpy out of office or reverse the overwhelming laws that emanate from Brussels. Some democracy - it certainly looks like a form of dictatorship to me.
Then Hannan says:
Armed forces that are respected around the world.Would these be the same armed forces that lost in Iraq, were humiliated by the Iranians and can't even run our own aircraft carriers.
And, laughably, we should be proud of parliamentary democracy because we have:
Moderate and democratic political parties...These would be the same 'democratic' political parties where there is no difference between them on major policy issues, such as EU membership, taxation or climate change (to name just a few), where breaking manifesto promises is a given, where every party exploits taxpayers money for expenses. Or where Parliamentary parties are selecting candidates on any criteria far removed from being democratic. As Witterings from Witney rightly says it's a democratic dictatorship
Hannan's loyalty to his party is blinding him to the obvious contradictions of his position - a perfect example of everything that is wrong with how we are currently governed.