I have been puzzled by the way the Leave campaign have been using the English language. They seem to have coined, and regularly repeat, two phrases in their argument: “Parliamentary sovereignty” and “democratic deficit.”
Is it only I who find it strange that we are defending “Parliamentary Sovereignty” by giving power to a plebiscite. How can you defend the power of our Parliament, while at the same time insisting that it should be impotent to make the most vital long term decisions affecting our country?
And how many of those campaigners are heard in other contexts (especially on the subject of bishops in the Lords) defending a “separation of powers”? I’m sure I’ve heard Farage and others sounding that American, yet it’s an idea associated with a constitution that divides sovereignty between contending institutions.
Then again, in what respect does Parliamentary sovereignty really work? It has notably failed in recent decades to exercise much control over the legislative programme of an overweeningly arrogant executive, and when it does function (as in the rather less democratic but independent Lords defeating the whipped poodles of the Commons) howls of outrage are heard from Downing Street and its lackeys, whose knee-jerk reaction is frustration with the “sovereignty” of a system that bridles their executive power.
I find it equally ironic that so many Brexiters are talking about a “democratic deficit”. It is those who have resisted European federalism who have done most to ensure the European Parliament is weak. The “deficit” is forced on the EU by those who do not want a strong democratic institution at the heart of Europe, lest it challenge national governments for legitimacy.
Moreover, it is the anti-European politicians like Farage who have treated the Parliament as a useful source of funds while refusing to carry out a properly representative role for their constituents. Those who have often done their best to stop it functioning are more responsible than most for its lack of democratic accountability. It seems strange their should complain about their “greatest” achievement.
And all the while in the UK, for our parliamentary elections, we insist on maintaining an electoral system that means the majority of the population live in constituencies where their vote doesn’t count. I’ve spent the most of the last decade living in a one party state! It seems to me that addressing a “democratic deficit” needs to begin at home. And with something better than the party list PR system that is so problematic for the European elections.
Is it just me, or are we living through a campaign dripping in unnoticed linguistic ironies?