A professor and polemicist insisted Brexit is the result of centuries of democratic failings at Balham Literary Festival.
Speaking at Balham Bowls Club, Professor AC Grayling was discussing his text, Democracy and its Crisis, which depicts the anti-democratic character of the Brexit referendum.
Since the referendum two years ago, Britain has been thrown into political chaos with politicians arguing over the correct type of Brexit and how best to get the country a good deal.
But Grayling linked it all back to the decision to hold a referendum in the first place, in a talk that lasted for more than an hour.
“You will all recall reading Plato,” he said to the crowd, who chuckled.
“Plato gave democracy a bad name, suggesting it’s really just ochlocracy in disguise, in other words, mob rule.
“If you put political authority into the hands of ‘ordinary’ people what you will get is anarchy and this will result in the welcoming of a tyrant to impose order.”
He then reminded the crowd of Churchill’s assertion and said: “The best argument against democracy is a two-minute conversation with the average voter.”
In Grayling’s view, British democracy has been made to fail due to a lack of civic education, insufficient checks on the elite and ideological distortions.
He believes the model of voting under the whip causes a lack of independence and thus mistrust and the first-past-the-post system results in gerrymandering.
“Politics is like herding cats, at some point politicians have to tow the party line or tell porkies,” he said.
“A minority of votes in an election can gain an unassailable majority in the House of Commons.”
He also believes social media exacerbates these flaws in our system.
Drawing upon an anecdote about a friend who kept seeing Facebook ads for funerals after a visit to the doctor, Grayling warned that data is used to manipulate voting decisions.
He said: “The leave campaign spent most money targeting a mere seven million on-the-fence people and suggesting that the remain vote will be a landslide.”
He suggested the UK’s system would be improved through more civic education, compulsory voting and suffrage for 16-year-olds.
Of course, if the voting age was lower on June 23 the referendum vote may have been different.
And Grayling closed by insisting: “It was an advisory referendum only!”