It took particularly British — more correctly English — genius to develop the concept of representative democracy.
We consent to being governed, on condition that the executive is accountable to a democratically-elected parliament. We send to Westminster not delegates but our representatives: broadly, and as a whole, they represent the range of our interests and concerns, hopes and fears. Burke argued that the wishes of an MP’s constituents “ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.”
In recent decades, the representative nature of our parliament has become increasingly faint. The rise of the professional politician, the emergence of an elite governing class with ever-widening circles of influence and patronage, the capture of independent media and comment: all have eroded representative government and alienated people from politicians. Some four-fifths of MPs favour Britain remaining in the European Union.
When MPs stray so far from their representative responsibility, it is time for the electorate to say: “No further. We withdraw our consent to your government. We will now make clear, once again, what we believe, what we demand of you.” This referendum is our opportunity.