Theresa May’s reported remarks about respect have the hollow ring of political rhetoric. So much so that one wonders if the word has any meaning for her.
She talks of “the respect we show to one another as fellow citizens”. But her casual disdain for the devolved parliaments and her government’s treatment of the powerless and the vulnerable suggest that she does not understand the concept of respect in the way most of us do. As she uses the term, it has more to do with obedience than with esteem. More to do with deference to established authority than with valuing individuals and their civil and human rights.
In the lexicon of the British political establishment, respect is a matter of convenience. A matter of expediency. When Theresa May talks of respect she means unthinking submission to the ruling elites of the British state.When she asks for respect she expects uncomplaining subordination of all civic interests to an increasingly dire British nationalist ideology.
In truth, respect is commanded, not demanded. It is earned, not exacted. Institutions and processes, as much as individuals, must be seen to be worthy of respect. When a vote has been held we all respect the result only to the extent that respect is due. To automatically afford complete respect without considering the nature of the process by which the decision was arrived at would be to deny human intellect. Genuine respect can no more be bought with votes than it can with cash. Democracy is not strictly a numbers game. A simple tally of ballot papers is not enough. There must also be trust in our democratic institutions. The people must have confidence in the process by which a decision is reached.
The institutions of the British state cannot command respect. Where informed consent is regarded as an alien and dangerous concept; where fundamental rights are viewed with extreme suspicion; where the exercise of self-determination is held to be a threat to the established order, there can be no confidence in the democratic process.
Theresa May insists that we have a “responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the result”. By which she means we are absolutely required to accept a particular interpretation of that result and implementation of the decision to take the UK out of the EU. I would insist that our first responsibility is to democratic principles and our own conscience. I would insist that we are absolutely required to assess the legitimacy of the result in the light of what we know of how it came about. I say that both the outcome and the subsequent actions of the British government should be afforded only such respect as they may be entitled to. I’d suggest that doesn’t amount to much.Views: 2931
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