Faced with having to either go against what he rather foolishly promised prior to becoming the elected leader of his country, or take said nation to the brink of and possibly over and into disaster, Alex Tsipras decided to fudge it. It was a good fudge, as these things go, I hasten to add: politically, it may turn out brilliantly for him (although the markets this morning appear to disagree). But however it goes, it was a fudge nonetheless. Faced with an impossible choice, he decided to hold a referendum on the matter of Greece’s future. I can’t decide, Tsipras basically said to his fellow Greeks, so I throw it back to you lot.
Meanwhile, leaked documents via the Telegraph demonstrate what most of us already knew about David Cameron and Europe (with friends like these….). He wants the UK to remain in the European Union, not out of any great love for the EU (the little he probably had took a battering this last week), but because he’s led the country long enough to understand just how phenomenally stupid a Brexit would be. When he pledged to hold an In/Out referendum in January 2013, it was a fudge – he’d hoped events would intervene, or if he had to go through with it he’d be able to ensure Stay In was victorious somehow.
Many will try and tell you that direct democracy is real democracy, while it is representative democracy that is the fudge. They are wrong. Representative democracy works because we elect the best people available to run the country and they are privy to a mountain of things we are not. They make decisions based on this information on our behalf. If they do a good job, we re-eject them; if they do it badly, or the people judge them to have done poorly anyhow, someone else takes their place.
So the fact that Cameron wants to save us all from disaster, I’m cool with – it’s his job. Tsipras meanwhile essentially laying down on the job and chucking it to a referendum, all the while playing it as a triumph of democracy, I think amounts to a cop out. And all the while we have to hear about how Cameron is trying to subvert democracy while Syriza are some sort of champions of a pure form of the stuff.
Standing up for representative democracy isn’t terribly fashionable these days; which is a shame because someone has to do it. So I will, right here, right now. Glorifying political fudges while denouncing our elected representatives just trying to save us all from own stupidity isn’t democracy at its finest – it’s the concept’s nadir. In the meantime, Europe has to sit back and hope the Greek people come up with whatever turns out in the end to be the right answer, when Tsipras could have just done what he thought was the right thing and then lived with the political consequences like a grown up.