At What Point Does A Democracy Stop Being Democratic?

Democracy is mob rule.

Ultimately, it is the process of governing by consent of the majority of eligible citizens. Or, more simply, it is doing what most people agree should be done.

A long time ago, we did this without constitutions or parliaments. We elected leaders and determined our own futures by literal brute force. We would march out into fields, in groups, and hit each other with clubs, spears and axes. The winning side, the side with the most fighters left standing, would get to choose what happened next, and the losing side would have to concede the point. Or just be dead.

This method had its issues: it would put at a disadvantage anyone who could not physically fight as effectively; it would put at an advantage those who happened across advances in technology over their competitors; and it would result in huge losses of life on a periodic basis, which rather put a damper on humanity’s prosperity.

So we took the weapons out of everybody’s hands and we replaced them with little tiny biro pens and paper covered in names and boxes and we called the new process “an election”, and this was generally seen as being a better way of doing things. We were still governing by mob rule, but this new mob left fewer people dead and dying.

Every time we deviated from using elections, we ended up with really bad stuff, like secret police, famines, concentration camps, and Volkswagen. We still had bad stuff even when we kept using elections, but as a rule the countries that used elections generally had a greater number of happier, richer people, and that seemed like a pretty decent endorsement.

Story Time.

In 2015, an election was held in the United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland. That’s a bit long, though, so we’ll just call it “Britain” for now.

In this election, the people of Britain decided not to hit each other with weapons (something that most of them hadn’t done in quite a while) and instead they drew a big cross in a box on a piece of paper, as was the tradition of the time.

There’s lots of technical stuff to this election, but essentially, each person who had the right to vote was allowed to vote for one of a few options. They could vote for Blue Dave, Red Ed, Yellow Nicola or Orange Nick.


There were some other people and different colours, but they didn’t get many votes. In fact, Yellow Nicola and Orange Nick didn’t get many votes either, so we’ll just ignore them for the time being.

The election was mostly between Blue Dave and Red Ed, and they got most of the votes between them – 67% of all the votes, in fact. Blue Dave got 37%, and Red Ed got 30%.

Now, Blue Dave’s share of the votes was 37% of all the people who votes cast, but all the votes cast was only 66% of the votes that could be cast. And all the votes that could be cast wasn’t equal to all the people in the country.

Actually, let’s just throw some actual numbers in, to make things clear:

  • There were 65 million people in Britain in 2015
  • Nearly 45 million of those were eligible to vote
  • Nearly 30 million of those actually voted
  • Just over 11 million of those voted for Blue Dave
  • And just over 9 million voted for Red Ed

Because 11 million, or 37% of the voters, voted for Blue Dave, this meant that Blue Dave got to have 330 of the seats in Parliament. Now, this is a big deal, because there are only 650 seats in Parliament, and whoever has the most gets to be in charge. Blue Dave had 330 out of 650, which means he had 50.7% of the seats, which meant Blue Dave was in charge, even though he only had 37% of the vote.

He needed 326 votes for a majority of 1. Which means he only had a majority of 5. Remember that number. Remember the number 5. It’s the same as the number of teeth you would have if you didn’t have any teeth in your mouth but you were holding 5 teeth in your hand that you won at a run-down fairground stall.

Red Ed, with 30% of the votes cast, got 232 seats in Parliament, or 36%. This meant that Red Ed was not in charge, but he still had a bigger percentage of seats than he did a percentage of the vote. Just as Blue Dave did.

Now, a few people didn’t like this, because even though between them Blue Dave and Red Ed only had 67% of the vote between them, they had 86% of the seats in Parliament. And remember, Britain picked who was in charge based on how many seats in Parliament they had. What was worse was the Yellow Nicola (remember her?) only got 4.7% of the vote, not even enough to talk about on its own, but she got 8.7% of the seats – nearly double her share of the vote.

So a few people moaned, but most people agreed that this was still a very sensible system and were happy to accept the result, because this was how Britain had always done it, and it also kept lots of the creepy, weird outsiders like Purple Nigel on the outside, and stopped them from getting in. Because Purple Nigel is like a vampire – once you invite him in, he gets to bite your neck and waft his cape at you, and he won’t leave even if you ask him.

So most people were happy to accept the result, except for Blue Dave. This might seem ironic, because it seems like Blue Dave did the best out of everybody. But do you remember that number 5? The number I asked you to remember before? I hope you remember, because I asked you to. It was an easy number to remember.

Well, that number, 5, is less than the number 20. And the number 20 was similar to the number of people in something called the “European Research Group.”

The European Research Group was a group of MPs (Members of Parliament, AKA “seats”) who only cared about one thing. They didn’t care about roads, or schools, or ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, or anything else that anybody cared about. They just cared about Europe, AKA “The European Union”. Britain was part of the European Union, and the European Research Group didn’t want Britain to be part of the European Union anymore.

Now, you might be wondering, “Why did the European Research Group call themselves the European Research Group if they didn’t want to research Europe, they just wanted to leave it? Why wouldn’t they call themselves the ‘We Want Britain To Leave The European Union Group’?” And the answer to that is a complete mystery, nobody will ever know, and we just have to accept that. You might think that it’s similar to the National Socialists calling themselves National Socialists when they’re not actually Socialists, or that it’s similar to the Democratic People’s Republic Of North Korea, which isn’t democratic, or a republic, and which doesn’t belong to its people, but I don’t have a counter-argument to either of those points, so maybe you’re right.

Anyway, the European Research Group, or ERG, were on Blue Dave’s team, which you think would be good for Blue Dave. Of the 330 seats he won, around 20 of them were controlled by the ERG. But they were on his side, so that’s good, right?

Except that the ERG only cared about one thing, didn’t they? They only cared about Britain leaving the European Union.

This was bad for Blue Dave, as it meant that he had to keep them happy. Because remember that number 5 – he only had a 5-seat majority, which meant if just six MPs went against him, he would no longer be in charge. And the ERG included around 20 MPs, and that’s more than 5. So if the ERG got fed up of Blue Dave, they could stop him from being in charge, and that would be bad for Blue Dave.

Blue Dave knew that he’d probably have to keep the ERG happy to be in charge before the election in 2015, so he made a promise to everyone that he would have a different election afterwards in which everyone eligible to vote in Britain would get to vote on whether Britain stayed in the European Union, which the ERG didn’t want, or get to leave the European Union, which the ERG did want.

Because the ERG had never gotten this close to having a vote on Britain leaving the European Union, they were happy about Blue Dave’s promise. Because they were happy, Blue Dave was more likely to stay in charge because he had the ERG’s 20 seats, and all he had to do was to have a vote on Britain leaving the European Union.

In 2016, Blue Dave held an election (AKA a “referendum”) on Britain leaving the European Union.

The ERG were happy about this.

The ERG were even happier when everyone voted for Britain to leave the European Union (AKA “the EU”).


Okay, not everybody:

  • 46.5 million people were eligible to vote
  • Of those, 33.5 million actually voted
  • Of those, 17.4 million voted to leave.
  • That means that of the people who voted, 51.9% of them voted to leave,
  • which means that of the people who could vote, just over 37% of them voted to leave.

However, most people agreed that this was still a very sensible system and were happy to accept the result, because this was how Britain had always done it, and it also kept lots of the creepy, weird outsiders like Purple Nigel from whinging. Because Purple Nigel is like a really petulant child, and once he doesn’t get what he wants he whinges and whinges and whinges about it.

(In fact, he whinges so much that he whinged about losing the referendum before he’d even lost it, and was already asking for a second referendum to replace the first referendum because otherwise he wouldn’t be getting what he wanted.)

So most people were happy to accept the result, except for Blue Dave. This might seem ironic, because it seems like Blue Dave did the best out of everybody – he had made the ERG happy, and now he could stay in charge. But it turns out that Blue Dave didn’t actually want Britain to leave the EU, and in fact he asked everybody to vote against Britain leaving the EU because he thought it was a silly idea, and he only really held an election on it because he wanted to keep the ERG happy so he could stay in charge.

So anyway, Blue Dave then said he didn’t want to be in charge anymore, so he left. One day, he just walked out onto the street, told everybody he was leaving, and then he left, humming a jaunty little tune as he went.

Nobody knows what happened to Blue Dave after that. To this day, we don’t know where he went. Some say that he locked himself in a tower and refused to see anyone ever again. Others say that he wanders the wilderness, hooded and cloaked, lending aid to travellers in need. A few think that one day he will return, as he was but more powerful, as Dave The White, and that he will come back to us at the turning of the tide to undo evil once and for all.

But we will probably never know.

Note – As an aside, you might charitably compare Blue Dave’s act of self-sacrifice to that of Tibetan monks who self-immolate or of suffragettes who threw themselves under racehorses, and you’d basically be right, except that they sacrificed themselves for the sake of liberation from oppression, whereas Blue Dave did it for the sake of his own personal prosperity, and whereas the others had to deal with being on fire or being trampled by horses, Dave had to deal with moving house, and that’s a complete hassle, I’m sure you’ll all agree.

Blue Theresa was now in charge of Britain. She took over from Blue Dave, after bravely battling and winning against such deadly opponents as Squidgy Mike, Mother Andrea, Foxy Liam and some others, all of whom realised that they had no chance against Blue Theresa and so gave in straight away and let her take over.

Blue Theresa would have had to fight against Blonde Boris, but even though he really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really wanted Britain to leave the EU, and told everyone to vote for Britain to leave the EU, when he had chance to lead Britain in leaving the EU he suddenly remembered that he had a haircut booked that Wednesday, and he’d already cancelled on his hairdresser twice and didn’t want to mess them around, so he’d have to let Theresa handle the EU departure for now. Also he needed time to take Squidgy Mike’s knife out of his back and put a plaster on. Squidgy Mike left his knife in Blonde Boris’s back completely by accident – Squidgy Mike is such a silly man!

This means that Blue Theresa got to be in charge of Britain without any vote at all! She didn’t have to go through an election like Blue Dave did – she just got to take over, and now she was going to represent Britain and all the people in it as she spoke with the EU and tried to agree with them how Britain was going to leave the EU.

However, Blue Theresa still had the same problem as Blue Dave – the ERG. The ERG still made up around 20 seats in Parliament, and Blue Theresa still had the same margin as Blue Dave – just 5 seats. And even though the ERG were now happy that they’d not only had a referendum on leaving the EU, but that they’d also won that referendum, they could be made very unhappy again if Blue Theresa didn’t do a good enough job of actually making Britain leave the EU – she had to be very careful to do it as soon as possible and without making a mess of Britain along the way.

Luckily for Blue Theresa, a solution to her ERG problem presented itself. A solution which smelled of jam. And socialism.

When Red Ed lost the election to Blue Dave back in 2015, Red Ed’s friends decided they didn’t like him anymore and said they wanted a new friend. One who could eat bacon sandwiches properly.

So Red Ed’s friends picked Red Jez as their new friend, and Red Jez would never eat a bacon sandwich badly because Red Jez didn’t eat bacon sandwiches at all.

Red Jez was a bit like Eminem, in that a lot of young people quite liked him and a lot of older people were scared of him but pretended they liked him so that they would look cool.

In 2017, somebody told Blue Theresa that she was more popular than Red Jez, and for some reason she believed the person who told her. So, in 2017, Blue Theresa surprised everyone by announcing another election! She announced another election because she expected to do really well and get lots of seats and then she wouldn’t have to worry about the ERG anymore and she could just do what she wanted.

Sadly, Blue Theresa was a bit wrong.

In the election in 2017, Red Jez did really well! He won lots of seats! Sadly for Red Jez, he didn’t win enough seats to be in charge.

Sadly for Blue Theresa, she didn’t win enough seats to be in charge either.


Oh no! Now Blue Theresa wouldn’t be in charge anymore! She lost the election!

But she had one cunning trick up her sleeve.

Although neither Red Jez nor Blue Theresa won the election, nobody else did, either, and this meant that, following a very sensible system which was how Britain had always done it, Blue Theresa was allowed to form a “coalition”.

A coalition is just a team. Like the Avengers. On his own, Iron Man gets beaten by Thanos. But with Starlord and Dr. Strange and Spiderman helping, they can all get beaten by Thanos, together.

Now, normally, when two grown-ups want something from each other, one will give the other a lot of money. This is called a bribe, and it’s usually very naughty.

In 2017, after she failed to win the election, Blue Theresa gave a lot of money (a billion pounds! Which is a very, very big number!) to her good friend Arlene, so that Arlene would give Blue Theresa what Blue Theresa wanted, which was seats in Parliament. This wasn’t a bribe, as the money wasn’t Blue Theresa’s: it actually belonged to Britain, and Arlene wouldn’t get to spend the money herself, so this definitely wasn’t a bribe.

After accepting all of that money, Arlene promised to give Blue Theresa all of Arlene’s 10 seats in Parliament. Which meant Blue Theresa was back in charge!

To show you some numbers:

  • 47 million people were eligible to vote in 2017
  • Of those, just over 32 million people actually voted
  • Of those, nearly 14 million people voted for Blue Theresa
  • And 300 thousand voted for Arlene
  • Blue Theresa won 317 seats, and Arlene won 10
  • Which means Blue Theresa won 49% of seats with 42% of the vote
  • And Arlene won nearly 2% of seats with 0.9% of the vote
  • Meanwhile, Orange Tim won 12 seats with over 7% of the vote
  • And Yellow Nicola won 35 seats with just 3% of the vote
  • Oh, and Red Jez won 262 seats with 40% of the vote

This means that Blue Theresa got to be in charge with a majority of 2 seats and 43% of the vote, and most people agreed that this was still a very sensible system and were happy to accept the result, because this was how Britain had always done it, and it also kept lots of the funny, wacky vegetarians like Red Jez from being in charge. Because Red Jez is like sex with a long-term partner – he used to be loud and exciting, but now he’s quiet and gentle so that the kids don’t wake up.

But now Blue Theresa was in an even worse position, because now she was even more scared of the ERG, and now she had to be scared of Arlene, too. She still had to worry about Red Jez, and she had to worry about Blonde Boris, and Squidgy Mike, and Silly Jake And His Big Silly Top Hat.

Now, in 2019, lots of Blue Theresa’s friends are getting fed up of Blue Theresa. Britain still hasn’t left the EU, and poor Blue Theresa can’t pass a single law about Britain leaving the EU, and now Red Jez and Blonde Boris and Silly Jake all making fun of poor Blue Theresa. Now Blue Theresa is blue not just because she’s a Tory, but also because she’s very sad.

Now, Blue Theresa’s friends might say “Goodbye!” to Blue Theresa and instead pick a new friend to be in charge of Britain. Maybe even Squidgy Mike!

Now, Squidgy Mike is a very silly man. Almost as silly as Silly Jake And His Big Silly Top Hat (who may also be picked to be in charge!). Squidgy Mike is so silly that even his friends think he’s silly, and they all call him nasty words like “plonker” and “a turtle on a stick” and “a complete fucking back-stabbing traitor” (that one came from Blonde Boris).

What really matters is that all of Blue Theresa’s friends get to replace her just as they like, and they don’t have to hold an election for everyone else to vote. They get to pick who is in charge of Britain just as they please.

And most people will probably agree that this is still a very sensible system and will be happy to accept the result, because this was how Britain has always done it.

Story time’s over.

I wrote this incredibly poor breakdown of British leadership politics as a cathartic exercise to help handle my own frustration and, honestly, depression.

It seems so baffling that Theresa May and the Tory party were quite literally voted out of power in 2017 and yet were allowed to quite literally buy their way back in.

It seems equally maddening that the Tory party now gets to play leadership games without any public vote over who will lead the country in the final stages of Brexit.

Britain is supposed to be a representative democracy. We are not supposed to directly elect outcomes and laws ourselves, but rather we should be voting for political representatives who will themselves vote for our interests.

That the Prime Minister, our chief diplomat to the EU, our representative and our de facto head of state, cannot be chosen by the electorate is a travesty.

What’s worse is that the ruling party (which, it should be noted, holds both legislative and executive authority due to a lack of separation of powers) can hold onto power with barely 43% of the popular vote.

When we look across the Atlantic, at another English-speaking “democracy”, we see that a President can be elected despite gaining only 46% of the popular vote, more than 2% less than his opposition, and that he can also have full oversight of prosecutorial investigations into his own criminal activities, benefiting all the while from protection by a single member of the Senate from the same party.

At what point do these democracies cease being democratic? At what point do votes become meaningless?

At what point does writing crosses in boxes on paper stop being a better system that fighting each other with clubs and axes?

Everything that I’ve referenced so far has been legal. I have not mentioned a single criminal activity in this entire article. The systems designed to give the people freedom and representation and the ability to determine their own future seem wholly disconnected from the wishes of the people those systems are intended to serve.

It seems like the system isn’t working. It seems as though the democratic machine is broken, and needs to be fixed, or replaced.

As an addendum, I’m a hypocrite. I am the worst hypocrite. On Saturday the 23rd March I could have gone down to London and joined the march to protest Article 50, and I didn’t. The sad truth is that I didn’t know anyone in my town who was going, and I was too scared to go alone.

The sadder truth is that I honestly didn’t think it was going to make a difference. I just didn’t believe that a polite march in the streets where everyone carries witty signs and leaves the city exactly as they found it at the end of the day would give Theresa May and her cabinet of reprobates any reason to take notice.

At this point, I don’t know what would give them reason to take notice.

I just know that I’m fed up of the leadership of this country being determined by barely a dozen members of the Tory party.

I also know that I don’t want to vote in another election where the party that lost power can spend public money to keep its power. If I got fired from my job, I couldn’t give my bosses their own money and force them to keep me on. If I refused to leave, they’d simply remove me from the office by physical force.

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