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The EU referendum has produced a variety of hyperbolic reactions, and more than a few bizarre acts of hypocrisy, but last night the Liberal Democrats’ Lord Taverne made a bold bid to outdo them all.

Lamenting the fact that most MPs who backed Remain during the referendum campaign had since accepted the result and agreed to implement it, he argued that it was “a very dangerous step towards a doctrine that the people’s will must always prevail.” This might sound like an odd statement from a representative of a party with “Democrats” in its name, but we should bear in mind that Taverne – an unelected peer for 21 years, who last won an election in 1973 – was taking part in an attempt by Liberal Democrat Lords to reject not only the outcome of the referendum but the twice-stated view of the elected House of Commons. He was at least being doggedly consistent to his inconsistency.

Having gone that far, he decided to go further, asserting that “this is the doctrine that has always been favoured by Hitler, by Mussolini, by Stalin”. This will come as a surprise to anyone who experienced last year’s free and fair referendum, in which more people voted for Leave than for anything else in British democratic history – or to anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with what totalitarianism is. The differences between Britain’s EU referendum and the actions of those dictators should be obvious.

Evidently it isn’t sufficiently obvious to Taverne. Once you’ve compared politicians who abide by their promise to honour a democratic referendum to Stalin, who never held a free, fair or contested vote in his whole time in power, you might as well double down once more. Or so the Lib Dem peer seems to have reasoned, when he ended his oration with the announcement that “we’re the democrats, and we are right to support the democratic cause”.

Each day it becomes harder to detect what the Liberal “Democrat” position is. According to Taverne, a referendum is Hitler. But his party fought an election only a few years ago on a platform of demanding “a real referendum on Europe”. So perhaps it’s only a referendum which they lose which is Hitler. For that matter, two weeks ago Taverne himself voted for a Lib Dem amendment in the Lords demanding a second referendum on Brexit – so two referendums evidently aren’t Hitler. Presumably if they were to lose a second referendum then things would be Hitler again.

It’s all very confusing. Perhaps Ken Livingstone might be called upon to explain exactly how much democracy is or is not Hitler?

83 comments for: Lib Dems: One referendum is Hitler. A second referendum wouldn’t be Hitler. Unless we lose, in which case: Hitler.

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