That's the Brexit mantra. The nation's favourite smirking, corduroyed-clad privately educated, former banker and self-appointed 'man of the people' Nigel Farage loves to repeat it, perhaps hoping that the more he says it the more it might actually start to mean something. It has become the Blukip calling card. Sadly it is entirely meaningless. Here's why.
The people of the United Kingdom, all 60-odd million of us, are not sovereign. We're rolled out to parliament every few years in order to give an election the appearance of democracy, a certain degree of legitimacy. But parliament only defers to one group of people - establishment. Even though it's actually a part of it. It's not democracy, it's incestuocracy. The actual consensus behind the power of the monarchy and parliament never changes. You can almost smell the disdain the establishment has for the people when they're forced to give up a little bit of power and let the nation decide who does the establishment's bidding.
If this sounds a little cynical let me explain. The elite (or the establishment, call them what you will), are a fairly small coterie of self-appointed guardians. It just so happens that all they're guarding is their own power base. Every four or five years they wince for a few weeks as they allow the citizenry a certain amount of say over the nation's affairs, namely the choosing of a new government, and stand by like watchful parents as we clumsily mark an x next to a name, all in the belief that we're changing things. But that new government always opt for exactly the same forlock-tugging attitude towards the elite.
Absolutely nothing must change. Now the elites clearly despise the people, but realise that in a notional democracy some sort of mandate, however limited, needs to be witnessed and carried out. Garibaldi called this system an 'elective dictatorship'. So what is this status quo? Well, the House of Lords (still a truly ludicrous name) developed gradually throughout the 14th and 15th century; the Privy Council dates from the time of Norman kings; the royal prerogative is centuries old and developed out of various legal frameworks; the Church of England was established, literally, in 1534; the monarchy has been around in various flavours since the year dot. Why do I refer to these?
To many of the old guard, these institutions are essential. It doesn't matter that they get in the way of democracy or that they're the very antithesis of it, they have to be left alone. We have no written constitution. And this is why taking back control is an irrelevant idea. You can't take back what was never yours in the first place.
The House of Lords now has around 820 unelected former or failed MPs, lobbyists and donors sitting in it (and no doubt more on the way). The Privy Council has over 600 unelected people on its roll, many of them former foreign heads of state or people who swilled deeply enough from the parliamentary trough to get in on the act, such as Alistair Campbell. Their minutes are still written in the sort of English not seen since about 1722. (I wrote to them demanding to be let into their ridiculous little clique; they said no.) The royal prerogative is a way of government bypassing parliamentary scrutiny. It also gives the monarchy the sort of powers that monarchists often forget about when they cite how ceremonial and harmless it is.
The personal prerogative powers of the monarch include immunity from taxation; immunity from prosecution; appointment of honours; appointment of the Prime Minister; dismissal of government; dissolution of Parliament and granting the Royal Assent. Are you starting to see yet how unimportant you are? And it continues: MPs pledge allegiance to monarchy. To understand just how ridiculous this is, cast your mind back to 2015 and the election of the socialist and republican Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader; it was only weeks later than an army general said if Corbyn ever became prime minister the military would instigate a coup.
Leaving aside the fact that this anonymous general would be swinging from a noose within a few weeks of his junta, there is still a law on the statute books that government refuses to touch - the Treason Felony Act of 1848, which makes calling for abolition of monarchy illegal.You can't even, to quote the act, 'imagine' the monarchy being removed. And regarding a military takeover, several of the top brass have said that they pledge allegiance to the monarchy, not the people, so they would have no problem defending the crown from the citizenry, because that's who they're fighting for. This is how much you matter. How much we all matter.
Then there's the state church, which demands special privileges and exemptions from laws it doesn't like, such as anti-discrimination legislation and even unfair dismissal laws. The state church also controls thousands of taxpayer-funded schools. Your taxes, used by them, to quote their head of education, to "target the young". And by extension some of the same privileges are given to Catholics, Muslims, Hindus and other religions. The state church also gets representation in both houses of parliament. The stitch-up is complete when you remember that the unelected monarch is also the head of the state church. This is the nature of incestuocracy.
The City of London has enjoys a seat in both houses. A shadowy figure, known as the Remembrancer, sits behind the speaker and gets to scrutinise legislation to make sure there's nothing in there that will damage the City's interests. This post has been in existence since the 15th century. A perfect illustration of just how unchanging and steadfast our institutions are. For 'steadfast' read 'refusing to give up power'.
Our interests are represented by MPs, frequently whipped into line to vote certain ways and voted in using a system that automatically penalises the smaller parties. There is no right to recall law. This is it. We aren't sovereign. In a week when some Tory MPs objected to the removal of wigs as worn by Commons lackeys because 'that's what gives parliament authority', you can see how much trouble we're in. The democratic deficit has never been bigger.
And don't even think about that referendum, because that was a sop to stop Tory infighting. Of course, if you ask anyone who loves this status quo you'll get told this is peak democracy, that we've never had it so good. But with a largely right-wing press sympathetic only to their establishment paymasters, and a system designed to keep us docile and good little subjects, the stench of decay and bullshit lingers. To show you how little and inconsequential you are, try being either a desperate benefits claimant or a rich tax avoider. Last year alone there were over 5000 fraud convictions for benefits 'cheats'; whereas in the last five years there's only been one conviction brought by the Inland Revenue for tax fraud. Face it: you simply don't matter.
If this is democracy, then I don't care for it. Fight for change. Write emails. Petition people, meet with MPs, demand better than this. Organise and march. Get in people's faces and stay there. Make yourself matter; let this tiny clique of fools and corrupt power-mad psychopaths know that you exist. No more mere bread and circuses. Do whatever it takes to remind the elite that we've had more than enough of their lies and power-mad games. Remember that taking back control is nothing to do with the EU and everything to do with we, the people, simply demanding what was ours in the first place.
What is claimed without mandate will be removed without mandate - now that's taking back control. Are you listening, Nigel?
Max Webster is the Editor for Political Provocateur