I’m delighted that Paul Walls (Free Press, February 14) is so keenly interested in the 18th century statesman Edmund Burke – one of my political heroes. So I want, in response, to explain Burke’s legacy.
Burke’s work has informed the intellectual backbone of much of modern conservatism. His reverence of tradition, commitment to private property and respect for the institutions which shape our nation are thoroughly conservative values. His ‘little platoons’ – the associations, clubs and volunteer groups across our villages and towns which comprise the fabric of civil life – can be seen now, as they were then, as the receptacle of the collective wisdom of the ages.
Burke’s understanding of representative democracy and the role of Parliamentarians was prescient given today’s internet-driven notion that MPs should become mere delegates – essentially instruments which should bend to the will of whoever shouts the loudest for longest.
His views, though, must be understood in the context of the time they were nurtured. He was writing about nationhood when today’s European Union – with its ambitions to be a superstate, presuming sovereignty over many of our laws, and run by unelected, unaccountable Eurocrats – was inconceivable.
I’m puzzled by Paul’s view that MPs should have tried to block Britain’s exit from the EU. Does he feel MPs should have overturned the wishes of the people? The referendum was far from ‘advisory’ because the say the Government gave Britons on our EU membership came with a clearly stated promise to implement the decision.
Edmund Burke did indeed believe ‘the people are the masters’. The people, last June 23, voted in a fair and free referendum decisively to leave the EU. A decision that – were he alive today – I am sure Burke would respect, regardless of whether he agreed with it or not.
I wonder if the same could be said of the referendum deniers. Knowing Paul Walls well, I am confident that he is too thoughtful to be amongst them.