There have been many moments in my long political career when I have felt worried about the direction of our politics. But nothing compares with how I feel now when I watch the antics of those who seek to get Brexit over the line by any means possible. For some, that includes suggesting that there will — even should — be violence on the streets if the British people are given a vote on whether to stay in Europe after all. This has never been how our democracy operates and only the most irresponsible suggest it ever will. Last week, the Sun ran an editorial saying: “Do you think Brits are too reserved for civil disorder? Cast your mind back to the riots of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990 or 2011. Or the febrile atmosphere of the referendum, during which Jo Cox MP was heartbreakingly murdered. What a tsunami of rage politicians would unleash.” Such reckless language is not confined to tabloid newspapers. This weekend, I listened to Iain Duncan Smith, a former cabinet minister and leader of the Conservative party, use almost identical language, telling the BBC: “You think the country’s divided right now, wait until you hold that second referendum. There’s a very large chunk of people who will feel utterly betrayed and very angry and I just caution, look across the Channel — we are not that far away from that kind of process happening.” Jeremy Hunt, who now occupies the post I once held as foreign secretary, said recently that he “wouldn’t rule out real social instability in this country”, while even Theresa May has been at it, telling the Sunday papers about her “fear … that we would see greater division”. The prime minister has done very little to challenge inflammatory language about civil unrest, riots on the streets and violence. And the only unity she has delivered is between leavers and remainers who both recognise that her proposed deal is a dreadful one for Britain. Indeed, when she exhorts the public to pressurise MPs to do their “democratic duty” and support her exit deal from the European Union, she might have had more success if she had shown a little more commitment to democratic ideals and principles from the start of this sorry process. Don’t forget that this is a prime minister who was hoping the government alone would be able to decide what “Brexit means Brexit” means. From the moment she tried to stop parliament even having a say on the article 50 process, through her attempts to prevent a meaningful vote on the final Brexit agreement, not to mention holding an unnecessary snap election that she imagined would give her a landslide but in fact led to her losing the government’s majority, she has given the impression that “taking back control” means taking back control for herself and shutting down any debate or opposition. Despite that election fiasco, and the enduring divisions that it revealed, she went on behaving as if she had that 100-seat “Brexit mandate” majority of her dreams. May set out Brextremist red lines to appease the hard right of her party, but succeeded only in tying her own hands and restricting her room for manoeuvre. She then added the crass folly of putting a specific date and time into the law, as well as setting an artificial and undeliverable deadline for agreement. As I said in the House of Commons last week, I don’t think I have ever seen anything so criminally irresponsible from any government, except perhaps the latest May mantra that “people just want it to be over”. This might be the greatest con of all. Of course people want it to be over, but it is clear that even if the May deal passes this week, wrangling over our future relationship with the EU will be consuming us for years to come. Far from ending the wrangling about Brexit, it will simply herald the next, even more difficult chapters. The deal she offers emphatically does not recover our sovereignty. It leaves us as rule takers from the EU without any voice in shaping those rules. What was promised in the referendum is not being delivered because it cannot be delivered: we cannot have our cake and eat it. Faced with this reality, I am in no doubt that giving the people a chance to express their view of it seems the best way to fulfil that democratic duty to which she claims to be so devoted. Democracy is a process, not a single event, and the principle of informed consent is well established. Far from it being anti-democratic to have a people’s vote, it is anti-democratic not to give the public the final say. But the answer to a crisis that risks spreading from parliament to infect democracy itself cannot be to threaten violence and unrest if you do not get your way. No true democrat should do that and no responsible politician — let alone minister — should even hint at such a course of action. I do not believe our prime minister has served democracy well over the past two years. Instead of denying the public a people’s vote on the mess she has helped create, she should now recognise the only way forward is to have more democracy, not less. Margaret Beckett is the Labour MP for Derby South Published in Daily Times, December 11th 2018.