Given that Bomber Admin has spent a fair bit of the last couple of years fighting to maintain the "good old British" right of the minority to outvote the majority, it's somewhat curious that he still feels qualified to lecture the rest of us on democratic principles. Nevertheless, that's what he's been up to this afternoon on Twitter. Apparently he feels that the SNP have no "mandate" to add a devo max question to the independence referendum. Hmmm. Leaving aside the fact that the dogs on the street have known for years that the SNP were minded to do just that (ie. it wasn't exactly kept a secret from the electorate in May), I have a bit of a problem with the idea that a 'mandate' is a prerequisite for holding a democratic vote. It's almost a contradiction in terms - the whole point of a referendum is that you're conceding you can't act without a mandate. Doing something that isn't in your manifesto is much more problematical if you do it without a referendum - for example, if you introduce top-up fees in spite of being elected on a manifesto pledge that "we will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them". But I digress. Let's have a closer look at Tom's logic -
Democratic Principle 1 - It is illegitimate for a government to hold a referendum that they do not have a specific mandate for.
Democratic Principle 2 - If the SNP government hold a Devo Max referendum, David Cameron's government would then have a "responsibility" to breach Democratic Principle 1 and hold an independence referendum they have no specific mandate for.
Oh-kaaay. I think I can perhaps translate the Harris doctrine into plainer language -
The SNP require an unambiguous mandate to do anything. But everyone else has a duty to act without a mandate if it would thwart the SNP.
It's not hard to see that Tom is a keen student of the Blairite dark arts. It rather calls to mind the novel principle of the "unreasonable UN veto" that Blair plucked out of thin air in his more desperate moments in the run-up to the illegal invasion of Iraq. It went something like this -
International Law Principle 1 - Even if the vast majority of Security Council members vote for a resolution, it carries absolutely no weight if one of the permanent members veto it. There's no use complaining about Israel using their American chums to get them off the hook time and again - them's the rules.
International Law Principle 2 - Principle 1 naturally doesn't count if it's France or Russia vetoing US/UK military adventurism. In those circumstances, we really have to stop being so fussy about "rules" and consider other relevant factors, ie. that George and me really want to do this.
Ah, Tom and Tony, you guys - killing us with Reason.