Whatever your views may have been about about Messrs Papandreou and Berlusconi, they did at least have the authority of a mandate from the Greek and Italian people respectively to run their countries. But in the past two weeks they have both been forced out of office by the combined weight of the EU commission and the governments of Germany and France. They were each apparently told that the financial subventions which their countries receive from Brussels would be switched off if they did not stand down. Both have been replaced, not by elected politicians but by what the papers love to call “technocrats” – central bankers and former EU officials. In the case of Italy, not one single member of the new government has faced the electorate. It is the triumph of the bureaucrat over the democratic will.
Yet what surprises me the most is that the people of the country which gave us the concept of democracy, and the descendants of Cicero, seem to have accepted the imposition of their new governments meekly and without raising more than a tiny whiff of protest. Why is this? Is it because despite having been in at the birth of democracy (classical Athens and republican Rome) their modern experience of it is relatively limited (Greece since 1974, Italy since 1945)?
The leading figures of the European Union are absolutely contemptuous of democracy – as has been seen in recent years when referendums about EU reform result in “no” votes. It is of course highly unlikely that this sort of coup would work in the UK – imagine waking up one morning to find that Mervyn King was now in charge – but if it did I would hope that somehow the spirit of 1642, or 1689, or perhaps the American spirit of 1776 would still be there to resist the imposition of will of the elites over the will of the electorate.