Naturalist risks enraging millions with his comments
- Sir David Attenborough said the Brexit vote has created a ‘mess’ in Britain
- His comments could enrage millions as he said the UK is not ‘wise’ enough
- Critics have accused the 90-year-old TV naturalist of being ‘elitist’
Sir David Attenborough has risked enraging millions by claiming the British public is not ‘wise’ enough to have been given a say over Brexit.
The TV naturalist said the vote from 17.4million British citizens to leave the EU had created a ‘mess’ and argued that the decision should have been left to MPs ‘to vote on our behalf’.
But critics have accused the 90-year-old of being ‘elitist’ and failing to recognise ‘what the people want’.
Referring to the rise of Donald Trump in the US, Sir David said: ‘There’s confusion, isn’t there, between populism and parliamentary democracy.
‘I mean, that’s why we’re in the mess we are with Brexit, is it not? Do we really want to live by this kind of referendum?’
He added: ‘What we mean by parliamentary democracy is surely that we find someone we respect who we think is probably wiser than we are, who is prepared to take the responsibility of pondering difficult things and then trust him – or her – to vote on our behalf.’
Speaking to BBC presenter Emily Maitlis in the Radio Times, the veteran broadcaster also cited Ken Clarke’s new book in which the Tory MP states that if people were asked whether they’d like a National Gallery or a funfair they’d say a funfair.
Quoting Michael Gove from the Brexit campaign, Sir David said: ‘That’s why politicians getting up and saying, ‘We’ve had enough of experts’ is so catastrophic.’ He added: ‘I can see the arguments [for and against Brexit]. I mean, I’ve said for years that I don’t think any human society is prepared to make decisions which they may not like if they’re made by people who don’t speak the same language.
‘It’s very easy, as we all know, to be very tolerant of minorities until they become majorities and you find yourself a minority. It’s easy to say, ‘Oh yes, these lovely people – I love the way they wear such interesting costumes…’
‘That’s fine until some day you find that they’re actually telling you what to do and that they’ve actually taken over the town council and what you thought was your home isn’t. I’m not supporting it, I’m saying it’s what it is.’
Hitting back at Sir David’s comments, Tory MP Peter Bone said: ‘I don’t think MPs are wiser than the public. A decision of this magnitude should be taken to the public and the result was clear.
‘There’s a failure to recognise what the people want from certain quarters.
‘I would hope people would support democracy and believe in a democratic result. I don’t believe in elites, I believe in the people.’
Andrew Bridgen, another Tory MP, added: ‘It was a vote by the people that took us into the EU. It’s the biggest question to have ever faced our country. It was quite right that it was a vote from the people to leave.
‘What [Sir David’s] saying is that some people’s votes are more important than others. We all had a vote on the EU, including MPs, and the decision was to leave.
‘Anyone who doesn’t agree with that is failing to recognise the basic tenets of democracy.’
Sir David, whose latest documentary series Planet Earth II begins on Sunday, has previously urged the government to use Brexit to better protect the UK’s nature and wildlife.
In September, he said: ‘Like it or not Brexit has happened. All agriculture and environment treaties for nature and wildlife will have to be rethought.
‘It’s a great opportunity to refine the legislation to match our part of the world.’
His comments follow a similar intervention last week from Tony Blair.
The former prime minister said June’s referendum amounted to a ‘foolish excursion into populism’ which could be reversed by Parliament, an election or in a second poll if the public simply changed their minds.
But critics, who branded Mr Blair the ‘Bremoaner-in-chief’, said he ‘clearly doesn’t believe in democracy’. Mr Blair was also slapped down by Downing Street, with a spokesman saying he only ‘speaks for himself’ and there would be no second referendum.