The idea that democratic decisions, however mistaken, are sacrosanct and cannot be reversed is wrong. This was tested at the very dawn of democracy in Athens in the 5th century BCE.

The city state of Mytilene had rebelled against the Delian League. The Athenian Assembly, where all male citizens could attend and vote, resolved to send a punitive expedition, tasked with killing all the male inhabitants and enslaving the women and children. A perfectly democratic decision of course, although those who characterised the EU as behaving like the old Soviet Union in punishing the UK for daring to leave; even they might think the Athenian response a bit heavy. The following morning the Assembly reconvened. The debate reopened with the great Cleon questioning the value of democracy if citizens could simply change their minds. However Diodotus’ counter-arguments prevailed. A second ship was sent to countermand the order. Fortunately for the citizens of Mytilene, rowing night and day, it overtook the first, although I am sorry to report they were still not very well treated.

Women did not attend the Assembly. Perhaps it was when the Athenians got home and told their wives about the original resolution that they understood their mistake. So anyone who thinks that a democracy cannot reverse a decision should read Thucydides' account of how Cleon’s argument on that very point was defeated in the Mytilenian Debate two and half thousand years ago. As attributed to Keynes more recently: “When someone persuades me that I am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?"

It is absurd to suggest that it would be somehow undemocratic for the Liberal Democrats to go into a General Election openly and honestly promising to revoke Brexit. Let us hope for comparable clarity from other parties.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Arnison Newgass, FCA

Gambledown Farm

Sherfield English

Romsey SO51 6JU