Here’s my main problem with the People’s Vote argument: it seems to be taken for granted in Remain circles that the 2016 EU referendum was a bad idea (which is was) but that the fix to this problem is to do it all over again. It’s like thinking the best way to treat someone whose memory is foggy after they have hit their head on something is to rap them on the skull with a blunt instrument because this seems to fix the problem in old cartoons. Referendums are really bad ways of doing things, as the last three and a half years should have taught all of us. Representative democracy is way, way better.
Some Remainers are sticking to the line that this general election is an unfair way to decide what the country does next in its perpetual Brexit crisis. This is ludicrous and is in opposition to almost everything else the Remain side claims to be true. This election will tell us all we need to know about what the country thinks about Brexit and further, will shine a light on the way forward in a way that no referendum ever could.
If the Tories get a majority, I think you have to accept that enough people want to push ahead with Brexit for that to have happened. Here’s the best part though Remainers: you don’t have to like this or even accept it. You can keep hollering as much as you like about staying in the EU. That’s your right in a free, liberal democracy. You can keep arguing for another EU referendum if you like. That’s how the system works. The government has a majority to do what it said it would and those who oppose the government get to keep making the case that something different is better. Everyone gets their say and no one needs to kowtow to some glorified opinion poll that happened almost four years ago. This is why representative democracy works and is great while direct democracy sucks.
Likewise, if there is a hung parliament and particularly if the Lib Dems do much better than expected, that would tell us that Brexit is much less popular than is widely assumed. There wouldn’t be a majority to take it forward and parties would have to work together to try and move the thing on. If they failed, we’d have another election. Even if we had five in a year, all that would tell us is the country is hopelessly divided on this. A referendum has to give a clear answer one way or another and would be taken as total victory by either side, even if it was won by ten votes, as we have seen since June 2016.
We’ve lost all perspective on this as a country. We’ve got Robert Peston claiming that if the Lib Dems won a parliamentary majority they would end Brexit “by fiat”, as if governments making policy decisions that reverse what the last government did is somehow an unholy abomination. Respectable political journalists are asking if the Tories win the election does Johnson have a “mandate” to go through with Brexit – of course he f-ing does, that’s how parliamentary systems of democracy work, dummies. The EU referendum seems to have broken the whole way everyone thinks about politics in the UK, down to the very basic fundamentals.
The People’s Vote idea was created in late 2016 because no one felt they could challenge the result of the referendum. No one felt they had the political space yet to say that leaving the EU was a bad idea and that we should just stay. Things have moved on. Let’s stop having referendums and let parliamentary democracy decide things from here on.
Remain alliance says
The harsh truth
The liberal party will be responsible for 2 of the most destructive events of this century
First they facilitated austerity by keeping cameron in power until 2015
Second the far right has under the tories hoovered up the leave vote by making the brexit party redundant
Only a vote for labour will stop brexit in a second referendum which remain can win however ambivalent corbyn is
Yet again the liberals are coming to the rescue of the conservative party by splitting the remain core
There is no majority for leave but the cons have been more ruthless
The only way to stop brexit is to destroy the liberal vote like farage
Knock it down to 4 percent and you stop brexit
History will not be kind to swinson and the liberals NIck
David Evans says
What a absurd post from so called ‘Remain alliance’
So the Lib Dems are responsible for the far right (not the Lib Dems) under the tories (also not the Lib Dems) hoovered up the leave vote by making the brexit party (again not the Lib Dems) redundant.
I thought I would only say this in respect of Boris Johnson, but Remain alliance wins hands down – “t takes a certain style to be so certain in one’s own ignorance.”
Labour could have inflicted decisive blows against Brexit many times. The hard damaging Brexit has been possible grace à Corbyn (along with a few delusional allies).
John Dean says
Nick, this is probably the worst article I’ve ever read by you. There are two reasons why, if Johnson were to achieve a majority (god help us), it would not provide a mandate to proceed with Brexit:
(1) referenda are used to decide on single issues, general elections are used to decide who governs the country;
(2) UK politics is blighted by the FPTP voting system – a majority government can be elected by a minority of the electorate, so the number of seats attributed to each party is a poor guide to their popularity, especially if tactical voting is involved.
In the unlikely event that Labour is able to form a government, how would we know what that tells us about support for Brexit? Many Labour supporters are Remainers, but according to Len McGluskey “Labour is not a Remain party”.
You simply cannot add up the votes cast, or the seats gained, for different parties in a general election and draw conclusions about the relative support for Remain or Leave.
There are two reasons why, if Johnson were to achieve a majority (god help us), it would not provide a mandate to proceed with Brexit:
Do you think if the Liberal Democracts were to win a majority, that would provide a mandate to Remain?
Do you think if there were a hung Parliament and the Liberal Democract were to offer to enter into a coalition with Labour on the condition that (a) Labour change their leader and (b) they revoke the Article 50 notification immediately, without a second referendum, and Labour were to agree to those two conditions, the resulting coalition government would have a mandate to Remain?
John Dean says
‘M’ – 1st scenario: if there was a specific manifesto pledge to revoke A50 and the Lib Dems were able to form a majority government with at least 50% of the vote then, yes, they would have a mandate. But that is not going to happen in this election.
2nd scenario: (b) is not going to happen either. The Lib Dems would not insist on immediate revocation as a condition of entering a coalition with Labour – even if they did, Labour wouldn’t agree to it, because their policy is to negotiate their own deal and then put it to a confirmatory referendum.
if there was a specific manifesto pledge to revoke A50 and the Lib Dems were able to form a majority government with at least 50% of the vote then, yes, they would have a mandate
What if they formed a majority government with, say, 42% of the vote? Would they then have a mandate to Remain?
If not, what should they do — hold a second referendum?
John Dean says
‘M’ – No and Yes.