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.