Much of the text of this first post was written in anger in 2016 immediately after the UK referendum vote to leave the EU. After two years of listening to the ill-informed mud slinging that has passed for debate over this period, there is very little I would change. So I have posted here.
The Referendum – the problem
The referendum was an outrageous abuse of the democratic process and if it is allowed to stand then democracy in the UK is at risk. We are, to use a nautical phrase, ‘standing into danger’.
The turnout was high but the result very close. A 3.8% margin or 51.9% is not a decisive result given the momentous consequences. A great many people will have been taken in by the brazen misleading and duplicitous lies presented to them in the campaign. Many more than the tiny 1.9% needed to completely change the result. Had the result been a 10%+ lead then, despite the fraudulent propositions presented to the people, it might be argued that the referendum result should stand. This is not the case and it clearly cannot be regarded as a reliable test of the will of the people.
It is often suggested that had the vote gone the other way then, despite the small margin, we would have accepted the vote and therefore this is all just ‘sour grapes’. However, this argument fails to acknowledge the fact that the two possible outcomes are not symmetric. Had ‘remain’ won by the smallest of margins, the consequences would simply have been a continuation of the status quo. This is in stark contrast to being forced to walk the plank into a tumultuous sea of uncertainty and possible dire consequences, including the break up of the United Kingdom. It cannot be compared to a general election where one ends up with a government which one may like or dislike but will in the end be ephemeral and dependent on the ebb and flow of public opinion. This is forever.
The people have not spoken. They have muttered an incoherent message, the gist of which is simply; we are fed up! Why are people this fed up? Because of the antics of Westminster and its divisive politics, recent policies like the bedroom tax and the insensitive disability allowance changes, and of course the many issues surrounding migration.
It is true that the turnout was high, but people have been asked to pass judgement on a litany of lies. To simply say with solemn gravitas that “we must respect the voice of the people” is naive and ignores the basic need for honesty in politics. I am a democrat, I believe whole-heartedly in the democratic process. But this referendum was not an exercise in democracy. If anything, it was a demonstration of its fragility and how we need to protect it from corrupt manipulation.
The other argument that is often heard is that “we must trust the judgement of the people of Great Britain”. Why? A judgement by anybody on any subject is only worth anything when it is an informed judgement. The people were systematically and unrelentingly lied to. There is no possible way the people of Great Britain could make an informed judgement based on the rhetoric and lies paraded before them during the referendum campaign. It is an irrational position to hold.
Some MPs feel they have been elected on a mandate from their constituents to campaign to leave the EU and that because their region’s vote produced a majority to leave they are bound to support the referendum result. This appears to be a reasonable position until one takes into account that this was a national vote. While it is interesting how the vote was distributed it is not relevant and does not address the many reasons why, as a national referendum, it was corrupt and fundamentally undemocratic. MPs represent their constituents but they also have an overriding duty to protect the democratic process and so should therefore discount this referendum, even if it reflects their views and those of their constituents. I believe there are also many people that supported leaving the EU that were upset by the leave campaign.
It has been suggested in a recent poll by Opinium that 1.2 million ‘leave’ voters regret their choice and would now vote to remain. There were 35.5M voters, so that represents a swing of over 7%, which would reverse result. It is just yet further evidence of the invalidity of the referendum.
One other important reason this referendum was unacceptable is it did not allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote, as they did in the Scottish referendum. The only reason this was not done is because many Conservatives worry that ‘young people’ tend to be more left wing and this would compromise the party’s electoral prospects. To hell with party politics, these young people will inherit the mess we are creating and have a right to be heard. It was simply undemocratic to exclude them.
Links to some extra information:
There’s a democratic case for second referendum (New Statesman) https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/theres-democratic-case-second-referendum-how-it-can-be-done
The Referendum – the villains of the piece (the short list)
Mr Johnson MP
Boris Johnson is not the lovable rogue he would have us all believe. The persona is manufactured to disguise a devious and manipulative individual. What exactly has Mr Johnson ever achieved as a politician other than his own advancement? Certainly very little of substance during his time as Mayor of London. I know people who have attempted to work with him during this period and found him duplicitous and untrustworthy. This certainly chimes with the tenor of the campaign he ran, which was a litany of lies and undeliverable promises. Some commentators have said “he has always had a difficult relationship with the truth”. Thankfully he has stood aside from the the Conservative leadership battle now that his chances have been emasculated by Mr Gove. A charming pair they are. Also, Boris Johnson knows what a poison chalice the leadership would be now that he has landed the country in this horrendous mess. Not a stupid man, just mendacious and Machiavellian.
As for the baleful Mr Farage… well the man is simply a racist. The poster was a disgrace, his comments on sexual attacks appalling and his triumphalism and strutting arrogance in the EU Parliament was just embarrassing and unseemly. His campaign whipped up alarm, fear and hatred. His team deliberately targeted far-right groups (aka dangerous loonies). The result is we witnessed the murder of a much loved and good politician on the streets of the UK. He unleashed dark forces that have since resulted in attacks on Poles. This is the legacy of the Farage campaign. And now, having plunged the country into turmoil he has the temerity to say; “he wants his life back”. It is a crime to incite racial or religious hatred in this country but sadly I doubt he will ever be prosecuted… but imho he should be.
Links to some extra information:
Farage campaign courted far right (The Times) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/farage-campaign-courted-far-right-njrqxhkqb
Mr Corbyn MP
Mr Corbyn deliberately compromised the Labour Party’s campaign to remain in the EU. Nobody from his office ever attended a single meeting of the Labour remain campaign and I believe they also vetoed proposals that would have made a big difference. Corbyn was virtually silent. It was a disgraceful and dishonest manipulation of a campaign that let people down and characterised exactly the kind of politics that Mr Corbyn is constantly saying he wants to change. There is no escaping the fact that the referendum result is partly his fault and for that reason alone he should be ashamed, contrite and should go.
An aside: My grandfather was a Labour MP for 20 years and he would be devastated to see what has now happened to the Labour Party. I too have always believed in the values espoused by the Labour Party but it has now been hijacked by the hard left. Jeremy Corbyn has been associated with the various Marxist groups that occupy the hard left for most of his political career. This has never been what the Labour Party that I supported stood for. It is silly extremist politics. When Mr Corbyn says we live in a divided country he is absolutely right. To fix that the Labour Party needs to gain power. Nobody is going to vote for a Marxist agenda, it is a ridiculous and rather stupid proposition. I suspect even Jeremy Corbyn accepts that. While we don’t want a return to Blairite politics, we do need a strong and focused leader in place to rally the troops and challenge this referendum. It is obvious that Mr Corbyn is not capable of being that leader. I do hope that common-sense will prevail over idealogical clap-trap.
Mr Cameron MP
This referendum was entirely unnecessary. It was promised in the Conservative manifesto simply to quell the discontent amongst ill-informed Conservative back-benchers and to see off UKIP. It was a very poor judgement call by David Cameron. I do have some sympathy though, as maybe nobody could have predicted the vile campaign that those that wanted to leave the EU would mount. But nonetheless…
We should also not forget Putin’s role in all of this. I imagine he is having a good chuckle over a glass of vodka in his dacha. The Russian involvement in Syria was calculated and the migrant crisis hugely exacerbated by it. Putin knew full well what a destabilising effect this would have on Europe. Farage is well aware of this and named Putin as the leader he most admired. Whatever the context or excuses, it was a crass statement which speaks volumes about the character of Farage… and his miserable agenda.
Links to some extra information:
[Putin and Farage (The Guardian) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/05/europe-vladimir-putin-russia-social-media-trolls]
The Referendum – where are we now? (this was in 2016)
The short version is; “we are in the poo”. Sterling has fallen sharply again today (5 July) and the warnings of the so called ‘fear’ campaign are, one by one, being visited upon us.
The British people have been conned by Johnson, Farage and their ilk. They are already back-tracking on some of their statements and promises. This referendum was not democratic and needs to be discounted. This needs to be acknowledged by MPs across the political spectrum.
Some have suggested that to abandon the referendum result could cause riots and further divide society and is not an option. Of course it is an option and this need not happen if those that corrupted the referendum are held to account. In the end the British people are not stupid and they don’t like being lied to. Once it is made clear that they have been lied to they will demand it be overturned. There are already over 4 million votes for the petition. That represents well over 10% of those who voted in the referendum. These people want it to be re-run, without regard to the rather incoherent wording of the petition. This is a considerably greater number than the 3.8% margin of the referendum itself. It would compound the insult to democracy if the referendum was allowed to stand.
The former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve MP, has said that a second referendum would be legal.
Nick Clegg committed the sin of lying to the electorate about tution fees and the Liberal Democratic Party paid a very heavy price. It is ironic that they are now enjoying a resurgence of support because of the grotesque lies promulgated by the leave campaign. However, I am sure a lesson was learnt and I hope they continue to grow in strength. The nation needs a strong Liberal Democratic party, and unless the Labour Party shows signs of regaining its sanity I will be voting for the Lib Dems and signing up to join. The Paddy Ashdown initiative is both interesting and encouraging.
Given the turmoil in the Labour Party it seem unlikely they are going to be an effective voice in ensuring a new referendum any time soon, but individual MPs still have the ability to throw this referendum out.
In the end, the referendum was advisory. There exists no legal obligation on the government to recognise the result or to legislate, and there exists a strong case that it does need to legislate before signing Article 50, hence the legal challenge by Mishcon de Reya. So, given that almost 500 members of parliament have declared themselves to support ‘remain’, there is a fighting chance that Parliament will reject the referendum result.
If there is not a commitment to abandon this referendum result by Parliament then I believe the nation now deserves a general election so there can be a rational and informed debate about the future and our membership of the EU.
Links to some extra information:
[We need a second referendum (The Guardian) https://www.theguardian.com/politics/commentisfree/2016/jun/26/second-referendum-consequences-brexit-grave]
[Parliament must decide (The Guardian) https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/jul/03/parliament-must-decide-whether-or-not-to-leave-the-eu-say-lawyers]
The Referendum – what I have done
Last week I wrote a letter and emailed it to all 600+ MP’s which can be read here.
There is a strict protocol whereby MPs should not correspond with people outside the area they represent. However, thankfully and sensibly, it is not that strictly observed. I have received many interesting and supportive replies.
The Referendum – what you can do (remember this was in 2016)
If you have any sympathy with the above please lobby your MP. One way is by using: https://www.writetothem.com/
If you haven’t already, sign the petition. There are undoubtedly problems with the petition. It is poorly worded and what is suggested could never happen. Also, there is evidence of some fraudulent signatures. However, it is nonetheless a pretty good measure of people’s anger and one that the government will heed.
Join the Liberal Democrats and help them fight for reason and democracy. You can sign up here.
Help save the Labour Party savinglabour.com.
If you are Conservative, send a message to the party as well as to individual MPs here. “You got us into this mess, now get us out”.
Join the initiative to hold the leave campaign to account: voteleavewatch.org.uk/
Get other people to do the same.
Lobby local party organisations and local councillors.
Write to newspapers, “like” this website, generally make a kerfuffle until this travesty of the democratic process is overturned.
“March For Europe” showed the way!
The Referendum – there is a funny side to everything
John Oliver’s take on the referendum result: https://www.vox.com/2016/6/27/12038972/john-oliver-brexit-last-week-tonight
Boris Johnson’s HQ as the EU referendum result comes in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a6HNXtdvVQ