I am moved to take up my long-neglected blog by the succession of politicians coming on to the radio to recite the ludicrous cant that “the people have spoken” (and variations on that theme) and that the referendum vote determines everything for ever. Do the people saying this really believe this formula? It seems evidently untrue on various grounds:
- the conduct of the campaigns on both sides relied on systematic lying and mendacious PR. The lies of the leave campaign – the promises of huge financial gains and some kind of golden age of independence – were more potent and attractive than the project of fear run by the remainers;
- The British rarely have referenda and do not understand that a referendum is about a very specific issue and asks a specific question. It is not an opportunity to express a wide variety of dissatisfactions with the status quo and our political “masters”;
- a vote is of its time. The vote to leave was highly coloured by fear of Syrian refugees, which was not a genuine Brexit issue. The idea that such a vote is for ever is absurd. On that basis we would have one general election to create a government for all time, since “the people have spoken”.
- the referendum was in 2016. In the meantime much has changed and become apparent – not least how much we have to loose from severing our complex and rich entanglements with Europe. We can see now that the leave options are profoundly unappealing;
- a referendum on the actual options available cannot be “undemocratic” as repeatedly claimed, or a “betrayal of the people”. At this point is the only democratic option available.
Along the way, we may note that the gridlock in parliament, caused by the monoliths of the 2 big parties, held together only by the lust for power, demonstrates the need for truly radical reform of our political system.