The day after the vote, the legal opinion was clear. Before Article 50 could be invoked, it had to pass through parliament. The vote alone was never going to be sufficient to go through all the layers of bureaucracy. Why is this a surprise now?
As politicians are elected and so naturally the will of the people (in theory), so should simply reflect their constituency. So theoretically this should merely be a ceremonial rubber stamping.
This has not stopped the opportunists jumping on the bandwagon – The BBC has led with “Communities Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC One’s Question Time the referendum result had been “very, very clear” and politicians should “get on with that”. ” This is a ridiculous statement, the result was 52% to 48%, so a mere 2% swing would have meant the result went the other way. With 28% of registered voters and 35% eligible not bothering to vote*. In what world is 2% “very, very clear”?
What was very, very clear was the geography of the Vote. Districts and regions in Wales and England voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit, Scotland and Northern Ireland vote to stay. Could this be because Parliament did such a good job convincing Scotland and Northern Ireland that being part of something bigger, being in a Union was brilliant for them? What if the same energy was used to convince the rest of the country to stay in the European Union?
As is the British way, most did not want to be seen as poor losers. So we dusted ourselves off and then pretended that this narrow margin was a clear, overwhelming majority and what everyone wanted all along.
What was wrong with the vote:
- David Cameron and his cronies (and me for that matter), naively did not believe that the exit vote would happen, so:
- The Remain campaign did not engage enough, of course Cameron did have a country to run, while it was Farage’s full time job and Johnson seemed to have left London to run itself after his legacy “Boris Bikes” were in place
- The vote was not set up as a binding vote (in the legal sense), but rather more a massive opinion poll
- Clearer guidelines should have been in place (minimum voters etc.), something that is irreversible should not be done on simple majority. For example in South Africa a 2/3rds vote is required to change the constitution. 4 million people agreed after the fact.
- It was not a “fair” vote. One option was to remain in Europe as is, the other option was any fantasy version that suited the individual or campaigner:
- Complete Brexit – Except for my industry, when it suits me
- Only Brexit for labour movement
- The NHS will be fully funded for the next millennium and so we will all live to 120
- We shouldn’t have needed the vote. The reason we elect politicians is to represent our best interest. As dedicated professionals they should be able to make far more educated and informed decisions on our behalf than we can. If we cannot trust them to act in our best interests then we shouldn’t vote for them.
What was right with the vote:
- One person – One vote
- Perhaps a truer version of democracy (Not 34% get’s you a majority)
- People felt their vote actually mattered
- The option to leave Europe
- Nobody voted to be in Europe, it kind of just happened
- The EU is looking for increased funding, while citizens are experiencing austerity measures
I personally was despondent after the vote, because I felt the motivation was from a negative space, the vote to leave was not done to envisage something progressive. Since then, I have been alive with the possibilities, if handled correctly. If we allow it, with change, comes opportunity.
*Interestingly, in Australia they made it compulsory to vote, but also have to randomise the order of candidate, otherwise they just voted for Alfred Abbott or whoever was first alphabetically.