What about the arguments against a People’s Vote?

An article by Robert Shrimsley in the FT (https://www.ft.com/content/bad4d6e4-cad2-11e8-9fe5-24ad351828ab ) warning of the dangers of a People’s Vote has recently received much positive coverage.  Robert makes the best arguments against a People’s Vote that I have seen (and many others put them to me), so it is worth giving them serious consideration.

For those who can’t see the original article behind the paywall, Robert notes correctly that the People’s Vote campaign has taken off because of the intransigence of the hardliner Leavers who have pushed the country towards a hard Brexit rather than settling for a Norway-style deal.  He then makes four principal arguments:

1.    Although investigative journalism has exposed that Leavers were dishonest and cheated in the campaign, it cannot show that this was decisive;

2.    The “only real justifications for a second vote are a massive shift in public opinion or an unpredictable change in material circumstances”, both of which he says has not occurred;

3.    Remainers might not win a People’s Vote;

4.    However, if Remain does win, dangerous populism will be unleashed, and the country faces turmoil.

He, therefore, concludes that Remainers should back the best deal in line with the 2016 vote (but fails to specify which of customs union, single market or Chequers he thinks that should be).

As to the first argument, one of the surprises to me is that most politicians seem content to ignore the findings by the Electoral Commission that Vote Leave (and other leave campaigns) broke the law.  To argue that the other side needs to show that these were “decisive” is not in line with the position on MPs nor any different scenario I can think of.  If sportspeople are caught cheating, they are rightly disqualified.  Nobody tries to work out if their cheating would have made a difference.

As to his second point, Robert acknowledges that there has been a significant shift in public opinion from leave to remain.  To my mind, the fact that virtually all polls (including those who got the referendum right) are already showing a majority for remain is quite significant enough to justify a vote on the deal.  He ignores his second test of “unpredictable change”, but one thing is for sure, the Brexit on the horizon now is not that predicted by the Leave campaign!

As to the third point, it is, of course, correct that Remainers might lose.  At least the decision would then have been taken with eyes open having tested the Leavers’ fantasies against reality (and the outcome somehow easier to accept).  However, I seriously doubt whether that would be the case – as Jonathan Calder recently observed (http://liberalengland.blogspot.com/2018/10/two-barks-for-wooferendum.html ), pro-EU campaigns are much more effective now they are in the hands of those who believe in them rather than the “professionals”.

The final “unleashing of populism” argument is one that I recoil against.  It amounts to saying that people should not stand up for what they believe in for fear of the far-right.  However, all the evidence suggests that it is trying to appease far-right populism which leads to its growth. Robert’s proposed solution rather demonstrates this – any form of Brexit which is less than the hard Brexit demanded by the hard right will not satisfy them.  If we stay in the single market or a customs union, the next campaign of “leave means leave” will begin the day after claiming “betrayal” by politicians.  The fears of civil unrest are also overblown – in recent years, Ireland and Denmark have both voted again on EU questions without any issues (or even a serious campaign to reverse those decisions).

In short, there is no easy way out of the Brexit mess, but the People’s Vote is by far the best option open to the country.  We are closer to it than at any point since the referendum, but we need a huge turnout on 20 October.  I will be there.  Will you?

* Mark Goodrich is a former vice-chair of Richmond & Twickenham Liberal Democrats, a former expat who saw Brexit unfold from the other side of the world and now lives in Sevenoaks, Kent

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  • The main effort to ‘fix’ the result of the referendum was made by the then Government, who chose to make the leaflet notifying the public anything but the impartial one that EU rules state it should have been. That does not exonerate any cheating by elements of the Leave campaign, but would indicate that had the vote been completely unaffected by any inappropriate actions, then the margin for Leave would have been higher.

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 12:07pm

    @Mark Seaman – was the government found to have breached rules by the Electoral Commission or the courts?

    BTW – if anyone reads the mini-bio above and is thinking that I am coming from Seoul to the People’s Vote March, I have to confess that I am now in Sevenoaks. I have asked LDV to update.

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 12:09pm

    And I see that my mini-bio is now updated! Thanks LDV.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 12:12pm

    Is that right, Mark ? You were hoodwinked into voting leave by their dishonest campaign?
    Oh, you weren’t hoodwinked? Tell us why you think your vote is valid but not the votes from those who, unlike your perceptive self, were tricked.
    They must be stupid. Unlike you. So their votes shouldn’t count. Only clever people’s votes should count.
    This is the worst possible argument for a re-run of the referendum. It is received as being deeply insulting, because it is deeply insulting. I voted remain but if this abuse of a large group of British people continues I will change my stance at the re-run (if any) and vote to leave.
    The vote was easily winnable but was lost by blithering incompetence in the Remain side. Nothing but finger wagging dire threats. No positives of the EU at all. No celebration of the contribution EU citizens have made to the UK. None for the similar of British citizens in Europe. No optimistic vision. A campaign fronted by Cameron, Osborne, Blair, Mandelson, Izard, Geldof instead of the benefits of likeable Europeans working and living together. The next will be lost unless the threats of starvation and cannibalism are dropped and the benefits of being part of a large, and friendly family are emphasised.

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 12:19pm

    @Innocent Bystander – my point was that if you cheat in any normal situation, you are disqualified and the result is invalid. What you don’t do is ask the other side to prove that cheating made any difference. Not sure why you think it should be different for the referendum or why you think it contains any insult to anyone to say so.

  • Steve Trevethan 10th Oct '18 - 12:32pm

    Unless the “Brexit” referendum had a time limitation, what is undemocratic about having another with understood, enforced rules and better information?
    Might the Brexit referendum” be classified as a “blank cheque” referendum as we did not vote with accurate information?
    Might the core of the choice be between a hard Brexit aka a “border Brexit”, or continued peace in the Island of Ireland?
    “Hard Brexit” or civil war?

  • I will be marching. However I am astounded at how very few know it is happening. Has the message got round Labour and the Unions. Colleagues at work who are Remainers did not know about it till I told them. Likewise the Independent petition. Turnout may fall short of expectations.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th Oct '18 - 1:58pm

    Innocent Bystander, I agree with you. I want a referendum vote on the Brexit terms but I am horrified that Leave voters are accused of being unintelligent with various stories of personal discussions produced in evidence. In fact only 57% of graduates voted Remain, so not an overwhelming majority at all. The other people blamed are people who belong to my generation. If a lot of them didn’t go to University it was by no means their fault. The education system at the time divided us at 10 or 11 into clever/academic children or the unintelligent, based on intelligence tests that were unreliable and heavily biased towards the middle class. There was little opportunity for children who went to a secondary modern school to change later on.
    Moreover, voters who had little had been told to blame all their ills on the EU and migration by wealthy people who own newspapers. The poor have not experienced the benefits of EU membership because austerity has cut back the services on which they rely. This kind of propaganda is very seductive even if you have personally benefited from EU membership. A retired medical consultant I know had been reading the Daily Mail quite regularly during breaks when doing some work for a medical insurance company simply because it was lying around. He was very seriously thinking of voting Leave just before the Referendum.
    I don’t believe we can campaign for a Peoples’ Vote without at the same time showing how we will make peoples’ lives better by sharing out the economic gains of EU membership, otherwise why should they vote Remain if there’s still nothing in it for them?

  • Andrew McCaig 10th Oct '18 - 1:59pm

    We have done loads of surveys with Brexit questions, and it is clear that a significant number of Leave voters would be quite happy with a Norway style EEA (perhaps plus customs union) deal. In fact there is a clear majority in favour of this as the “best Brexit origin” compared to hard Brexit even in areas that voted 70% Leave. Polls show the same thing: trade deals are more important than stopping freedom of movement.
    This would be the true Brexit compromise deal. But Theresa is in thrall to the hard liners. Of course my view is that Remain is the best deal on offer. But a 3 option AV referendum as suggested by Anna Soubry would allow this to be tested and give a genuine choice to voters. Something they did not have in 2016.
    I do think the cheating argument is a red herring though, as are complaints about the factual leaflet put out by the government before the campaign. I would have more issue about the media focussing only on Cameron, Johnson and Farage ( was not representing the official campaign). Giving the latter so much airtime and the likes of Tim Farron so little was a gross breach of impartiality.

  • Nigel Hunter 10th Oct '18 - 2:10pm

    One Yes the leave vote should be prosecuted for corruption ie lies.
    TWO. wE NOW KNOW A LOT ABOUT WHAT IT IMPLIES We did not vote to be poorer
    Three. If it does still mean a leave vote.we will vote with our eyes wide open
    Four, Project fear ,leave style.Also I see that the Govnt is advertising for people with specific skills for ‘ organisation’ of communities A subtle way of implying Brexit will cause disruption be it shortages or violence cos one side looses the Peoples Vote Again a subtle way of saying Brexit could be a disaster.

  • Some of us won’t be marching because marching and demonstrations achieve precisely nothing.

    Countryside March? Iran War? Tuition Fees?

    Happy to hear counter-examples?

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 3:02pm

    Mark, it doesn’t matter a light whether you can ‘prove’ one side cheated. All you are telling 17 million people is
    “It’s Official ! The Electoral Commission has determined you definitely are thick, gullible dupes. Now do you accept that you were wrong all along”.
    If that’s not received as an insult I don’t know what would be.
    The rather snooty attitude that “Why would people mind being called stupid and easily manipulated when they obviously have been?” is exactly why elites are getting bloody noses from voters across the world.

  • I’m not convinced that being stupid or not has anything to do with going to university. I’ve been to two of them and Mrs May’s Cabinet is full of graduates! Draw your own conclusions…Being stupid (hopefully a minority of our fellow citizens) is different from being conned (a near universal experience at least a few times in our lives). This is not a terribly edifying conversation.

  • Actually the main argument against the so-called people’s vote is that there is no will or enough support to put through parliament. The point being that the main route to getting any kind of further vote is going to be the failure of the government to gain parliamentary support for the deal arranged by May’s cabinet. Thus the most likely question that would put to public would be a simple binary accept/reject option. Hard v Soft Brexit. However, the far more likely outcome of parliament rejecting the government’s EU deal would be a vote of no confidence and a snap general election, which is what I suspect Labour are aiming for. By far the most fantastical idea is that a few Lib Dem MPs are in any position to dictate the nature of a further public vote.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 4:21pm

    “Being stupid ………… is different from being conned ”

    True, but if you think to a time in your life when you were conned, then imagine another individual who wasn’t deceived by exactly the same pitch reminding you several times a day that they weren’t conned, but you were. After two years of that your patience, I offer, may well have worn thin.

  • BTW if you want to read the original article try going via Google e.g.


    (you may need to clear your cookies or open a new ignotico / private window that doesn’t have cookies set)

    Clearly his arguments do not stand up for a Liberal DEMOCRAT. We have had referendums on national constitutional issues about every three years somewhere in the UK.

    Of course the Remain side might well lose but I trust ultimately in the people. Sometimes they get it IMHO wrong! But over time democracy tends to be self-correcting and get roughly to the right decision – even if it veers off-course. It is said that crossing the Atlantic a plane is off-course 90% off the time but it gets to America by continual correction.

    To say that we will never revisit an issue is to ban all future general elections. BONKERS!

    To say that a referendum will be divisive is not to have lived through the 80s and 90s when politics was far more divisive than today.

    Clearly the ONLY way that we will remain (or indeed rejoin) is through a referendum.

    Not to try and remain is to condemn our fellow citizens to greater poverty, less health care, less educational opportunity. It is more than clear that leaving the EU will mean less growth and less money for public services than remaining. Some may want that – I do not.

    For me the argument is clear, we have been promised that moving to new house will be the answer to all our dreams by the slick salesman of Johnson, Gove and Farage – fair enough. Getting there and doing the survey it is clear that it a wreck that is falling down with rising damp and dodgy foundations. We SHOULDN’T MOVE!

    As Lib Dems we have courage and faith in our fellow citizens – let’s not be COWARDS.

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 6:00pm

    @Sue Sutherland and @Innocent Bystander – it is funny how quickly comments can go off topic. I can quite understand you getting angry at Leave voters being pilloried but I hope you will accept that there is none of that in my post. Equally, most of the campaigning groups have been careful to phrase the issue as a right to change your mind. I like the analogy that Vince has used of getting a survey on a house – people often decide not to proceed after seeing it!

    @Glenn – of course, Lib Dem MPs can’t do this on their own. This is why it has to be (and is) an all-party campaign. I have to disagree with your suggestion that a snap general election is more likely. May isn’t going to call one after what happened last time and Tory MPs aren’t going to vote for a motion of no confidence. A Peoples Vote gives a possible way out if (as seems likely), no Brexit deal which can be agreed can also be approved by Parliament.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 6:55pm


    Hardly off topic as it’s your point number one.

    To raise the point of deception automatically invokes the insult. If ballot papers had been stolen – that’s cheating but to tell voters that they didn’t (unlike you) make their decision based on rational intellect but because they swallowed a lie that you saw through can’t be received as anything other than a negative. It must be patronising and condescending.
    You need to find a leave voter and explain to them that they were hoodwinked but you weren’t. And then why you weren’t.
    The look on their face should finally reveal to you that it isn’t about the cheating thing at all – it’s about the insult thing and I implore Remainers to find some self awareness and try, please try, to realise what effect “You dimwits were fooled” has on those whose votes you want.
    There are many other positive points to discuss. Please don’t use the insult one. Sell some of the many benefits of the EU.

  • John Marriott 10th Oct '18 - 6:59pm

    Here we go again. “People were lied to”. “Some people were too thick to understand what was proposed”. “Europhiles failed to acknowledge what was wrong with the EU”. “Cameron badly miscalculated the outcome of an EU referendum”. I could go on.

    We had a vote two years ago and a small majority voted to leave. I say ‘small’ because a good slice of those entitled to vote couldn’t be bothered to. So, do we assume that the majority of those people, who didn’t vote, couldn’t care less either way?

    It may be a bit late now; but, if I had been in charge of negotiations I certainly wouldn’t be parroting that “the people have spoken”. Well, a lot of them did; but clearly the nation was divided more or less equally. Therefore I would feel perfectly justified in taking a serious look at doing a deal that included membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union during a transional period and applying EU rules as countries like Belgium do to immigration. I think it’s called ‘the Norway Option’, or something like it. You see, I have a strong feeling that next year’s EU parliamentary elections will see a majority in the parliament for radical changes in the movement of people, which, to be honest, was possibly the only reason, whether rational or not, why many people voted to leave. So, Sir Nick, do you really reckon that the EU will be “more or less the same” in ten years’ time?

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 7:14pm

    @Innocent Bystander – I think you have misread the post. I don’t raise deception and the only reference to dishonesty is in Robert Shrimsley’s argument. My point is on cheating / breaking the rules. As mentioned, if an MP breaks the rules, the election is invalidated. If a sportsperson breaks the rules, their result is invalidated (and they will be banned). Even the Leave whistle-blowers took the view that whilst they believed in the cause, the result should not stand. I am genuinely curious to know if you can think of a counter-example where there is rule-breaking and the result stands?

    Anyway, since we seem to be in violent agreement on the benefits of the EU, perhaps we could continue our conversation on 20 October?!

  • Mark
    My argument is that failure to get a deal will bring the government down which will result in a snap general election. May won’t have a choice about staying for the same reason Cameron didn’t. However, unlike Cameron, she doesn’t have the luxury of a majority. Labour are much more interested in ousting the Conservatives than a peoples vote and the dissent in the Tory party is mostly from the right, which is why I think a simple binary choice might be mooted. Labour have already said they will vote against any deal. They have ambitions to take office which go beyond wanting to stop Brexit. But, well see. If I’m wrong I’ll be humble enough to admit it and if I’m right(which I’m fairly confident I am) I will be a little less humble.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 7:17pm

    I don’t always agree with you but you are exactly right. The country is divided. A re-run of the referendum is hardly going to unite it but create a deeper schism. Again, you are correct that we can only hope for some deal (which I believe will be worse than what we had – but so be it) and try and get the nation back together.
    I also agree with your analysis of Clegg. With all the time he had to prepare for the debate and an obvious question his lame (and possibly Referendum losing) answer was as you said.
    He should have answered “The new member states from Eastern Europe have made tremendous progress since accession, in terms of standard of living and infrastructure investment and this will bring them to economic parity with Western Europe well before ten years. Then we are bound to see the large scale movement of peoples, for economic reasons, (and which has been the cause of unease to some) to dramatically subside and we will see only the very beneficial effects of both our citizens and Europeans crossing each others borders for opportunities and advancement. I am sure that the EU will have taken heed and any further accessions by some smaller Balkan states will deploy much longer transition arrangements until economic alignment is close”. Instead of “Much the same”.

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 7:19pm

    “Leavers were dishonest and cheated ” is easily good enough. Your words not mine.

  • The Leave campaigns made various promises. 2 years later, does it look likely they will deliver? Let’s remind ourselves (with thanks to the LSE library)…

    Will each household be £933 a year better off if we leave? – https://digital.library.lse.ac.uk/objects/lse:her492jaf

    Do we give the EU £350m a week (net) to fund the NHS with? – https://digital.library.lse.ac.uk/objects/lse:paf829reh

    Is the British Army going to be abolished if we stay in the EU? – https://digital.library.lse.ac.uk/objects/lse:yim217nih

    Is the EU keeping everyone in Europe poor? –

    If the answer to all the above is yes, then there is no need for another referendum. But if not…….

  • Innocent Bystander 10th Oct '18 - 7:41pm

    The obvious rejoinder would be that we haven’t left yet and still those questions have no answers. Check again in 2029.
    My concern is national unity. I see a country not coming together. A re run would worsen that even more. We are where we are and not where we would like to be. My most optimistic view would be some Norway face saving deal and another referendum in 5 or 10 years with the options of further detachment or complete re integration with Europe including the Euro, Schengen the lot. I won’t be here to see it but I would hope it would be the latter.
    I don’t think a widely accepted ballot question could be phrased in the current febrile atmosphere.

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 8:08pm

    @Innocent Bystander – those words are not mine but me repeating Robert Shrimsley’s argument. You will see my response to his argument below (which doesn’t mention dishonesty).

    Interested in your views on the point I raise about rule-breaking.

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 8:19pm

    @Glenn – actually, Cameron did have a choice as to whether to step down or not. But a resigning PM doesn’t trigger a general election. Only a two-thirds majority or losing a vote of confidence can do that.

  • John Marriott 10th Oct '18 - 9:46pm

    @Innocent Bystander
    It’s nice to know that at least one person seems to think I’m talking a modicum of sense. As someone who has studied, worked and lived in two EU countries (France and Germany) as well having spent three years working in Canada and seeing just how we were viewed from abroad, I viewed the old EEC as essential for the UK’s economic survival back in the 1970s before North Sea Oil kicked in – and what a mixed blessing this has turned out to be!

    I supported staying in back in ‘75 and again two years ago, not with any great conviction on the latter occasion, seeing how the old ‘Common Market’ had morphed into the unwieldy monster hardly envisaged when the ink had dried on the Treaty of Rome; but in the conviction that it’s a pretty cruel world out there and one in which this little old country of ours would struggle to compete for a piece of the action – not defeatism but REALISM.

    Just as I would probably vote the same if given another chance, it’s highly likely that most Leavers would do the same as well. They are a bit like Trump’s supporters in that no matter what you do or say, not sufficient numbers of them are likely to change sides to make a real difference. It feels a bit like how the Canadians must feel regarding an independent Quebec.

    So, acknowledgingbtyat views and both sides are pretty well entrenched, my pitch to the majority that voted to leave would be something like ; “If a large majority in percentage terms voted out period, that would be it. But they didn’t, so let’s try a bit of compromise.” To the EU I would say; “Isn’t it about time you realised that a period of reappraisal might help to counter the kind of existential dangers that this changing world of ours continues to present us with.”

  • Mark Goodrich 10th Oct '18 - 10:09pm

    @ John Marriott – I think you are speaking some sense too. But even if a Norway option could get through Parliament (which is possible), the Brexiters will cry betrayal and continue agitating to come out completely. Anyone who thinks that it will all be over next March is sadly deluding themselves.

  • John Marriott 10th Oct '18 - 10:52pm

    @Mark Goodrich
    Just as it was a mistake two years ago to have asked a ‘black or white’ question, so it is a mistake today to put forward ‘black or white’ arguments. Call it patronising as many will, but we need to bring a bit of common sense to the party. For whatever reason, many people, especially this side of the Channel, view what goes on in mainland Europe with an atavistic suspicion whose origins date back to the Romans, if not even earlier.

    Whether anyone believes me or not, what we could be witnessing up to the end of March next year might easily be the overture to an opera, whose length and complexity could rival anything that Richard Wagner composed. Very soon we shall be marking the centenary of the end of WW1, a conflict that, when it started in August 1914, many thought would be ‘over by Christmas”.

  • @David Raw

    It was a good performance by Corbyn – and May had left herself open to it following her conference speech.

    As I am sure you know Vince only gets 1 question every 4 weeks.

    I view myself as a leftie as I have some time for Corbyn – there is though a major flaw a the heart of his programme – and that is Brexit. He must know that it will condemn all of us to being poorer than we otherwise would be.

    Of course if he condemns May for austerity he also has to condemn the previous Labour government for it as well and of course the mess that the last Labour Government left that ensured that we all ended up here.

  • Innocent Bystander 11th Oct '18 - 8:20am

    Unable to reply last evening due to other commitments but

    “Interested in your views on the point I raise about rule-breaking.”

    Deserves an answer. You express “surprise” that politicians have ignored the findings of the Electoral Commission. This is because everyone else has. You repeatedly compare the Referendum to a sporting event, a bit like Wimbledon with a neutral umpire in neat blazer to whom all participants politely defer. You really need to speak to some Leavers because 17 million saw it , not as an election battle to form their government but as a battle AGAINST their government and dismiss, with angry contempt, the Commission as a mere govt mouthpiece and tool which only ever investigated one side, never attempted to value the vast resources of govt money and free publicity and celebrity endorsement which the Remain side enjoyed (and recklessly squandered in my opinion).
    For the sake of Remain I implore you to desist from telling half the country that their votes were invalid and the Electoral Commission says so. They have more respect for the opinion of Kim Kardashian. Please show some awareness of human psychology and stop the know all finger wagging. These people can be won over by polite respectful reasoned argument but to start as you did, by accusing them of being deluded (“And it’s Official. The Electoral Commission says you were tricked”) is a guaranteed way of getting backs up at the outset.
    Please assume that the Leavers voted in full possession of the facts and made their own reasoned intelligent decision in the same way you did. That’s respect. And from then you can engage them in a debate which will be more productive than the endless succession of dire threats of apocalypse.
    These are my views. As you asked.

  • Michael 1 11th Oct ’18 – 12:24am……………… of course the mess that the last Labour Government left that ensured that we all ended up here…………..


    After all, it is obvious. that if you rearrange the letters in ‘Richard Severin Fuld Jr.’, you get ‘James Gordon Brown’..

  • Malcolm Todd 11th Oct '18 - 8:55am

    I would add to Innocent Bystander’s very sensible remarks about the psychological effect of allegations of “cheating” that (1) it’s insulting to all of us (not just Leave voters) to compare a mass democratic vote to a sporting competition; (2) even if the comparison were valid, the conclusion is not since participants in, at any rate, football matches are often found afterwards to have broken the rules, which almost never results in overturning the result of the match; (3) if you’re going to be pedantically legalistic about “breaking the rules” (that is, without attempting to ascertain the real effect of any breach), then you’re bound to be pedantically legalistic also about the consequences, which are laid down in law and do not include automatically invalidating any vote in which somebody cheated.

  • Mark Goodrich 11th Oct '18 - 8:58am

    @Innocent Bystander – thanks. I did indeed ask for your views. As I understand it, your point is that Leavers will never accept that the Electoral Commission as a neutral body and so we should ignore its findings (and that of the court who found a breach of the rules in a different way).

    Indeed, that may be the case for some Leavers but certainly not all – not least the whistle-blowers who led to the finding in the first place. It’s a sorry state of affairs if our politically neutral entities which are required to arbitrate such matters are disrespected by a large section of population but you may be right. It would be interesting to see some polling on the topic.

    I am surprised that you keep referring to a suggestion of people being “tricked” and saying that I am pointing to the Electoral Commission to justify that. If you read what I have written, you will see that my argument is based around the rule-breaking of the Leave campaign. That doesn’t imply that people were tricked; merely that Leave cheated.

    Finally, I would urge you to take a look at @RemainerNow over on Twitter. People give all kinds of reason for changing their position but it is interesting how many contrast what they were told before the referendum with what they see unfolding before them. Maybe pointing out Leave lies isn’t as self-defeating as you think?

    Happy to continue the discussion in person if you come along on 20 October!

  • Mark Goodrich 11th Oct '18 - 9:03am

    @Malcom Todd – we are going to have to agree to disagree about whether there is any insult to any voter in pointing out that Vote Leave cheated. However, can I asked whether you think an MP who breaks electoral rules should stay in office? If not, what’s the difference in principle?

  • Malcolm Todd 11th Oct '18 - 9:04am

    I would also add that there is no doubt about the democratic propriety of holding a second referendum. Democracies absolutely have the right to change their minds, and the idea that you can’t think again until you’ve acted on the first decision is quite made up. (Consider the Mytilenean Debate for the pedigree of this principle.) Furthermore, the notion that you simply vote once and that’s the decision made is rather undermined by the entirely normal procedures for passing a bill into law in Parliament, which involves at least four distinct votes on the general principles.

    If there were evidence of a substantial change of opinion and a widespread demand for a new vote, therefore (not just a few opinion polls showing bare majorities for the latter and a small shift in the former), I would be happy for us to have a second vote, honestly so called. But in the current situation, given the lack of public appetite for more political argument, the low probability of a different outcome and the quite horrible effects on this nation of the last referendum campaign, I view the prospect of another one with unmitigated horror.

    And yes, if we are called upon to vote again, I shall vote to Remain.

  • Malcolm Todd 11th Oct '18 - 9:10am

    “whether there is any insult to any voter in pointing out that Vote Leave cheated” – this is the equivalent of “I was just saying…”
    If you don’t believe that the “cheating” made a difference, i.e. that people were tricked, what’s the point you’re making? No one is ever just saying: every utterance has a point.

    And if we’re going to argue at the level of pedantry, then I may as well point out that I didn’t say it was insulting to “point out that Leave cheated”; I said it was insulting to treat this like a sporting event, a game of cricket in which the voters are mere spectators cheering on “their” team.

  • Malcolm Todd 11th Oct '18 - 9:28am

    “whether you think an MP who breaks electoral rules should stay in office”
    The only sensible answer is “it depends”. An MP, for example, who is found to have overspent by £3.75 in an election campaign is never going to be kicked out of office as a result and it would be a simple abuse if they were. And, whilst the law was ultimately on his side, it is clear from the case of Alistair Carmichael that an MP can lie to the public, admit it, and yet be left in possession of his seat.

    Besides, of course, there is a difference in principle between unseating an officeholder and overturning a collective decision.

  • Mark Goodrich 11th Oct '18 - 9:28am

    Hi @Malcolm Todd – happy to acknowledge that it was my analogy between sporting events and the referendum which you found insulting to everyone rather than pointing out that Vote Leave cheated. I had read your support for @Innocent Bystander as supporting his point so apologies if that was not correct.

    You ask how I can divorce the fact of Vote Leave cheating from suggesting that people were “tricked”. My point was that the rules are there to ensure fairness in campaigns – if one side is found cheating, you shouldn’t get into what the effect might have been precisely because nobody would ever be able to demonstrate what would have happened on a level playing field.

    Incidentally, what’s your position on an MP who breaks electoral rules? Should s/he stay in office or not?

  • Mark Goodrich 11th Oct '18 - 9:33am

    Hi @Malcolm Todd – thanks for your clarification on my question. I may be wrong but I think any overspending invalidates an election. Of course, if the infraction is minor, the electorate may well return that MP back to Westminster but that is their choice.

    I agree that there is a difference between an MP and collective decision in a referendum. The referendum is way more significant – all the more reason why rule-breaking should have consequences rather than being ignored.

  • You are right that deliberate systematic cheating should disqualify you independent of whether it changed the result. Otherwise, you’re giving a green light to all sorts of misdemeanours. What we need is a fresh referendum that all sides will accept.

  • As Sir Ivan Rogers said in his thoroughly excellent, if depressing, speech on Brexit – I commend it to you all – “The fact that the European question has helped turn our political debate both somewhat, indeed sometimes seriously, mad and increasingly polarised and toxic should, I think, worry us all. It’s hard, in my view, to think of anything that would toxify it more than a further referendum.”

    I agree. We are into Least-Bad-Brexit territory now.


  • @David 11th Oct ’18 – 3:59pm

    As Sir Ivan Rogers said in his thoroughly excellent, if depressing, speech on Brexit – I commend it to you all – “The fact that the European question has helped turn our political debate both somewhat, indeed sometimes seriously, mad and increasingly polarised and toxic should, I think, worry us all. It’s hard, in my view, to think of anything that would toxify it more than a further referendum.”

    Absolutely and utter baloney! As I said it is far less divisive now than in many previous years – on those grounds we would keep every controversial policy ever introduced such as the poll tax as being the settled will of the people and abolish general elections!

    Oh – and we wouldn’t have had the 2017 referendum on the basis that we had already had a referendum.

    This is – in case Sir Ivan hadn’t noticed – a DEMOCRACY and the people have the absolute and complete right to change their minds – an often do! (And sometimes don’t!)

  • Obv. the referendum was in 2016 not 2017!

  • It’s being reported tonight that the police have been sitting on substantial evidence of criminal activity by the Leave campaigns for the last 5 months, but they are not investigating it because of ‘political sensitivities’.
    This is an extraordinary story – I’d call it a scandal. I hope the party will demand that this investigation begin immediately, and also demand an explanation of who made the decision not to, and whether there was any pressure from the government. https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay/met-police-stall-brexit-campaign-investigations-claiming-polit

  • Nom de Plume 11th Oct '18 - 9:02pm

    “people have the absolute and complete right to change their minds “. This is why I object to referenda, unless they are absolutely necessary and carefully planned (not like 2016). One ends up chasing the will-o’-the-wisp of the will-of-the-people. They are divisive and unconstructive. I am about as pro-Europe as you will find, but I woud rather the Tories got on with whatever they plan to do and any disaster dealt with decisively in a future referendum. Otherwise nothing is resolved. I would also vote against any of their proposals (since the are not going to offer Remain).

  • Mark Goodrich 11th Oct '18 - 10:27pm

    I have a lot of time for Sir Ivan Rogers and it is an excellent piece. I don’t disagree that a vote on the deal will be divisive but so will any deal at this point. Any softish Brexit will be attacked by hard Brexiters with the narrative of betrayal and won’t be stable. Better to take the fight now than have years of it.

  • Matt (bristol) 11th Oct '18 - 11:26pm

    I am in favour of a vote on the deal, for the reason that it is about due process; the people cannot be asked to vote for something that has not yet been negotiated – and then that vote left to stand as if it were the indefinite last word.

    In this regard, I support Vince Cable’s stance that the ‘vote on the deal’ idea could be applied for eg in the instance of Scottish independence.

    I support a constitutional settlement where there is a defined role for a constitutional referendum.

    Many of those arguing against a people’s vote are doing so for reasons that seem to betray a cynical pragmatism – we might lose; we need to wait for opinion to turn … etc.

    I’m just want the public to have their say when they know what the deal is, and until we know the deal, we can’t have been said to have been fully informed.

  • @TonyH

    It seems incredible to me that you put forward an article from Open Democracy; an organisation that is funded by think tanks, lobby groups, and currency speculators (they even list universities as funders)

    Why is there one rule for one and not for the other?

  • wg – Eh?

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