Author Archives: Andrew McCaig

To revoke, or not to revoke? That is the question

I was a little shocked on Tuesday morning to find that one of the biggest policy shifts in Lib Dem history seems likely to be pushed through Conference with less than 6 days’ notice. The problem I have with the new policy of “Revoke if we win a majority”, is that it puts at risk some core beliefs of our Party and validates the accusations of being the “Lib Undems” which we have been successfully resisting for the last three years. I see the strong attraction of Revoke; no messy referendum, no arguing over the question on the ballot paper, no further delay to resolving Brexit which everyone is heartily sick of. And also of course clarity. Here I want to propose a solution which keeps the essence of the policy, preserves our core beliefs, and provides real opportunities to take the political high ground at the same time.

I have spent the last three years arguing with Leavers and soft Remainers that our People’s Vote policy is perfectly democratic. As Tim Farron said, how can voting be undemocratic? I don’t argue that the 2016 referendum was invalid. I argue that it is out of date, new people are on the register and others have changed their minds, and therefore we need to check if “The People” still think the same once the destination is clear. More important, I have spent the last 40 years arguing with people about our clearly undemocratic First Past the Post voting system. Thatcher did NOT have a mandate to enact manifesto policy in 1979, nor did Blair in 1997, and nor did Cameron in 2015 (although actually the policy to hold an EU referendum is the one thing where I do accept a mandate since Tory plus UKIP votes exceeded 50%). We live in an elective dictatorship. Changing that is surely Liberal Democrat core belief.

The Revoke policy states: “Conference calls for Liberal Democrats to campaign to Stop Brexit in a General Election, with the election of a Liberal Democrat majority government to be recognised as an unequivocal mandate to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to stay in the EU”. We could easily get a majority government with 37% of the vote as Cameron did in 2015. So we are saying that regardless of our beliefs, we will take our own chance to use elective dictatorship to push through a policy that may well be opposed by the majority of voters.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 74 Comments
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