Author Archives: John King

All quiet on the Brexit front

To judge by the silence in the media, Brexit is done and dusted, and the country has already moved on. Or perhaps it was all a bad dream and never happened.
Of course, the covid-19 pandemic has eclipsed much of the other news, but this is not entirely explained. There have been plenty of problems: mountains of red tape that never perished in any bonfire, failed deliveries, cargoes of rotting fish. Of course, the Government has played these minor irritations down, no surprise there. But more puzzlingly, Kier Starmer has staged a judicious retreat from the Brexit battlefield, fearful no doubt …

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Covid-19 and Brexit: a lethal combination

Deaths from coronavirus dominate the news, but behind the headlines other sources of mortality are taking their toll.

This has been the case from shortly after the start of the lockdown, but is becoming more evident. If we look for instance at the figures for week ending 3rd April, there were 3475 deaths from covid-19 in England and Wales, but a total of 6082 excess deaths from all causes, compared to the five year average for that week. Contributory causes to these excess deaths probably include delayed cancer and stroke treatments, failure to seek necessary treatment for fear of attending hospital, …

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Remaining a Remainer

Up for discussion at a recent meeting of my local pro-European group in Stratford-upon -Avon, was an item entitled “do we give up on Brexit?” It was prompted by the eclipse of Brexit in the public consciousness by the coronavirus, the collapse of hopes that we might still, somehow, remain in the EU, and the turnaround among some pro-European groups to support the idea of leaving the EU.

Given this situation, what should Remainers do? Should they lie low, at least for the time being, or should we “take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?” I argue here that the latter course is the right one.

Swimming with the tide – the comfortable option

So far as most of the public is concerned Brexit has now been “done”, in Boris Johnson’s phrase. Many former Remainers, insofar as they think of it at all, feel they must make the best of it. A few diehards may see it as it really is; a national folly and an act of self harm. But most shrug their shoulders and bow to the inevitable. They find it far more comfortable to swim with the tide.

Even pro-European groups such as Best for Britain have found their principles to be flexible. Their mission statement states “We advocate for a Brexit that secures our future”. They are not alone: other organisations like the Eurocafe are either aiming for “a better Brexit” or steering clear of the subject altogether: any praise of the EU is now taboo.

One cannot blame these groups for taking the easier option, no doubt persuading themselves that they are being “realistic”. But I think it was Tony Benn who said “only dead fish swim with the tide”. Possibly Labour supporters should remember that.

Rejoining the EU

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Keeping the flame alive

It was over two years ago that I wrote in these pages about the virtues of patience, if we desire to re-enter the EU. Roger Liddle, the Labour peer and former adviser to Tony Blair, had predicted the conservatives would inevitably triumph and our best bet would be to re-apply under article 49, once the fuss had died down and the country had woken up to reality.

He was, unfortunately, right, but as for rejoining the EU in the foreseeable future the prospects look very limited. The idea that Britons will suddenly wake up and come to their senses is mistaken; experience has shown that if the going gets rough, Leavers harden their resolve. Furthermore, an attempt to negotiate inferior membership terms from a weakened position is not likely to go down well with either the public or the media.

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The Daily Mail could end Brexit

The recent news that the Daily Mail has bought the i newspaper for £49.6m has caused alarm and dismay to many. Is this the latest example of the extreme right tightening their grip on Britain’s print media, 80% of which they already own? It was, after all, the Mail’s long running, vengeful and ferocious campaign against the EU, under Paul Dacre’s editorship, that set the scene for Brexit.

It may be that Dacre finally overstepped the mark with his “enemies of the people” attack on our top judges, or it may be that his particular brand of burning anger was no longer necessary once the worst of his work was successfully done; at any rate many hoped that his replacement by the more pragmatic Geordie Greig would signal a change of heart at Britain’s most popular daily, and a less toxic approach.

Support for this view comes from a leading article in the British Medical Journal, and raises the interesting possibility that the Mail might one day be in the vanguard of a drive to reverse the worst calamity it ever backed: Brexit. The argument is that if the paper has seen the light and abandoned its long term support of the anti-vaxx lobby, anything is possible.

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Brexit? Scrap-it.

Revoking Article 50 was proposed by Chuka Umunna before he joined the Lib Dems, but nobody was listening to him in those days. Now its time has come, and it is set to be our bold new policy.

It has at least two advantages over a final say referendum:

  1. It is not open to the accusation that we want to re-run the original referendum because we didn’t like the result.
  2. Unlike No Deal, or the agony of another bitterly fought referendum, it really is a clean break. Whereas no-deal ushers in interminable years of haggling, in which the hapless public will never hear the last of the B-word, revoking cancels out Cameron’s fateful mistake and allows us to address the real problems facing the country.

Fateful mistake? Yes, the one thing most people will agree on, Leavers and Remainers alike, is that it would have been better if David Cameron had never inflicted the referendum on the country, causing nothing but division, trouble and strife. Nobody asked for it, nobody wanted it, it was foisted upon us as his bright idea to deal with the internal problems in his own party.

So if we cannot travel back in time and dissuade Cameron from plunging the country into chaos, scrapping the whole sorry business is about as close as we can get.

But surely Brexiters will not melt away and disappear, surely they will continue to agitate? Yes, but much of the force will go, once our course is settled and there is no immediate prospect of turning back. Because revoking can only be done if it is done in good faith, if it signifies a genuine intent to remain. We cannot revoke merely to obtain another 2 years of negotiating time.

Of course, we should be prepared for the inevitable cries of “undemocratic!” We hear this for instance from Stephen Kinnock, whose group of MPs are pressing for a soft Brexit, whilst Polly Toynbee accuses us of extremism.

Yes, it would certainly be undemocratic to revoke article 50 without a vote, but in the context of an election it is a perfectly reasonable option. And indeed, I predict it will prove very popular. A simple no-nonsense message, direct and unashamed, which takes the Brexit bull by the horns.

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It’s 1914 again …

… and I think I’m a conchie.

Brexiteers are fond of invoking the spirit of the Second World War for their all consuming mission. They assemble a war cabinet, Boris Johnson dons the mantle of Winston Churchill and strikes a pose as heroic saviour of the nation. No doubt a spitfire flypast is planned for November 1st.

Yet if we insist on military comparisons, in truth the atmosphere resembles more the run up to World War One. In the summer of 1914, as the Guardian columnist Rafael Behr puts it, “martial drums grew louder, pacifist voices grew fainter, a fog of fatalism descended. The nature of the question shifted from averting possible cataclysm to managing one that seemed inevitable”.

Although in theory our exit can be stopped, the armoured tank that is Brexit now has a lot of momentum and it is unclear how exactly to disable it. Though we assume all routes are still open, many may have already closed off. Historians, contemplating the build up to the Great War, are similarly uncertain when the point of no return occurred.

It was famously said that Europe was plunged into the First World War by the inexorable operation of train timetables. In other words, at a critical moment the carefully laid mobilisation plans could not be deactivated. Today, mobilisation is already proceeding apace and our diplomats in Europe have been ordered to take the train home. Parliament is set to be suspended, blue passports are being printed, celebratory coins are being struck, before long Brexit will be a fait accompli even before it has happened.

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Escape from Brexit

When I asked my son why he had voted Leave, he replied “because the country must be independent and stand on its own two feet”. My son is severely handicapped and the concept of independence is especially important to him. That’s fair enough, but independence is important to everybody, which is why it was so powerful an idea driving Brexit. “Independence day!” was Boris Johnson’s joyous cry as the referendum result was announced, and it resonated with many people.

Independence is fundamental to all of us, inbuilt into our lives from the moment we are born and our bodies must start to fend for themselves. We grow up knowing we must leave the bosom of the family and make our way in the world. We welcome this change because it means freedom.

Britain broke away from its mother continent eons ago, giving its inhabitants freedom to shape their own culture and customs, in which we rightly take pride. America likewise broke free from Britain at the Boston Tea Party, to become a free and independent nation, and in both cases relations between the mother nation and its offspring have remained friendly; particularly so in the case of America, rather more ambivalently in the case of Europe. But then Brexit arrived.

Brexit arose as the culmination of an intense, prolonged and ferocious propaganda campaign against the European Union by Britain’s right wing press.  They painted Europe as the enemy, with vivid metaphors of “throwing off the shackles” and severing the tentacles of an evil oppressive force, often harking back to the Second World War. Brexit would be the Great Escape, not from Stalag Luft lll, but from its modern equivalent, Brussels. Who would not thrill to the glorious saga of the British people claiming independence? Certainly the cohort of elderly Tories now electing the next Prime Minister, though some of them are still fighting the First World War.

At the most recent meeting of my campaign group, Stratford for Europe, I was asked for my suggestions on new initiatives we could pursue. Jokingly I proposed we establish an escape committee, dedicated to getting individuals out of Brexit Britain, along a lifeline that would take them to new opportunities in the free world.

In that idea, ridiculous though it was, there lies a certain truth. As the gloss falls off the promise of sunlit uplands awaiting us, an appreciation may develop of the rights and freedoms we are about to lose. The next referendum, when it comes, will be inspired by the freedom to live, love and work in 27 other countries, not the freedom to be bullied by President Trump. Far from buccaneering merrily round the globe, we may find ourselves confined to an Alcatraz Britain marooned off the coast of a Europe that regards us with pity. 

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The NHS is not for sale

If you had still had any illusions that our NHS would survive Brexit, these will have been dispelled by the statement of Trump’s ambassador that, “The US will want business access to the NHS in any trade deal”. Indeed, some have speculated that access to the NHS, along with the rest of the economy, is the real reason behind Trump’s visit.

This should come as no surprise, for the “Stronger In” campaign always warned that the country could have Brexit or the NHS, but not both.

The NHS has long been admired by many Americans for its efficiency compared to their own expensive system, at the same time as our own politicians paradoxically sought to emulate the US model by introducing market forces and business practices.

The problem posed by copying Trump’s way of doing things is that we risk losing the close cooperation with Europe that has brought us so much success. A huge threat to both the staffing of the health service and Britain’s leading role in research, is the abolition of free movement. Free movement has been the catalyst for medical advance, enabling the sharing of experience and knowledge as researchers move seamlessly between countries. And on hospital wards all over the country, skilled nurses from many European countries have played a vital role.

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Let’s leave Brexit for another time

Referendums are strange things. Uniquely divisive, and their outcome unpredictable. No matter what the issue, voters flock to opposing sides like supporters at a football match. There is no sitting on the fence.

You could have a referendum on whether we leave the earth and live in outer space, and it could succeed, who knows? Humans will have to colonise space sooner or later to survive, but the time is not here yet. And the time for leaving Europe is not here yet. It may come, if the EU fails to reform itself and technology solves the Irish border problem, but it is not here yet.

Revoking article 50 was proposed by Chuka Ummuna just recently as a solution for our crisis, though it did not stir much reaction. But perhaps it deserves a second look.

The big advantage of revoking is that it keeps our powder dry. We can always trigger article 50 again at any time, and thus retaining our negotiating power. What we can’t do is unbrexit once we have left, and lost all our negotiating power. The fact is that we currently have the best deal of all 28 countries, and the other countries are jealous of us. If we throw it away, we will never get it back.

So what we can do is say to the EU “We are halting our departure to give you a stay of execution. Take note of our discontents and reform yourselves, otherwise we will leave for real next time”.

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Would a second referendum be undemocratic?

A common jibe of leavers used to be “So Remainers just want to re-run the referendum until they get the result that suits them? How many referendums do you want? The best of 3, the best of 5?”

Now they have gone a bit quiet on that one, since Theresa May has used exactly that tactic in a vain attempt to force Parliament to swallow her deal. Bringing it back again and again until, in a vivid metaphor from The Independent, “it began to resemble the indestructible cyborg from the …

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Brexit: bad for doctors, worse for patients, but there is hope

The medical profession has always been staunchly opposed to Brexit. Even before the 2016 referendum the British Medical Journal predicted dire consequences, and whilst the pro-European tone was slightly subdued in the immediate aftermath, criticism has become more vehement as the process dragged on.

Last week the BMJ reported on a meeting of 150 doctors in Belfast who found “little to feel positive about”, not least the bizarre prospect of emergency ambulances being stopped when they crossed a hard border. A leading article (pictured) considered the plight of EU-qualified doctors who comprise …

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King John’s Christmas Presents

For some years now I have been in the habit of making Christmas presents for friends and relatives, which usually take the shape of home made fragrances. This year I thought I would adapt my hobby to raise some money for my favourite cause, the People’s Vote.

Basically I am giving a few of these items away, on the understanding that the recipients will make a donation to the campaign. This is a win-win situation in that I feel I am doing my bit to help the country out of its quagmire, whilst the People’s Vote gets some cash and …

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The changing will of the people

Nothing could be simpler than changing your Will. You simply alter it to take account of a new situation, including your new grandchildren perhaps, and it’s done. Nobody objects that you have betrayed your first Will by making another, and if they did, you would think it mighty strange.

Not so with the will of the people. The decision of 2016, corrupted and flawed though it certainly was, must stand forever, or for at least 20 years in Nigel Farage’s opinion. Why should that be? After all, it was only supposed to be an advisory result to be considered by parliament. Primarily because David Cameron promised that whatever the people decided, the government would carry out. And that promise rapidly attained the force of a biblical commandment, to be implemented come hell or high water. 

A second Brexit referendum will not be sanctioned “under any circumstances” insists Theresa May, because the 2016 decision was sacrosanct: any deviance is betrayal. 

Underlying this apparently high minded devotion to democracy one senses a certain punitive element, like the strict parent who says “I told you once, and I’m not telling you again”. Across the channel, the translation is more like “The Brits have made their bed, and now they must lie on it”.

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Options to Remain

An option to remain in the EU is an essential part of any people’s vote. But should it be just one option? That immediately creates a disadvantage compared to the Brexiters, who habitually have at least two options on the table – for example, a negotiated settlement or leaving with no deal.

On the surface of it, a 3-way vote might seem workable:

  • Remain in the EU
  • Accent the negotiated settlement
  • Leave with no deal

Indeed, some might argue this would favour Remain, since the Leave vote would be split. If the alterative voting system …

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The lighter side of Brexit – why we staged our April 1st satire

“The town that wants its own Brexit” was of course a spoof story, but the people are real enough. For Dick Vos read Richard Vos, Liberal Democrat party organiser for Stratford- upon-Avon. Jack Prince, in case you didn’t guess, is myself. We are members of Stratford4Europe, one of the more active and dynamic of the regional pro-European groups.

What we were aiming to do was to inject a bit of humour into the Brexit debate, which has got somewhat bogged down in sterile circular arguments. Humour can cut through the ice where intellectual arguments fail. It can also be therapeutic. Laughter is the best medicine, as they say. So in healing the wounds of a deeply divided nation, it should have some value.

We have certainly found that is true in the case of the Brexit café, a local initiative pioneered by Sophie West which has brought together Remainers and Leavers for friendly discussions. Whilst not comedy, this relies on good humour. At the national level there are initiatives such as the ‘Number 10 Vigil’ – live songs and entertainment featuring a lookalike Boris Johnson, which is no longer confined to Downing Street but has been travelling around the country on the Brexit Truth Bus.

Satire is often the best way to make serious points. For example, the folly of the First World War was poignantly highlighted by the film “Oh! What a Lovely War”, and with no loss of respect for the great fallen. Similarly “The town that wants its own Brexit” highlights the constraints of parochial thinking, with no loss of respect for Leavers.

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The dream of a wonderful Brexit

Much has been written about the negative feeling which drove Brexit, but it easy to forget that there is a positive and indeed a romantic aspect too. We fondly cherish the wartime image of Britain carrying the torch of liberty, standing alone against the dark forces which were engulfing the continent.

Beyond that, Britain still retains a dim but influential memory of its empire, of the great and global power we once were. The pens I used as a child at school were inscribed “empire made”, and it was an empire on which the sun never set. Europe, where was that? You might learn a little French if you were lucky but certainly not German, and in any case everyone should speak English.

In those days, just after the war, all Germans were regarded with suspicion and it was not until I was older and travelled to Germany that I realised they were normal human beings. The crucial experience for me came in my early twenties, when I took part in an international workcamp. For the first time, among young people from all over Europe, I realised what it meant to be British.

But for many who voted Leave, the opposite holds true: you can only be truly British by keeping the other nationalities at arm’s length. Why is that? Perhaps because sadly, there are millions of older Britons who have never had the opportunity to go abroad, unlike the modern generation. Why go abroad anyway, when Britain is the only country that matters, and Brexit will restore all our past glories?

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How Brexit could strengthen us

Amid all the bad news about Brexit – the lies on the bus, the shrinking economy, the paralysed opposition, we are prone to forget the benefits it is bringing us. I am talking about our understanding of the European Union. Politicians who have for years loftily ignored it are at last being forced to find out a bit about how it works. Large numbers of the population who had hardly heard of the EU before the referendum are gaining some glimmer of what it’s all about.

So a nation for years isolated …

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Fighting Brexit: The virtues of patience

Few presentations have challenged my thinking more than Roger Liddle’s talk at the meeting of the Social Democrat Group, reported earlier on LDV. Delivered with an almost Churchillian eloquence, it set out why a long term perspective may pay off in the end.

The clever thing about the two year transition period requested by Theresa May, he points out, is that it renders the exit itself painless. By means of this “Brexit now, pay later” ploy, the huge cost is kicked well into the future and the electorate robbed of an immediate reason to protest. But the good news, Liddle believes, is that rejoining the EU should be a feasible proposition when the country finally wakes up.

But we must stop Brexit now! That was the reaction of subsequent speakers. And indeed, I myself have emphasised the urgency for a second vote. We have nothing to lose, have we? Yes we have, says Liddle, because if we lost two referendums in a row, our long term prospects would be even worse.

And there is a high risk of such a defeat because referendums are inherently treacherous.

Furthermore we are severely outgunned. Much has been made of encouraging signs that the tide is turning, but the significant statistic about Brexit is that despite being unmitigated twaddle and a piece of criminal insanity, almost half the population still believe in it. That is, in large measure, testament to the success of the Brextremist propaganda machine – our rightwing press.

They were emboldened by their win last time, and are now cruising smugly along, so we are apt to forget their power. But the minute they sniff a referendum brewing you can bet they will go into overdrive.

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Cheer up Britannia, Brexit is coming

Cheer up Britannia, Brexit is coming. Can John King be writing this? As regular readers of my posts will know, I belong to the ‘Stay Angry and Fight Brexit’ school. And I still hope and pray that this madness can be averted.

All the same, in my more sombre moments, I sometimes wonder if we are clutching at straws. Even if we could turn back now, the Brexiters would cry betrayal for ever more. According to the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, many Remainers in parliament are privately wishing for disaster. Bound and gagged by the three line whip, they reflect grimly that Britain will have to learn the hard way.

Out of the ashes of cataclysmic devastation, by this calculation, a new Britain could arise like a phoenix, resolved never to make the same mistakes again. It is a scenario recalling not only Germany but also ancient Rome, whose Emperor Claudius, surrounded on all sides by perversion and foolishness, could only mutter “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out”.

But what if the country’s demise were relatively painless? What if the unacceptable gradually became the norm? It is a fact that with many serious types of sickness – and Brexit is a sickness – other people see a deterioration first, whilst the sufferer is mercifully oblivious. 

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Reversing Brexit

Once out, the pin can’t be put back in. Or can it?

Yes it can, so long as the strike lever has not been released. And that is the position we are in with Brexit. In theory, article 50 can be revoked if we act fast, but the clock is ticking. And According to both Emmanuel Macron and Alastair Campbell, editor of the New European, we have little time left. At some point, the EU will go into full self-protective mode and focus on performing a clean amputation. In grenade terms, the strike lever will have been released and the explosion will be inevitable.

That is why we have to move swiftly. According to Campbell, the time window after our August holidays will be slim. “When the political season resumes, we had better have got our act together”, he writes, ”or else this thing is happening”.

There are formidable difficulties facing us. Though we see tantalising signs of a national change of heart, a lot of energy has built up behind the Brexit juggernaut which means that simply aborting it is well nigh impossible.

Disarming the grenade

Brexit has been aptly described as an act of national self-harm, and self harm has a considerable cathartic value. It is like a wave which rears up before crashing and dissipating its energy on the beach. Anyone who has ever been distressed enough to think of harming themself will tell you that it is not much use being told “forget it, and just carry on as normal”.

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Creative campaigning as the mood on Brexit evolves

This image was among those rejected by the Government committee that oversaw the “stronger in” campaign. Saatchi and Saatchi complained that all their best work was vetoed by someone or other.

Well that is history, and we can learn from it. I count myself lucky to be a member of a small group of pro-European campaigners who are free to develop their own creative ideas, untrammelled by the need to answer to any committee.

Last week we were out on the streets in Stratford-upon-Avon, talking to people about Brexit. Any changes in …

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Brexit: an idea whose time has passed?

One view of our divided country is that it was always a land of potential Leavers and Remainers, the rift being merely exposed by the referendum. On this theory, Remainers were born rather than made and Leavers, like leopards, will never change their spots.

Yet the truth is that Leavers comprise all sorts of people, as do Remainers. They are not a different species. I am coming round to the view that our current turmoil is not the fault of the people themselves, so much as the power of a virulent ideology that has swept the country like a tsunami, sweeping away common sense, but which is now slowly evaporating.

It has happened before: ideas have taken hold with a force disproportionate to their merit, and caused mayhem. There are reasons why these belief systems gain traction. Let us look at a couple of examples.


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Why I’m gambling on a second referendum

I’m not a gambling man, but a few months ago I placed a bet for the first time in my life. It was that Emmanuel Macron would win the French election.  It was an expression of hope, which paid off.

Today I am betting on the success of a second referendum on Europe – either staying in the EU or re-joining it, preferably the former. My hope is that the dice will roll in our favour and the people will get it right next time round.

Not that I’m any great fan of referendums, as readers of my previous posts will know. Much can be done to soften the blow without invoking another one. But to reverse the earlier result and stay a member of the EU is likely to require the voice of the people again.

How acceptable will that be to Brenda from Bristol? Well, the snap election was waved through without hesitation despite arguments to the contrary. It is in fact quite difficult to argue against putting things to the people.

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Referendums: an addendum to the conundrum

In my previous post I reviewed some of the problems associated with referendums, in particular the conundrum posed by the “once in a lifetime” proposition. It is no wonder that two of our previous Prime Ministers described them as un-British, and a tool for dictators and demagogues.

Here, as a break from all the election talk, I add a few more criticisms for good measure. But despite the shortcomings that referendums undoubtedly have, my conclusion remains the same: we still need another one. 

Chancy outcomes

Referendums can have perverse and unexpected consequences. To take a rather silly example, suppose the British Medical Association called a vote on whether flower remedies should replace the MMR vaccine. The BMA might think it was a sure win for the vaccine, which does a wonderful job of protecting our children. But in reality it would be an enormous gamble.

The problem here is that, just like the benefits of the EU, the benefits of the vaccine have been taken for granted for years. People have forgotten how serious illnesses like measles, mumps and rubella can be.

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Conundrum of referendums and why we need another one

Referendums? Are you really so dumb? Surely it should be referenda? All right, I openly admit that I’m no expert on referendums, or referenda, my background being in science and medicine. The following thoughts are strictly those of a layman, but they should be relatively light on establishment bias and received wisdom.

I see five problems and a conundrum

The first problem is that referenda are subject to ‘populist’ forces. What is meant by that?

Suppose there was a referendum on whether we wanted to pay taxes. The populist lobby, attuned to the visceral nature of taxation, would urge us to take back control of our own money. Why let faceless bureaucrats in the government tell us what to do with it? The people should decide how much to give to public services, the armed forces and so on.

In an ideal world of sensible altruistic people, that might work. More likely, the country would go bankrupt.

The second drawback of any referendum is that it polarises and divides with the efficiency of a football match. Supporters flock to opposing sides, whatever the question at issue. Had the question on the ballot paper been “Should be EU remain as it is or move towards greater integration?”, we would now be a nation of remainers pitted against integrationists. A better sort of division, but still a divided nation.

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Remainers must not be silenced

In the aftermath of the referendum, the Remain viewpoint has been a still small voice. Too still and too small. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first to do with the character of Remainers and the second with how they’ve been treated.

Remainers on the whole are civilised people, reflective and self critical, inclined to see the other person’s point of view. They are not given to elbowing their way to the front of the bar shouting their order for a drink; they leave that to the Nigel Farages of …

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Evidence-based politics is some way off, but the Brexit scandal will be a blockbuster story


I’ve always been a strong believer in the scientific method, which is probably why the reasoning behind Brexit has baffled and dismayed me. In medicine, putting truth before dogma has resulted in effective treatments. Unfortunately though, it seems that politics has yet to learn this lesson, and seems to be intent on going in the opposite direction, with ideology and demagoguery trumping everything else.

At this point, I have a confession to make. Back in the 1980’s I wrote about the therapeutic potential of the sense of smell, illustrating with diagrams how it connected to the brain’s limbic system. It went viral and within a few years, many aromatherapists were portraying themselves as a new breed of neuroscientists.

Today aromatherapy is a lucrative industry, with even washing powders claiming to be therapeutic. In vain did I try to debunk, in the academic press, the enthusiastic claims that the essences of mother nature could cure everything from boils to bronchitis.1 This, like the Remain campaign, was ignored or attacked as a negative message.

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