Brexit and the European elections

With the European Elections looming they could be regarded as a test of public opinion, almost a second referendum.

However given that what UKIP and Boris Johnson et al promised in the run up to the 2016 referendum has been shown to be unattainable it is almost inconceivable that

Nigel Farage’s BREXIT Party should be riding so high in the ratings. One can only assume that this a matter of dictatorial principle “you will do as we tell you”, an anti- establishment stance from people who feel totally undervalued, powerless and ignored – determined to win at any cost and regardless of outcome. Nigel Farage now says it is about democracy.

It will therefore need the pro-European Parties, and hopefully Labour, to work together to get the facts across. This is not about democracy: it is about the future of our country for generations to come.

BREXIT could lead to the break-up of the UK, the loss of Gibraltar, and the outbreak of hostilities in Ireland, which could very quickly escalate out of control, and will certainly leave the UK worse off economically. It is doubtful that anyone voted to be worse off and yet this is what the most optimistic predictions, even those of the Government, suggest. Just recall how hard Britain fought to gain access to the“common market” and that 44% of our exports go to Europe (with only 18% ofEurope’s exports coming to Britain) and a further 20% of Britain’s exports go via trade agreements with Europe.

Therefore the NET contribution Britain makes to the EU pales into insignificance compared to the advantages of this free trade agreement. And those that argue that the UK would not have to pay the £39b, so called divorce settlement, were it to leave without a deal, should bear in mind that this is to honour our contractual obligations and what country would enter into an agreement with a country which failed to honour such commitments – not to mention the possibility of sanctions imposed by the EU on top of tariffs

The Irish Border, together with Gibraltar, was always going to present insurmountable problems. It was perhaps “freedom of movement”, more so than the “Good Friday Agreement”, which led to the end of hostilities in Ireland, with people crossing the invisible border daily. However one cannot “control one’s borders” without a border and the only way to retain an open border in Ireland, and avoid hostilities, is to remain in a Customs Union and Single Market (Free Trade Area).

Few would like to see a return to tanks on the streets of Belfast and bombs going off
in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Guildford and, of course, the Conservative

Party Conference in Brighton. And make no mistake if hostilities broke out again in Ireland, as they most certainly would if a border was re-inserted, other groups would
more than likely join in and the situation could very quickly escalate out of control.

Just like in Ireland, people in Gibraltar and Spain, cross the border daily going to and from work and to do their shopping etc.

“Taking back control of our borders” was a “key issue” in the referendum and yet the majority of immigrants do not come from Europe and those that do come here to work and contribute more in income tax than they take out in benefits. They fill low skilled jobs in agriculture and hospitality and low paid jobs in health and social care.

The leave campaign talked about “taking back control of our laws” when Britain had a right of veto and effectively agreed to all the laws and regulations introduced to the UK by the EU.

Surely there is also a human rights issue here, also, with British people losing their European Citizenship with all the benefits that imparts.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Gibraltar all voted to “remain” and the referendum should never have been set up in such a way that one country could impose its will upon another. With Sinn Fein coming within one seat of winning control of Stormont, and talk of a second independence referendum in Scotland, BREXIT threatens the future of the UK itself. Few people would have voted for the break-up of the United Kingdom, for the loss of Gibraltar, or the outbreak of hostilities in Ireland and yet these a likely consequences of BREXIT.

We are a “parliamentary democracy” not a “direct democracy” and elect MPs to take informed decisions on our behalf in the best interests of the Country and its peoples. However those MPs also feel bound by the result of the 2016 Referendum.

You can read a longer version of this article here.

* Chris Perry is a former Director of Social Services of South Glamorgan County Council, a former Non-Executive Director of Winchester & Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust and a former Director of Age Concern Hampshire.

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  • Peter Martin 14th May '19 - 9:13am

    “you will do as we tell you” ??

    You wouldn’t be saying that if the referendum had gone your way! There is a good argument against having referendums. The public would have voted in favour of capital punishment at one time. I don’t agree that should have been allowed to happen. Does that show some scepticism about the democratic process? Maybe.

    The European issue isn’t quite the same because the signing of the European Treaties did involve a transfer of sovereignty. Whereas we can undo a Parliamentary vote on domestic issues we can’t easily undo the signing of a Treaty. So, yes, there is a better argument here. One Parliament should not bind the next Parliament except if the public give their consent. So we should have had a referendum before Maastricht and Lisbon rather than afterwards. If these had occurred then the current difficulties would have been avoided.

    MPs didn’t have to ask the people on the EU. It was entirely their decision. Nearly all MPs, including Lib Dems, voted for the referendum to take place. If MPs don’t like being told what to do, why ask the question in the first place?

  • It’s not about people feeling undervalued. People disagree about the way their societies should be governed. In this case It’s about a vote being sidellined and parliament’s inability to co-operate across party lines. It is about democracy because Parliament has to have the consent of the electorate. Every politician is eminently replaceable. This is because Representative democracy also includes the notion of delegation granted to representatives through the act of voting. We are not sending leaders to Westminster. They are not the wise and the good. They only have the authority temporally lent to them by voters The reason we’re seeing the rise of so-called populism is because lots of decisions have been made centrally without bothering to find out whether or not they had enough popular support to be politically sustainable. You have to be popular enough to get elected, which means you do have to take into account the views of an electorate who can choose not to vote for you. The legal framework of politics is local and national. Boarders count. Local populations count. National electorates are employers rather than subjects. Claims on the future are based on the fallacy of historical determinism and destiny. There is no fixed future. No road leading forward to exactly where your political traffic imagines the future to be. Sideways travel is as possible as any other political road.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th May '19 - 10:09am

    This *is* about democracy.
    The preamble to the Lib Dem constitution says “the people are sovereign”. Has the party ceased to believe this?
    Democracy is precious, and perhaps more fragile than we realise. The principle of democracy is certainly infinitely more important than the issue of whether or not we are in the EU.

  • Indeed Mrs Crossland, the people are sovereign. So why do you continually assert that a political party seeking to persuade the people to change their minds about the EU is somehow anti democratic?
    The very essence of democracy is the ability of voters to think again or come to a different conclusion. If that were not so we wouldn’t bother with general elections because long ago the people would have been deemed to have spoken. We would certainly not have had a second EU referendum in 2016 because the people had spoken in 1975! Democracy is not an event, it’s a process. In general elections, local and regional elections and even referendums people are invited to choose who or what they want at that moment in time. This has never been seen as an unchangeable decision, yet leavers and their apologists insist that the 2016 referendum is somehow sacrosanct and unchallengeable. [This despite the fact that they spent 40 years challenging the 1975 referendum that they didn’t regard in the same way] The first referendums on Scottish and Welsh devolution were lost, but they later had another and so obtained devolution.
    The intolerance – and sometimes violence – shown by the leave side with their threats of civil disorder if they don’t get their way are not democracy, they are thuggery and must be opposed.

  • Peter Martin 14th May '19 - 10:56am

    @ Mick Taylor

    “This has never been seen as an unchangeable decision, yet leavers and their apologists insist that the 2016 referendum is somehow sacrosanct and unchallengeable.”

    I don’t remember anyone saying this.

    What Leavers have said is that having made a decision to leave the EU we should leave the EU. Then those who disagree can challenge it and campaign to rejoin if they like. If the Lib Dems ever make it to being elected into Government, they should be entitled to form that Government. Those who disagree then will provide a democratic opposition and campaign for a different government at the earliest opportunity.

    This is the democratic process as I understand it. Have I missed something?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th May '19 - 11:00am

    Mick, I hope you know me well enough to know that I am absolutely opposed to any thuggery, violence or intolerance – by either side.
    The point is that the public need to have confidence that a democratic vote will automatically be implemented.
    Of course there must also be the possibility of people changing their mind some time in the future, after the original vote is implemented. It would be absolutely fine to have another referendum eventually, after Britain has left the EU, asking the public whether they would like to rejoin.
    But a democratic decision needs to be implemented before it can be reversed.
    If the public see their vote ignored, they will, understandably, loose all faith in democracy. Some people are saying they will never bother to vote again. There can never, ever, be any excuse for thuggery or violence, but tragically this is something that often occurs when people feel they have no chance of changing things by peaceful, democratic means.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland: It was an advisory referendum, so there was nothing to implement. If the result were to be “automatically implemented”, then the mechanism for this should have been explicitly stated in the legislation, so that the implementation process would have been kick-started automatically (e.g. by statutory instrument) following the vote. This is how it would have happened if the AV referendum had resulted in a Yes vote.

    “a democratic decision needs to be implemented before it can be reversed.”

    sorry but no. This is a made-up ruie. It doesn’t even apply in Switzerland, that bastion of direct democracy where binding referendums are part of the fabric of the system of government. Why should opponents of a decision have to wait until after its implementation to oppose it, if there is evidence suggesting the public have changed their minds on it during implementation? Are we supposed to be in some sort of purdah while implementation is happening, with no criticism of the policy allowed? This is very dangerous for democracy, as it would allow an autocratic ruler to forbid challenge on anything they want to do by declaring that it’s “necessary” for the implementation of a referendum result.
    Democracy means challenge is allowed AT ANY TIME. No ifs no buts.

  • Catherine: only some of the public will/might lose faith in democracy , not all, maybe not even a majority. One of the constant mantras that is pummelled out by the Government is we must deliver the wishes of the Broitish people, as if everyone thinks like that. We know they do not, and with polls indicating almost a 60 -40% current preference for Remain, these statements appear increasingly nebulous. I guess many of the apparent switchers are doing so simply to end the whole process so we can get on with everything else that has been laid dormant for 3 years. A confirmatory vote legally binding, unlike the previous advisory one, seems a sensible preference.

  • Talking about referendums, according to Vince Cable last night on Channel Four News, a second referendum would have to have three questions.

    Being a simple soul I assume that none of the questions will get 50% – so could someone please explain to me how that clarifies and simplifies anything ?

  • Richard Underhill 14th May '19 - 12:08pm

    Countries which have more experience of referendums than the UK does spell out a lot more specifics before asking the electorate to vote.
    In California a voter may need one hour in the voting booth reading all the legal text before deciding, thereby causing queues.
    In the 2014 referendum in Scotland there was a lot more information than in the 2016 referendum. Part of the problem was that a variety of Leavers in 2016 advanced a variety of policies. Nigel Farage (then UKIP) was in frequent, and often bitter, disputes with other Leavers. Daniel Hannon (Con) was preaching a blue-sky future whereas realists understand that the future is uncertain. The political and economic effects of job losses can be more important than the hopes of new employments.

  • David Evershed 14th May '19 - 12:35pm

    Is Lib Dem policy to have a second referendum on Leaving and only to Remain if there is a majority to Remain ……

    …… or is it Lib Dem policy to Remain regardless of having a second referendum or the result of one?

    This is an issue of democracy.

  • Peter Martin. You obviously haven’t been talking to leavers then. This very argument has been put to me time and again. In essence, the argument is that regardless of current views the 2016 referendum must be implemented because it is “the will of the people”. I have countered with the view that people have the right to change their minds only to be told that that’s all right in a general election but not in a referendum.
    Catherine, I never suggested you would be in favour of thuggery, but far too many people on the leave side are. You may be judged by the company you keep.

  • Mr Evershed. The party’s policy is to have a third EU referendum to decide whether the people want the deal negotiated by Mrs May or to remain. I have grave doubts about that policy and have expressed them at conference.
    My doubts are that I don’t think a referendum is the way to decide political issues, especially one as complex as our EU membership. I also am not confident that a second remain campaign will be run any better than the last one.
    Although not explicitly stated, the party’s view is that they would have to abide by the result of such a referendum even if it went the wrong way from our point of view.
    Of course, some of us would wish to start a campaign to rejoin!

  • Peter Martin
    You wouldn’t be saying that if the referendum had gone your way!

    Looking at possible referendum results in this way is not the correct comparison to make. A more realistic comparison would be to imagine us not in the EU and having a referendum to join, and join winning. Then a deal to join is negotiated which is not as good as was promised during the referendum campaign. And because of this there is a demand for a second referendum to either confirm or reject the result of the first because more is known about what future arrangement will be like.


    You are correct the electorate can reject an MP whose voting record they dislike, but you are wrong to believe that MPs are delegates for their constituencies or that they have a moral duty to always vote in the way that a majority of voters in their constituency would vote. Our system is based on the idea that we elect MPs so they can make the decisions on our behalf and we don’t have to spend hours reading draft legislation or trying to hold the government to account for what it does on a daily basis. I am not convinced that a delegation system could work even in an electoral area as small as a district council ward. I can’t imagine even 60% of electors turning up each week to discuss draft legislation and government actions and then voting to tell their councillor how to vote. What is the point of having a human delegate, they could be removed and just replaced with direct democracy. I think even in the distant past when there was direct democracy for city states populism was a problem. (Julius Caesar was a populist.)

    David Raw

    I saw Vince on Channel 4 News last night. I wish he had said AV could be used but he didn’t. He implied that questions could be worded in such a way to achieve a meaningful result. I think he implied two questions – there should be a leave or remain question and if leave wins a choice between no deal and May’s deal or the Conservative-Labour deal if one materialises.

  • Remember this?

    “The idea of a second EU referendum, suggested by Farage earlier this week, is not only a pathetic attempt at a comeback by a failing “Leave” campaign, it also ignores the history of these sort of referendums.
    “Successive independence referendums for the state of Quebec in Canada popularised the phrase “neverendum,” and eventually the independence movement collapsed. Farage and those supporting Brexit should take note: undermining the validity of a referendum and ignoring the democratic choice of British people will not make you more popular (something other nationalist parties in the country should also understand). Nor will it encourage more people to support your cause in the first instance.
    “The UKIP leader regularly accuses the EU of not listening to the democratic will of countries. So maybe, just maybe, he should live up to his own words for once and listen to the choice of the British people.”
    Tim Farron, “Prospect” Magazine May 19th, 2016

  • Sue Sutherland 14th May '19 - 1:00pm

    I agree with Richard Underhill that the problem with The Referendum was that there were few rules of conduct set out before it was undertaken. It is perfectly logical to have a referendum on the principle of remaining in the EU or exiting from it which is then followed by a referendum on the negotiated terms. Unfortunately no one in power anticipated the difficulties the country would get itself into over Brexit.
    The people were asked to make a decision that couldn’t be implemented. Parliament said it would do what the people decided but at the same time the rules stated that a referendum could only be advisory. Someone needs to come clean with the people. It isn’t a conspiracy it’s a c… up. One good thing that may come out of this is a recognition that the return to government by posh toffs has produced the worst self induced mess the country has known since the civil war.

  • Peter Martin 14th May '19 - 1:15pm

    @ Michael BG,

    Well done. Your’s is a much better argument than Mick Taylor’s! It’s not perfect though. When we joined in 1973, the negotiations were firstly concluded, then we joined, then we had a ‘confirmatory referendum’ in 1975 so we did all know just what we were voting on.

    It could have made sense to do it this way around this time too. But, I don’t think anyone suggested that we should.

  • Peter Martin 14th May '19 - 1:31pm

    @ Mick Taylor,

    I don’t know of a single Leaver who would deny Remainers the right to campaign to rejoin. Once we’d left. As the two referendums on the EU/EEC were 41 years apart, many would say you should be allowed a third one in 2057 🙂

    Personally, I’d be more accommodating and suggest you wait only 10 years.

  • Andrew Tampion 14th May '19 - 1:49pm

    Alex Macfie:
    “Catherine Jane Crosland: It was an advisory referendum, so there was nothing to implement.”
    But the government of the day made it public before the referendum that the result would be implemented. Following the referendum the government held a Parliamentary vote in which an overwhelming majority of MPs (498 to 114) voted to pass the necessary legislation. So your point is?

  • Richard Underhill 14th May '19 - 2:23pm

    Referendums around the World, the growing use of direct democracy
    edited by David Butler and Austin Ramsey, The Macmillan Press
    ISBN 0-333-63368-7 hardcover, ISBN 0-333-63369-5 paperback
    “Switzerland is the only country in the world where political life truly revolves around the referendum.”
    “Switzerland has held more nationwide referendums since it introduced the institution in 1848 than all other countries combined, since the emergence of the modern nation-state.”
    “By the end of 1993, Switzerland had held a total of 414 nationwide referendums, covering virtually every sphere of government activity.
    Australia, in a distant second place, had held only 44.”
    “In most years Swiss voters are called on to decide six to twelve national questions, which are typically spread over two to four separate ballots.”

  • Michael BG
    The point I’m making is that the idea of representative democracy is not entirely separate from the idea delegated representation. MPs hold surgeries for this very reason. I would also argue that the notion of representative and delegated politics are not separate in the electorates understanding how government works which is why trust is fairly low. It’s also why you find criticisms of both illiberal democracy and undemocratic liberalism. IMO politics has come to rely too much on the business of government which favours the input of institutions over the electorate. To me the electorate is the point of democracy, not an obstacle to be negotiated by the great and the good. Failure to understand this breaks trust and ultimately takes you closer to the disorder you think you are avoiding.
    To be honest when I vote I don’t think of the person I’m voting for as some sort invaluable political expert. I vote for the policies they are standing on and if a carrot or a machine could deliver them better I’d vote for them instead.

  • Alex Macfie 14th May '19 - 2:24pm

    Andrew Tampion: Government promises are binding on no-one, least of all those of us who were not in government at the time. Both the government and the official opposition have chosen to bind themselves to the rash promise made by David Cameron before the referendum that “the result would be implemented”. In other words, they have chosen to treat the advisory referendum as binding. But this is a political decision. It is their prerogative, but it is a decision that should be subject to the same scrutiny as any other political decision. It is equally legitimate to say that you do not consider yourself bound by the previous PM’s promise, and act accordingly. So we have referendum that the political establishment has CHOSEN to consider binding, but without any of the safeguards that normally go with binding referendums. Recently a (binding) Swiss referendum result was annulled because the court rules that voters were not sufficiently informed about the issue during the campaign. In the UK, an attempt to have the Brexit referendum result similarly annulled failed because it was only advisory, therefore there was nothing to overturn. And it was the government’s own lawyers that argued the referendum was advisory. So it’s binding when it suits the government, and advisory when it suits the government. This Schroedinger’s binding is dangerous in a democracy.

    Equally, Parliament cannot bind itself in the future. It doesn’t matter how overwhelming a majority is in Parliament; it does not prevent Parliament from deciding something different in the future. And it doesn’t change the substance of the legislation, which provided for a referendum, but not for what would happen afterwards.

  • David Evershed 14th May '19 - 2:36pm

    Some Lib Dem literatur seems to suggest Lib Dem policy is to Remain in the EU regardless of the result of the 2016 referendum and without a further referendum result to Remain.

    For example

    – Stop Brexit

    – Bollocks to Brexit

    Care is needed to avoid giving the impression that people’s votes don’t matter.

  • Glenn,

    You are correct lots of people think their MP should vote the way a majority of their constituents would want. However, this is not the way the system is designed. For it to be so there would have to be regular ways of getting the electorate to vote to tell their MP how to vote on every issue the MP votes on.

    You are also correct that an MP when standing for election implies that they generally support everything in their party manifesto but they may point out a specific policy where they disagree. A voter will have an expectation that a person standing for a party will make future decisions based on the principles and philosophy of their political party, so there is no need to know exactly what the candidate thinks on every subject.

    However when the voter casts their vote the majority are not voting for an independent MP they are trying to vote for what type of government they want.

    It is rare for any government to implement everything in their manifesto, but MPs and parties are not defeated on these things. If however an individual MP makes a personal promise going beyond their party manifesto and then breaks that personal promise as the Liberal Democrats found out the MP can lose lots of support.

    MPs do not hold surgeries to assist them in how they will vote, they are held for MPs to assist constituents who have a problem which they are finding hard to solve. In the same way a MPs ‘mail bag’ does not always influence how that MP will vote.

    Therefore our democracy is a representative one where the representative is expected to make their own decisions and if their electorate do not like what the MP has done they can change their MP at the next election. They cannot force or even expect their MP to vote in the same way as a majority of their constituents.

    True Democracy would be for every citizen to take part in the debates and read all the briefing documents and have all the facts presented to them and then for every citizen once well informed to vote. It has been suggested that such a system would not need political parties. However not everyone has the time or inclination to do this so we have our representative democracy where we leave our representatives to hopefully make informed decisions based on the facts and evidence and their political principles and philosophy.

  • John Marriott 14th May '19 - 4:29pm

    @David Raw
    Just got back from a few days away from my iPad in God’s own County (lots of Labour posters in Calderdale and masses of Lib Dem posters in Otley; but nothing else).

    You ask about the questions in the referendum. Well, as I have been saying for MONTHS; let’s have a ‘Preferendum’. It could work like this:

    A deal gets passed by Parliament (oh yes). That deal goes on the ballot paper as Option One. It is joined by No deal as Option Two and Remain as Option Three. Each eligible voter is asked to number the options in order of preference. They can, if they prefer, only vote for one, or even two options.

    After the first round of counting, the option with the least amount of No 1 votes would be eliminated and its second choice votes applied to the other two options. The option with the most votes at the end of round two would be declared the winner. Now that makes sense to me and I could certainly live with whatever result it provided.

  • Michael BG
    I never said MOs held surgeries to aid people how to vote. I suggesting it foster a sense that they are listening and that this in turn fosters a sense of them as one of us, thus a delegate.
    Absolutely right, you can’t force an MP to vote the way a majority of their electorate vote. However, it’s an unwise one that ignores the views of the majority of the people voting and imagines the electorate is more persuadable than they themselves are. The point being that when there is a conflict between the elected and the electorate,in a democracy the elected are easily replaced. You cannot hard wire the norms of democratic intuitions to protect them from the voters who give them legitimacy. They can be undone by voters and if they can’t be they are innately undemocratic. Hence the arguments about undemocratic liberalism and illiberal democracy.

  • John Marriott 14th May '19 - 9:27pm

    @David Raw
    Tick tock, bloody tick tock.

    It was in the newly formed authority of Calderdale where I returned to teaching in the U.K. following four years abroad (at Calder High, to be precise). It was there that I first got involved with the Liberal Party, when a colleague at school stood in a by election in Sowerby, where we were living at the time, and met David, now Lord Shutt, who, I think, was his agent.

    As a teacher and Trades Unionist, I acknowledge our debt to Lord Houghton for rescuing us from penury when his report recommended a significant rise in our salaries in the 1970s. You are right about Hebden Bridge, which used to be synonymous with ALDC. However, it’s still an attractive place. Pity about the politics.

  • Glenn,

    It seems that you accept that an MP is not a delegate, even if they might pretend they are.

    I agree with you that if your MP supports something that you feel strongly should not be supported you should vote for someone else at the next election. If you had previously voted for them, you can change your vote. Changing who you vote for is the essence of a democracy. Having that choice of candidates is democracy. I don’t understand how having the right to vote for someone else which is part of a liberal democracy is undemocratic which seems to be what you are saying. Plus of course actually voting for someone else at the next election. Another part of a liberal democracy are checks and balances, which I assume must be to restrict the power of the majority at any one time, not that we have many of them. I think the US has many more.

    In the past electorates seems to have shown their discontent with the government at elections. I recall the discontent against the poll tax in 1990 affecting local election results and also the Eastbourne by-election. Within a couple of months we had a new Prime Minister.

  • Michael GB
    I not criticising liberalism. I am a liberal. My point is that the tendency to rely institutional and legal frameworks can become undemocratic because it become a hierarchal council of the great and the good (usually self proclaimed), which can damage liberal democracy by failing to grasp shifts in public opinion. The point being that populism does not occur in a vacuum. Elections are local and national. Political compromise is not just about compromise with other political or institutional actors. It has to be about compromise with the electorate to stay stable. It has to be seen as responsive to the demos to avoid breakdown. For example, I don’t support the death penalty but if for some reason someone was silly enough to put it to a public vote and the voters decided they wanted it returned to the statute books not introducing it would cause more problems than legislating it properly so that it wasn’t applied indiscriminately. People are not innately good or innately progressive or liberal in an ideological sense. There are all kinds of factors involved in the way they think and come to decisions. I just think failing to understand this is very risky.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th May '19 - 7:41am

    Theakes, In your comment at 11.43am yesterday, you seem to suggest that it will only be Leave supporters who will lose faith in democracy if the referendum result is not implemented.
    But actually if a precedent is once set of ignoring the result of a democratic vote, then we will all lose confidence in the democratic process. None of us will be able to be confident that the result of any future vote will be respected.
    You might be pleased if the result of this particular vote is ignored. But how do you feel about the fact that this increases the risk that some future vote, in which there is a result that you approve of, will similarly be ignored?
    That is why this is not really about the pros and cons of Remain or Leave – it is about democracy.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th May '19 - 9:34am

    Martin, is that meant to be a joke, or have you got me confused with someone else? I was never a Thatcherite!
    But I think I would always have agreed that the result of the elections won by Thatcher should be respected, in that Thatcher had the right to be Prime Minister, until the next election.
    Those elections were respected by the MPs taking their seats, and Thatcher forming a government. I don’t think anyone seriously suggested that they should not be respected in this way.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th May '19 - 9:42am

    The result of a general election is implemented by the elected MPs taking their seats, and the party that gets a majority of votes forming a government.
    Of course it is not undemocratic to oppose the specific policies of that government.
    But it would be undemocratic to suggest that the newly elected MPs should not be allowed to take their seats in Parliament, or that there must be another general election before they are allowed to do so – which would be the equivalent of insisting that there must be a second EU referendum before the first one can be implemented

  • John Marriott 15th May '19 - 9:59am

    How about this?

    We do not discourage people from voting for Nige. His party gets such a boost from the EU parliamentary elections that Labour and Tory do a deal, which would be subject to a preferential referendum (Leave with Deal v Leave without a Deal v Remain). Crazy, you may say; but hardly any crazier than what is currently going on!

  • Nonconformistradical 15th May '19 - 10:07am

    @Peter Martin
    “What Leavers have said is that having made a decision to leave the EU we should leave the EU. …………….
    This is the democratic process as I understand it. Have I missed something?”

    It presupposes that the electorate are not being told packs of lies.

  • Dilettante Eye 15th May '19 - 11:16am

    @ Alex Macfie

    “Government promises are binding on no-one”
    So why bother with the deception of making promises, pledges and manifestos prior to a GE if you have no intention of adhering to them?

    It’s nothing short of madness, to treat voters with such disdain, and expect to get a favourable result at the ballot box. If you’re a true democrat then you have to accept the ultimate power of voters over the Hiring & Firing of their representatives, and too many comments here clearly don’t accept that ultimately, democracy ‘resides’ with the voter. Indeed more worryingly ‘utter contempt’ for voters is the core message I’m often getting from some! in these threads.

    If the prevailing attitude of a political party averaging 7% poll rating, is that We see voters as a problematic obstacle who don’t know what they are voting for… then why the shock-horror, if on average 93% of voters see the Lib Dems as A party which blatantly resents voters, questioning their intelligence and voting motivations, and can’t be trusted to abide by a manifesto pledge ?

    If the party’s objective is to go for some fringe niche politics and that your pre-election promises are no more than ‘confetti’, then well done on achieving your goal.

    @ David Evershed

    “Care is needed to avoid giving the impression that people’s votes don’t matter”
    You have just concisely proved my point above. You’ve just accepted that your party thinks “that people’s votes don’t matter”, and mindful of how this ‘voter dismissal looks’, and thus how best to hide the fact of your disdain for voters ?

    @ Michael BG

    “You are correct lots of people think their MP should vote the way a majority of their constituents would want. However, this is not the way the system is designed.”

    No matter how you believe the system of representation is designed, it is of paramount importance to accept that in a true democracy, a voter can decide if they feel their ‘representative’ is representing their view, and approve or disapprove at the next ballot accordingly?

    Surely the democratic deficit through all these comments is that Lib Dems just don’t want to listen to voters, and would much rather preach?

  • Peter Martin 15th May '19 - 11:33am

    @ Nonconformist Radical,

    ” It presupposes that the electorate are not being told packs of lies.”

    Up until 2010 I’d always vote tactically against the Tories. Either Labour or Lib Dem according to whichever had the best chance of winning. I ran a tactical voting website in 2010 to give advice on TV for that years elections..

    Needless to say that was the last time I did that. I didn’t expect the Lib Dems to get into bed with the Tories and renege on their election promises. A lot of people felt let down. But we didn’t carry on about it and call for the result of the election to be declared null and void!

  • Alex Macfie 15th May '19 - 1:37pm

    Dilettante Eye: I was writing in response to someone who cited the Cameron government pledge to implement the referendum result, and the size of the majority passing the referendum legislation, as indicating that they conferred obligations on our political class and on individuals above and beyond the letter of the legislation itself. In other words, Mr Tampion was implying that the pledge was binding on the opposition and on future governments. That is not how things work in a Parliamentary democracy. A government pledge is a political pledge, and has no more validity than any other political pledge. I was not making any value judgement at all on “voters”, indeed I didn’t mention them at all. Of course voters can make their own political judgements on whether politicians have fulfilled any pledges they make (as well as on the merits of the pledges themselves). But the idea that a government promise should have a life beyond that of the government that made it, and should be binding at any time of those of us not in government, is terrifying and dangerous as it would effectively nullify Parliamentary democracy.
    And your comments on Lib Dem poll ratings are out of date. It’s as if the local election results from 2 weeks ago never happened. And Lib Dems are pollingn as high as 19% for the Euro election, suggesting that the party’s stance on Brexit is actually rather popular.

  • Alex Macfie 15th May '19 - 1:39pm

    Catherine Jane Crosland: Not the same thing at all, because MPs taking their seats in Parliament is the natural, automatic result of elections in accordance with our law and constitution. But the Brexit referendum was advisory, so there was literally NOTHING that needed implementing according to law. As you must know, election results CAN be challenged and overturned in the courts; also, nowadays MPs can be recalled by voters, as has already happened once and could happen again. Yet a legal challenge to the Brexit referendum result was rejected because the government successfully argued there was nothing that actually needed overturning or could be overturned, as the referendum was advisory. Yet, 2 years earlier, the government was arguing that the referendum result entitled it to use Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50. This argument failed. The legislation specified NOTHING that needed to be done following a Leave victory, and that is where we need to start from. Whereas it is a matter of the law that an election bestows on the victor the right to take up the seat/post. To imply any sort of obligations on political campaigners beyond the letter of the law is dangerous and undemocratic, as it leads to the situation we have now, where the political establishment is choosing to treat the referendum as binding, yet because it legally wasn’t, it cannot be challenged in the way an election result can over allegations of malpractice.

  • Glenn

    Liberal Democracy includes check and balances, which includes the rule of law and independent judges who can’t be removed by politicians. There is often some way for there not to be a dictatorship of the majority. As I have stated the electorate can and does show its discontent with the government and sometimes with individual MPs. People can only get elected if they have enough support in our system – mostly with a plurality of votes in each electoral area.

    Therefore it seems the problem is with referendums. And I agree. The AV referendum was binding and the Act set out what would happen if voters had voted to change the voting system. The EU referendum was not binding in this sense because it did not set out what would happen if Leave won. This was a failure of the Cameron government and every MP who voted for there to be a referendum without clearly stating what would happen if Leave won. This was the failure of our democracy where MPs did not apply their judgement to get the legislation correct. So in this sense I agree with you.

    However, I am not sure that your conclusion that we have to leave the EU because of the result of the EU referendum of 2016 is correct. I accept that if we stayed in the EU without another referendum voting to stay there would be a betrayal of democracy. I believe that the only way to overturn the 2016 referendum result is to have another referendum.

  • Peter Hirst 15th May '19 - 4:48pm

    The fact is that any election held under a secret vote system is about whatever the electorate think it is about. Nigel Farage understands that and is one of the reasons he is doing so well. This is why we need a better informed, impartial and moderate debate about the issues that are pertinent to a particular election.

  • Dilettante Eye 15th May '19 - 9:17pm

    Alex Macfie

    Maybe I explained the issue poorly, or in the minutiae of your argument you missed the fundamental point, which is :

    The established political parties, of which Lib Dems are one, clearly don’t like, listen to, or even trust the voting motivations of the electorate. This is bad, very bad, frankly as bad as it gets.

    If established parties don’t trust the electorate, and the electorate don’t trust the established parties, it can only be resolved by some new political structure on which the electorate will give credence to, (or a method of social resolution which frankly, none of us wish to contemplate?)..

    I think the electorate are looking for something not just politically new, but so radical that it will make Westminster heads spin.
    I’m hoping that any new political party will dispense with the traditional manifestos (which have become a joke anyway), and in favour of more direct democracy.

    For example:
    ~ We will have a referendum on the abolition of the House of Lords, and we WILL implement the result given by voters.

    ~ We will have a referendum on the abolition of the BBC licence fee, and we WILL implement the result given by voters.

    I suspect the established parties who have had it all their own way for too long, and only listen to their own echo, are going to be cast aside in this new direct democracy politics.

    One thing I grasped from the 2016 referendum was the massive unprecedented voter turnout. What I learned from that, is that the electorate is ready for a party which gives them a more ‘hands on’ direct say in their lives, thus more direct democracy, especially one which their direct vote can and will circumvent their Westminster ‘representatives’ (sic)

  • Arnold Kiel 16th May '19 - 7:00am

    Chris Perry, you summarise very well one fundamental point: this referendum was not democratic (unless one believes democracy is a winner-takes-all game that requires nothing but correct counting). Therefore, it deserves no “respect”.

    Quite practically, the past 3 years have cost the UK around GBP 50 Billion GDP, any kind of legislation by a functioning Government, any kind of respectable political representation by both major parties, the concept of truth in the political debate, stability of the Union, its international standing, and the return of Farage as an influential national player. In sum: a major political, diplomatic, economical, and social crisis.

    The residual pro-Brexit argument now is an infantile: “…but you promised…” (e.g. to go to the playground despite the thunderstorm).

    The question now is equally practical: does the UK now want just humiliation (revoke), or humiliation and breakdown (no deal)? Humiliation and a replacement of political personnel, likely also -parties is unavoidable; is it worth to have an economic and social breakdown on top of that for the temporary illusion of limiting humiliation? Clearly not. A majority of MPs know that. I am beginning to wonder whether it is responsible for them to abuse the understandably agitated people again by offloading this rationally easy but emotionally charged question to them. This finished Parliament should do the country one final service, and revoke, before it disappears. The unavoidable political chaos that comes now should at least not be accompanied by economic breakdown.

    After the shakedown, a rational Brexit post mortem and a national repositioning might be possible. After all, this is not a stupid country, just too confused right now to take major irreversible decisions. Expect a domestic policy-standstill to continue for another 2 years; but at least the factories will keep running.

  • Andrew Tampion 16th May '19 - 7:24am

    Mr Macfie I appear to have expressed my opinion poorly I am not arguing that either the Government or the Parliament was legally obliged to implement the result of the 2016 referendum. My point was and is that given that the Government and Parliament have decided to implement the result and also having taken steps to put that decision into effect it is completely pointless to keep repeating that they could have made a different choice. I agree that a Government pledge cannot be bindingt on a future Government but in this particular case the present Government and the vast majority of MPs in the present Parliament were elected on the basis that we would leave the EU. I therefore maintain that even if, for the sake of argument the present Government and Parliament are not legally obliged to implement the decision to leave the EU they are under a moral obligation to do so. I find it worrying that you appear not to accept that a Government having given a pledge to do something may be under a moral obligation to do something even if there is no legal obligation.
    Now if following a future election, either before or after we leave the EU, a party which has pledged a further referendum on EU membership, whether such referendum was to be binding or advisory, won a majority and formed a government then there could be no objection whatsoever to such a referendum taking place.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th May '19 - 8:58am

    @ John Marriott,

    ” How about this?

    We do not discourage people from voting for people like Nige”

    Don’t worry, you aren’t.

    When Farage, an arch Thatcherite Libertarian, is welcomed by voters in a Working Men’s Club in Featherstone, a town that grew up around coal mining, and treated as the Messiah, not a very naughty boy, there is an underlying political problem and movement that is deeper, darker, and more concerning than whether someone voted Remain of Leave.

    Arguments that would not be out of place in a university bar are failing amongst those who know more about flat caps than flat taxes.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th May ’19 – 8:58am……………….When Farage, an arch Thatcherite Libertarian, is welcomed by voters in a Working Men’s Club in Featherstone, a town that grew up around coal mining, and treated as the Messiah, not a very naughty boy, there is an underlying political problem and movement that is deeper, darker, and more concerning than whether someone voted Remain of Leave………..

    Farage starts up his own party; a party with no policies, other than a vague promise to leave the EU, to make Britain great again and 30% of the population decide to vote for his party.

    With the fear of introducing Godwin’s Law..The resemblance to Germany of the 1930s is uncanny..A country that had lost world standing, was perceived to be dictated to by foreign governments, had a section of it’s population who could be easily identified and blamed for it’s ills.

    A charismatic ‘outsider’ forms a right wing party that offers a simple solution to all it’s problems…The ruling party initially thinks him a clown who they can use, etc, etc.


  • Alex Macfie 16th May '19 - 1:29pm

    Andrew Tampion: Actually I think it;s very pointful to criticise the folly of both (i) calling an advisory referendum and pledging to follow the result willy-nilly, with no implementaton plan in the event of a Leave victory, and (ii) triggering the withdrawal notification while there was still no plan. The Lib Dems voted against triggering Article 50, so can in no way be considered bound by or responsible for any of the policy decision that follows from it. And as they were not part of the government that pledged to implement the referendum result, they were in no way bound by that pledge either.

    As for whether the government pledge and subsequent election result confers any sort of moral obligation to pursue a particular policy (leaving the EU) then I completely disagree with you. I actually think the opposite is the case. David Cameron had no authority to make any pledge on any future government, so any pledge he made became null & void after the fall of his administration. It’s like a promise to vote for a candidate, or to confer a Peerage, in return for a personal favour. No-one has any obligation, legal or moral, to keep such a promise, as the promise itself is invalid.

    You and Catherine Jane Crosland may wish to take the deontological view that the referendum result has to be “implemented” even if you disagree with it, but that is a political view, and it is equally valid to disagree with it and regard the referendum itself as an affront to democracy and therefore not valid. And I don’t think most of the electorate will see things your way either. A promise is only as good as the thing being promised, so there is no intrinsic benefit to keeping one. Consider the Poll Tax. This was a flagship manifesto commitment by a party that was elected with a large Parliamentary majority. But it proved deeply unpopular, even among traditional Tory voters, and if it had not been abolished, the Tories would orobably have lost the following general election.”I don’t like the Poll Tax, but the government pledged to implement it so should stick with it,” said no-one at all.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th May '19 - 2:03pm

    @ expats,

    And yet, and yet, there are those on here who are crowing that polls show the Liberal Democrats second to Farage’s demagoguery.

    Coming from South Yorkshire mining stock and getting stuck in, arguing with leavers in South Yorkshire about the way that the extreme right is pulling the wool over the eyes of those who have grown up after the closure of the pits and steel works is no small task.
    One thing is for sure as far as my experiences are concerned, the mirroring of the Right Wing Press’s undermining of Labour that one reads on here, isn’t driving people into the arms of any centrist or left of centre party, it is bolstering the Brexit Party ( the new anti-establishment party of the working class!!!). Farage actually calls it a company not a party.

    Peter Martin, as a left wing leaver, perhaps you should take note.

  • Paul Barker 16th May '19 - 3:20pm

    We need to be honest about the solid core vote for Faschism in Britain, a core that’s been there since the 1930s. The actual votes for the Far-Right have fluctuated wildly but that’s mostly down to the weakness of their Parties. A lot of the more traditional ones are more interested in a good punch up than boring stuff like campaigning & they are very bad at getting on with each other, unsurprisingly. Brexit has given all the old Nazis the perfect opportunity & there are a handful of relatively mainstream politicians willing to provide the “Leadership”.
    The idea that we or our allies are “Driving” anyone into the arms of the Far-Right is risible & very patronising, what we are doing is getting Voters who agree with our Values to coalesce around us, just as Brexit (The Party) is doing with theirs.
    We will see on June 6th how many of the those Votes on both sides can be transferred to a Westminster Byelection.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th May '19 - 7:59pm

    @ Paul Barker,
    I am sure that one can be as honest about the core vote for UK fascism as one can be for the core vote of the Liberal Democrat Party, which is now attracting support on the basis of one issue.

    Mainstream politicians must be in despair wondering how they can counter the extreme Right wing juggernaut, now led by shrewd men in smart suits rather than thugs with Love and Hate, Mam and Dad, tattooed on their knuckles.

    Given the loss of trust in mainstream politicians, Brexit has provided the perfect storm for the rise of the extreme right, bolstered by the rise of international extreme Right sentiment. I would have thought that this was a time when honest politicians of all democratic parties, whilst acknowledging their differences, coalesced , if not to support each other, refrained from attacking each other in the face of this threat, rather than try to make political capital out of the differences.

    The Labour party whatever the preposterous claims made on here, remains a democratic, anti-racist party. It also has policies which as a former Liberal Democrat supporter I would have supported if they had been embraced by the Liberal Democrat Party.

  • Paul Barker 16th May ’19 – 3:20pm…………….The idea that we or our allies are “Driving” anyone into the arms of the Far-Right is risible & very patronising, what we are doing is getting Voters who agree with our Values to coalesce around us, just as Brexit (The Party) is doing with theirs…………….

    I remember the days, back in 2014, when Farage was seen as the leader of a few malcontents and mocked by Cameron, Miliband and most mainstream journalists.

    Neither Cameron nor Miliband considered debating anything with a such a self publicist. Enter one Nicholas William Peter Clegg who, in two disastrous debates, gave legitimacy to him, his party and their extremist views.

  • Alex Macfie 17th May '19 - 9:45am

    expats: That was then. We are not making the same mistake this time around. Our approach to Farage in this election campaign is to attack but not engage, as we are not fishing in the same electoral pool as him.
    Another mistake in 2014 was to give our Westminster leader so much prominence, despite his unpopularity and association with the Coalition government (when MEPs were not bound by the Coalition Agreement). This time our campaign material features our candidates much more than Vince Cable. In contrast, Labour’s Freepost has a large picture of Jeremy Corbyn on the front, but none of their candidates. Although Corbyn certainly isn’t as unpopular as Clegg was by 2014, his bubble has undoubtedly burst. Sadiq Khan, in his successful Mayoral election campaign of 2016 (before the Jezmania bubble) told voters “Jeremy isn’t on the ballot paper”. Labour would do well to take the same approach to campaigning now.

  • Alex Macfie 17th May ’19 – 9:45am……………….expats: Sadiq Khan, in his successful Mayoral election campaign of 2016 (before the Jezmania bubble) told voters “Jeremy isn’t on the ballot paper”. Labour would do well to take the same approach to campaigning now………

    Really? I seem to remember that Labour’s surge in the 2017 election was due to Corbyn’s personal message being ‘unfiltered’ by a hostile media.
    Instead of a 100+ majority May ended up paying £100million per vote, to the DUP, to gain a ‘working majority’.
    I wonder what the result of that election might have been if all those “Jeremy isn’t on the ballot paper” Labour candidates had stood behind him?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th May '19 - 3:19pm

    Peter Martin

    Up until 2010 I’d always vote tactically against the Tories. Either Labour or Lib Dem according to whichever had the best chance of winning. I ran a tactical voting website in 2010 to give advice on TV for that years elections..

    Needless to say that was the last time I did that. I didn’t expect the Lib Dems to get into bed with the Tories and renege on their election promises. A lot of people felt let down.

    There were not enough Labour MPs to make a Labour-LibDem coalition viable. And Labour were very happy not to try, because the alternative meant that their main competitors would be destroyed to bring back the cozy two-party system.

    It was the electoral system supported by Labour that led to this – push up the number of Tory MPs so that the Tories can take complete control even with well under half the votes. It did that in 2010 as well, even though the Tories didn’t get a complete majority, enough to make them by far the dominant partner in the only viable stable government.

    Had the coalition not been formed, we’d have had something like Brexit – not achieved because with no-one willing to compromise every possibility gets a majority voting against it.

    Of course the LibDems messed things up by not stating clearly that the Coalition was far from our ideal and what it did reflected the consequences of the disproportional representation system.

  • Alex Macfie 17th May '19 - 4:01pm

    expats: No, the principal reason for the Labour surge was the Tories ran a spectacularly bad election campaign, with unpopular policies such as the Dementia Tax.
    Corbyn and his leadership team successfully presented an image of him that enabled a personality cult to be developed around him. And because Labour wasn’t initially taken seriously as a potential party of government in the 2017 election, there was little serious scrutiny of either him or the party’s policy. As Nick Clegg noted later, Corbyn got a lot of abuse, but little scrutiny. This has changed in the intervening time, and Labour won’t be able to repeat the same thing again, as the recent local election results showed.

  • Richard Underhill 17th May '19 - 5:57pm

    Alex Macfie: Yes, but care for the elderly needs to be addressed.
    Those who say that cross-party agreement is needed lack leadership and lack courage (David Cameron perhaps?)
    Cross-party consultations on Brexit are getting nowhere, slowly, as many cynics thought they would.

  • Alex Macfie 17th May ’19 – 4:01pm……….expats: No, the principal reason for the Labour surge was the Tories ran a spectacularly bad election campaign, with unpopular policies such as the Dementia Tax…………..

    Really? Why then did this party poll a measly 7.4% of the popular vote?

    As for your “little serious scrutiny of either him or the party’s policy”..that is arrant nonsense. It was a major part of Labour’s appeal that, instead of personal attacks on the other parties, Corbyn stuck to his policies and the fact that they were, unlike the Tory promises, fully costed.

    I suggest you review the coverage of the campaign by looking at contemporaneous media reports.

  • Alex Macfie 19th May '19 - 9:40am

    expats: I suggest you take your blinkers off. Corbynistas basically dismiss any scrutiny and criticism of Corbyn as by definition part of a conspiracy and “tabloid smears”, leading to circular reasoning. Look at the pro-Corbyn responses on David Warren’s article; even people who oppose him from the left are apparently part of this conspiracy. The reasons for the Lib Dem result in the 2017 election are well-known: two-party squeeze, the spectre of the Coalition, and the gay sex/sin nonsense around the then leader. None of these are really relevant anymore. Opinion polls are suggesting that neither of the two main parties are in the top two positions for the Euro election. The Coalition is increasingly irrelevant (as you yourself noted, it’s the DUP not the Lib Dems propping up the Tories in government now). And Tim is not leader anymore. At least he is still in Parliament and a Lib Dem spokesman. Unlike Nick Clegg, whom you gratuitously mentioned earlier. It’s hard to see how what he did in 2014 can be relevant now, when he isn’t active in UK politics anymore (not even an MP) and is playing no part in the 2019 Euro election campaign. His approach then was mistaken, and our approach is different this time around.

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