Dutch opinion poll: Dutch Government coalition supports Second Referendum

For the past few decades, pollster Maurice de Hond (our Professor Curtice) has published his political opinion polls every Sunday. Now that the possibility of a No Deal Brexit looms as of next Friday, it is interesting to see what Dutch political parties think of the present Brexit situation and what should be done.

First of all, there is a broad Dutch consensus, the parliamentary and procedural shenanigans in the Commons since December having convinced many Dutchmen that the structures and culture of British politics are totally wrong for solving existential questions like Brexit-or-Remain. The winner-takes-all mentality instilled by the first-past-the-post system, its effect of making voters fearful of voting for small and emerging parties, and the tribal binary culture of Government reigning and Opposition complaining (and willfully NOT co-operating with government on hard issues) exemplified by how PM Questions takes place, are the worst traits of the British system, and structurally hinder reasonable, rational policy-making in parliament. Nobody here is surprised that May and Corbyn have such a hard time in their last-minute crisis talks, with plenty of backbiting and framing-the-enemy from their respective bands of dogmatic, loudmouth backbenchers.

And if, as happened on Andrew Marr’s show yesterday, both pizza-Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom and Corbynista Rebecca Long-Baily refuse to answer concrete direct questions, and Leadsom refuses pointblank to look back critically at how the government has acted since 2016, foreigners like us Dutchmen despair about the type of politicians who are at the heart of Brexit proceedings. Leadsom didn’t seem to realize that since she’s against revoking Article 50 and passively accepts a Friday No Deal Brexit, she risks having pizzas and BLT sandwiches without bacon, lettuce, tomatoes (Dutch or EU products from across the channel) or any other fruit for quite some time; not to mention the more serious, everyday consequences for people with diabetes, epilepsy or cancer (as Caron wrote in an earlier LDV posting). The manufacturing industry might have to return to the three-day working week of 1973 due to logistical problems (further encouraging them to leave); caused by a government so distracted by infighting they hire ferry companies without ships.

Mr De Hond put 4 Brexit options in his poll of Sunday 7th of April:

First, that the EU shouldn’t give any extension, and have an April 12th No Deal Brexit. This got 26% support amongst all those polled, with Mark Rutte’s VVD voters on 22%; D66 (the Dutch LibDems) on 9%, and other center parties in between. Only the populists: Wilders’ PVV, Thierry Baudets new Forum, a Socialist party who haven’t ever governed and a small pensioners party scored 33-43% on this.

Second, an extension until the end of May. This got 24%, with D66 on 25%, and the other centrist below that (10-18%). Forum, PVV and Pensioners are at 33-43% on this.

Third, a year extension, on condition of a second referendum. This got 40% overall, 58% from D66, 57% (VVD) and 58% Christian Democrats; three of the four coalition parties), but most populists are unenthusiastic (4 to 22%).

And finally, an unconditional extension got only 10%, with only the decimated Dutch Labour sister party of Timmermans on 23%.

This implies that having a second referendum would get the support from the Dutch government, one of the best friends of the UK on the continent since the 1960’s fight to get Britain in.

* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

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  • Richard Underhill 8th Apr '19 - 12:39pm

    Some movement in the UK, Andrew Bridgen MP (Con) and Liz Kendall (Lab) both agree on the need for a public vote. In desperation Liz Kendall would vote for Revoke.
    Politics Live 8/4/2019.

  • Ruth Coleman Taylor 8th Apr '19 - 4:54pm

    Thanks, Bernard, for sharing the Dutch perspective on why the Brexit debate in Parliament has been so impossible. Your second para clearly spells out why our system isn’t working and won’t work without fundamental change.

    Brexit will not resolve any of these problems and I doubt that a post-Brexit Parliament would have any time to think about structural change. Dealing – or failing to deal – with all the consequences of Brexit would keep them exceedingly busy.

    Yet another argument for revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '19 - 1:31pm

    The winner-takes-all mentality instilled by the first-past-the-post system, its effect of making voters fearful of voting for small and emerging parties,

    Well, the people of this country were given a referendum in 2011 where they could have voted for an electoral system that meant you could safely vote for a smaller party without fear of splitting the vote, because if your first preference didn’t get many votes you could give a second preference and your vote would be transferred there.

    The people of this country voted to reject that. They voted to keep the first-past-the-post system in order that in most places you would feel forced either to vote Labour and so avoid splitting leftish votes and letting the Conservatives in, or to vote Conservative to avoid splitting rightish votes and letting Labour in.

    One thing that wasn’t quite pointed out in that referendum is that while first-past-the-post essentially rules out any small parties whose votes are spread out, it doesn’t rule out small parties whose voted are concentrated in small areas. Thus we have what we have, because first-past-the-post actually helps the DUP and SNP, and that’s stopped us from having a one party majority.

    So now, we have the sort of government people voted for when they voted “No” in the AV referendum. People voted not to be able to have a choice for what they might really want politically. People voted fir us to be stuck forever with a Labour v. Conservative political system. Congratulations people, you have what you want, let’s hope you are happy with it …

    And if not, perhaps that is an indication that there is sometimes a case for a second referendum …

    And if you didn’t realise what we have is what you voted for, perhaps an indication that a problem with referendums is that often the campaigns in them end up going on about vague emotional issues rather than concentrating in just what the details of what the referendum is actually about mean.

  • @Matthew Huntbach: For “the people of this country” read “Labour and Conservative voters who did not want to see their duopoly challenged.”

    Clegg’s first mistake was accepting the referendum rather than making direct legislation the price of coalition. His second mistake was not leaving the coalition once the referendum failed. Many mistakes would follow.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Apr '19 - 5:36pm


    For “the people of this country” read “Labour and Conservative voters who did not want to see their duopoly challenged.”

    Not really. It ended up with a lot of people voting “no” just to punish the Liberal Democrats for supporting the Conservatives in the coalition. Apparently, a couple of those who have now left Labour to try and form a new party had a leading role in the “No” campaign. Ha-ha-ha, by doing that, you have wrecked your chances of being able to do what you now want to do. Maybe at the very least you could come to us with the decency to say “sorry”.

    In reality it was plain that as all that we obtained was a referendum for AV, not what we really want which is STV, it demonstrated how weak were in the coalition. We should have made it clear and said that – thanks to the disproportional representation system that gave 5 Tory MPs for every 1 LibDem MP, whereas proportional representation would have given just 3 Tory MPs for every 2 LibDem MPs, we had essentially a Tory government where we could have only a minor influence. We had to agree to it reluctantly only because it was only stable government that could be formed. Otherwise we’d have had what we have now regarding Brexit – a situation where nothing at all could be achieved because there would always be a majority against everything.

    The problem then was that the thickoes who had taken over leadership of our party did the opposite, trying to give the impression we had almost equal power to the Tories and loved everything they were doing, rather than the reality of accepting it as a sad compromise. So commentators started saying we had changed our position and now thought AV was better than STV. We should have shouted out loudly in response to that “NO!!! We re only accepting the AV as a first step because that’s all the Tories will give us, if there were more of us, we’d have a government closer to what we really want”.

    I went to the London LibDem assembly before the referendum, and asked the referendum campaigners there why they weren’t giving a clear explanation of exactly how AV works. They dismissed me, claiming it would be too boring to do that, so instead we had to have something vague instead. This was when AV was still ahead in the polls, but I predicted “In that case, I think we will lose”. As ever, I was right but ignored.

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