Is this why many “leavers” are against a People’s Vote?

The latest polls on a third referendum:

Jacob Rees-Mogg was recently asked by an LBC listener:

Do you still think the (2016) referendum is relevant considering all the new information we’ve got now?

Or whether a public vote wouldn’t just clear up the air? – All the information is out, we can make an informed decision now.

Rees-Mogg replied:

I think the problem with that is that that would overturn the result that we have already had.

Yes. Quite. I’m not sure that an informed exercise of democracy on a matter of huge historic importance is a “problem”, though.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Rodney Watts 2nd Oct '19 - 4:47pm

    At least, Paul, let’s give J R-M a few percent credit — he managed to tell the truth.

  • John Marriott 2nd Oct '19 - 4:52pm

    I seem to recall that, before the last referendum campaign got going, Remain had similar leads in the polls. Given Farage and Co’s ability to ‘persuade’, what’s not to stop a similar result happening again? Be careful what you wish for!

  • Richard Underhill. 2nd Oct '19 - 5:28pm

    Hopefully someone has a recording of that for a tv/cinema advert or for social media.

  • Ross McLean 2nd Oct '19 - 6:38pm

    On the subject of polls there’s a new YouGov one out today which puts us ahead of Labour. It’s within the margin of error, but still.
    CON: 34% (+1)
    LDEM: 23% (+2)
    LAB: 21% (-1)
    BREX: 12% (-1)
    GRN: 5% (-)
    Change with 27 Sep.

  • nigel hunter 2nd Oct '19 - 6:53pm

    JRM He will not accept a 2nd ref that goes against him. He only wants out .
    I notice it is a You Gov poll. Take it with a pinch of salt

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Oct '19 - 7:26pm

    Nigel Hunter,

    Why would you take a YouGov poll in particular with a pinch of salt? They were second closest on the EU election after Ipsos Mori

  • Andrew McCaig 2nd Oct '19 - 7:32pm

    John Marriot,
    The polls on an EU referendum will be more accurate on that topic than before the referendum, simply because they can weight their sample to the 2016 vote.
    If you look at summaries (available in Wikipedia), for a year after the referendum the polls were very close to the result. After the 2017 GE that changed to a Remain lead. That is almost certainly a genuine shift and I have 1500 local survey results that show a similar change

  • Paul Barker 2nd Oct '19 - 7:48pm

    Todays Poll showing us ahead of Labour is the 2nd to do so in the last few Weeks. Of the last 11 Polls 2 have shown Us ahead of Labour & 1 had the Parties level-pegging. An average of the last 10 Polls puts Labour 3% ahead of The Libdems, for the last 5 Polls that lead falls to 1%. If these trends continue then we could be genuinely level with Labour by the Weekend.
    That would be a first step on our Road to Government.

  • The Labour loyalists look at the last election and believe Corbyn will surge again; it is possible they are right, but they would need Depeffle to be as bad as May and the Lib Dems to be ground down and enmeshed in discussing how many angels dance on the head of policies most of the electorate care little about. I believe the truth is Depeffle won’t be great but better than May, the Lib Dems will major on Brexit (like it or not the major issue for the next few years or even decade) and the room for Corbyn to surge will be narrow indeed. There only other hope is we leave without a deal, very bad things happen and they hoover up the votes of badly affected voter, the problem with that is when asked the question “why didn’t you try to stop it” what can they say; I suppose they can lie, but what a whopper it would be.

  • David Evans 3rd Oct '19 - 12:27am

    Andrew McCaig – You suggest that “The polls on an EU referendum will be more accurate on that topic than before the referendum, simply because they can weight their sample to the 2016 vote.”

    I’m afraid that is what people say after every election – The results next time will be more accurate next time because lessons will have been learned from the failures of last time. Sadly, every next time, they find that their adjustments have simply introduced a new set of biases, because the basic predictive model is flawed – people don’t always tell the truth, and polling companies are not good at asking a truly representative sample of society.

    Every time, the polling industry adapt their model, change the questions and the assumptions made to allow for this and but more inaccuracies are made. However, they can’t test these changes until the next election and then they find nothing has changed.

    Polling is a guide, a useful guide, but too many people want to pretend they simply get more accurate – usually to justify some well felt hope that they have. Polls don’t improve, they won’t and pretending they will is just to fly in the face of repeated fact that prove they don’t. You need experience to interpret them, not be just a blind faith liberal.

    John Marriott is right – he is a pragmatic liberal and has been around long enough to know the problems and has never been afraid to learn from others mistakes and on occasions his own as well. Pretending that his experience is simply wrong because you have 1,500 local survey results misses the point.

    Maybe where you are, because there is a good active local party, that has campaigned effectively over many years to buck the national trend, there is a local difference. But most local parties collapsed to such a catastrophic extent between 2010 and 2015 that campaigning disappeared and has barely got started again.

    Things don’t change because we want them to change, they change because we make them, by working hard for years and years and years, and the problem is that we started pro Europe campaigning in earnest about three years ago – the Brexiteers started more than 30 years ago.

    We may be right, but we have a massive amount to work still to do.

  • John Marriott 3rd Oct '19 - 8:39am

    @David Evans
    Thanks for your kind words of support. It’s nice to have someone on LDV batting for you. Mind you, I’m used to being in a minority, I’m a liberal, after all! Seriously though, all this bandying around with percentages for elections is all well and good if they could be directly translated into seats won in Parliament. Of course, under FPTP, this won’t happen, will it?

    @Andrew McCaig
    As regards opinion polls predicting the result of a referendum, or any election for that matter, what the plethora of polling organisations tells me is that there must be some money in it. As they used to say, the only poll that counts is the one on polling day. I still stick to my view that opinion polls only offer a snapshot of how things are at a particular time and in a particular place. What they don’t take into account is what Harold MacMillan called “events, dear boy, events”. Once the starting gun goes, it’s up to the protagonists to put up or shut up. If those supporting Remain use the same tactics as before, then I am pretty sure that the result won’t be that much different. So, where does that leave us? But…what do I know?

  • John – the opinion poll lead is not very different to before the last campaign, but the actual results are very different, namely that there are far fewer ‘I don’t know’ responses now. I think that during the last campaign leave did a much better job of winning over the undecided voters, but I can’t see that happening now when there are relatively few left. Personally I think that’s quite significant. Completely agree though that events are key. It’s still a pretty tight call, even if Remain would be favourites, and it would only take one big bit of adverse EU news to perhaps swing it back to leave.

    I still see leaving the EU but remaining in the customs union as the best way out of the current mess. Little economic impact, freedom for EU to progress integration without resistant UK, retain freedom to work and trade in Europe – lose of level of input, but referendum result respected in a literal and direct way, some control devolved back in areas that may help to improve our environment.

    We shall see what happens next. Personal I think those against a hard Brexit may have blown it back in March when they failed to collectively compromise on either a customs union/2nd referendum alternative.

  • Katharine Pindar 3rd Oct '19 - 11:18am

    “There is a general reluctance amongst voters to hold another referendum.” What is your evidence for this statement, Geoffrey Payne? The opinion polls suggest that there may be a majority for Remain now in the populace, as is the basis of this article, and would-be Remain voters must know that another referendum is necessary for them to vote to stay in. A supposed ‘general reluctance’ is a poor argument for the new Revoke policy. I believe we must continue to assert the need for another referendum.

  • Peter Watson 3rd Oct '19 - 11:39am

    @Phil B “I think that during the last campaign leave did a much better job of winning over the undecided voters”
    I’m not so sure about that. I think the polling was (and probably continues to be) inaccurate because of “won’t say” responses rather than genuine “don’t knows”. Given the way the campaign was run in 2016, pollsters were effectively asking “Do you want to remain in the EU or are you an uneducated racist?” ;-). Confident in my theory of “shy Brexiters”, I placed my only ever bet the day before the 2016 Referendum and won £300 (at 3:1) on the result (small consolation though!).
    On the day of the Referendum it was even suggested that the value of the pound was being driven up by investors whose confidence in a Remain victory was based upon supposedly accurate private exit polling (which is why I bottled out of making a second bet as the odds rose to 4.5:1).
    I still think that polling in the current climate will under-report supporters of Brexit and I am very surprised by (and sceptical of) the polarisation reported in the Survation and PanelBase polls listed above.
    Obviously promoting these polls makes some tactical sense in an attempt to win over genuinely undecided voters (though risks encouraging Remain voter apathy), but Remainers need to be careful about believing the hype.

  • @Katharine
    As evidence how about
    “at the 2017 general election the party that campaigned for a second referendum got 12 seats and the parties that didn’t got the rest”.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Oct '19 - 12:38pm

    Hard Rain: (i) that was 2 years ago, and (ii) the Lib Dem campaign was marred by other issues.

  • Dilettante Eye 3rd Oct '19 - 1:14pm

    Katharine Pindar
    “I believe we must continue to assert the need for another referendum.”

    Just wondering if the question on your fictitious new referendum has now changed to a) Boris Deal or b) Remain, instead of the previous stitch up options of a) Vassal State Remain or b) Remain?

  • John Marriott 3rd Oct '19 - 5:28pm

    @Dilettante Eye
    What about a referendum with three options which voters are asked to rank in order of preference? The obvious ones are Deal, No Deal and Remain. As for our being a vassal State, it doesn’t seem to bother Norway; but, of course, we have our own seat on the UN Security Council and the bomb, don’t we? We are a serious country. Britons never shall be slaves!

  • Arnold Kiel 3rd Oct '19 - 7:16pm

    The 2016 referendum was narrowly won by a fantasy-Brexit that fulfilled all wishes at no cost. Polling has shown that no specific and costed Brexit (e.g. May’s WA) is remotely as alluring. No-deal is another attempt at peddling an emotionally charged fantasy that does not exist in the real world. It therefore cannot be allowed in a referendum:

    It is a costly fiction that would not avoid the questions of the divorce settlement, citizens’ rights and the Irish border; it would only force the UK to address them from an emergency position of economic, legal, and moral weakness that is further constrained by an uncompromising public mood. Such a situation would push the current constitutional crisis over the proverbial cliff to complete governance-meltdown.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Oct '19 - 10:00am

    When push comes to shove, I trust that despite the apparent capitulation to falsity of so many Tories, the majority of MPs who believe that No Deal would be a disaster for the country will prevent it happening. Then to stop Brexit by the means of remaining can resurface as an urgent national aim, and even if as seems likely we have to have a General Election first, another referendum can and should follow. I suppose the options will be Deal or Remain, though what version of Deal is put up remains open to question.
    (Geoffrey Payne, I note you haven’t answered my question.)

  • Mick Taylor 4th Oct '19 - 10:32am

    I am sorry to disagree with my friend Katherine Pindar. A referendum will solve nothing. OK, so just suppose it did opt to remain, what are the implications?
    1. Will the defeated leavers just accept the result? No! They didn’t in 1975 and they won’t now. They will continue to campaign to leave the EU. They may do so through civil disobedience or worse.
    2. Will it follow that the government of the day will actually tackle the real Brexit problems? A Lib Dem government might. No-one else will. After all they haven’t done so for the past 40 years.
    3. Will the political parties stop using the EU as a political scapegoat? No. The evidence is against that.
    So a referendum will solve nothing. Worse, it will continue to undermine our parliamentary democracy.
    Could it be worse if a revoke government wins the election? No. Such a government would have the legitimacy to carry through its manifesto pledges.
    Would it make sense to have a referendum after a GE? No. If a remain government is elected what sort of deal would it put to a referendum?
    If we were to have a referendum, would it be set up properly with a turnout and majority threshold? I seriously doubt it. In fact it would likely be run exactly as the last one with the same lies and malpractice that disfigured the last one. It would be like playing poker with our future.
    No! Our current policy to campaign for revoke in a GE is the right one. Referenda are the tools of demagogues and dictators. We should have nothing to do with them.

  • Peter Watson 4th Oct '19 - 11:14am

    @Mick Taylor “Could it be worse if a revoke government wins the election? No. Such a government would have the legitimacy to carry through its manifesto pledges.”
    I don’t think you’ve made the case that a Revoke government would avoid any of the problems you highlight with a a Remain victory in another referendum. In terms of legitimacy, a Revoke government put in place with minority support under a first-past-the-post system despised by Lib Dems raises all sorts of dilemmas!

    A definitive “Revoke” position possibly makes sense in a selfish party political way for the Lib Dems but I don’t think it helps prevent Brexit. Ultimately it doesn’t matter how many existing Remainers the party wins over, preventing Brexit and successfully Remaining afterwards requires converting non-believers rather than preaching to the choir (or something like that!).

    Sadly it is the lack of a clear way forward on any side of the Brexit debates and the absence of a majority for anything that has lead the current paralysis and brinkmanship, and is what makes the current situation so morbidly fascinating. But I’d much prefer to be on the outside looking in. 😉

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Oct '19 - 11:15am

    @ Mick Taylor,
    I agree with you about referenda, but I have reluctantly come round to thinking that one is necessary. On the basis of polls, electors are supposed to have changed their minds since the last one. A referendum would at least give an , ( expensive), answer as to whether there has been a substantial change of view. Unfortunately, I suspect not. It would be for parliament to then decide what to do with the information.

    A vote in a General election would not be a narrow vote for one issue. With tactical voting etc., the outcome is likely to be equally messy and inconclusive. when it comes to judging the national mood.

    This government and the Brexit Party have done enough dog-whistling to the political Right that even if we leave the EU, if things don’t go swimmingly, scapegoats will be found to excuse the damage caused by their decisions. There is nothing much one can do about that, except point out, that it is what they voted for, and actions have consequences. Responsibility lies with the chancers who caused the problems.

  • Sandra Hammett 4th Oct '19 - 1:48pm

    Here you go

    With a long enough extension

    Two stage referendum
    1st stage No Deal Leave vs Deal Leave/Remain
    should No Deal Leave win, unfortunately that’s that we all agreed

    2nd stage Deal Leave vs Remain
    Should Deal Leave win parliament would actually have to work together to carry it out (probably Norway model) rather than relying on the interpretation of a select group.
    Should Remain win, well then it’s business as usual and apple pie for dessert.

    It’s the only way for it not to be a stitch up by either side.

  • Peter Watson 4th Oct '19 - 2:16pm

    Sandra Hammett “It’s the only way for it not to be a stitch up by either side.”
    Not really. An alternative could be:
    1st stage Leave (Deal or No Deal) vs Remain
    2nd stage Deal or No Deal (if there is a second stage).
    Some might even argue that we’ve had the first stage already so should move straight to part 2!
    For me, the fundamental problem (well, one of several!) is that none of the three sides (Brexit at any cost vs. Soft Brexit with a deal vs. No Brexit) commands a majority (in Parliament or the country). The last few years have seen each of them fight a war of attrition to kill off one of the the other two options and hope to benefit from splitting or removing its supporters. Consequently we have the unedifying sight of our politicians putting all of their energy into negative actions, plotting and blocking and stopping opponents. That could be a risk for those opposed to Brexit as Johnson might be given credit for at least trying to break the stalemate and move things forward.

  • Katharine Pindar 4th Oct '19 - 10:19pm

    Extraordinary to read opposition to and doubts about another referendum, which has been our party’s policy for years! It has to be the most democratic way forward, to let the people decide again, and it surprises me that Boris Johnson is allowed to get away with claiming to represent the people, when he is refusing a People’s Vote. Though he would have a more reasonable claim, if Parliament decides instead of the people! I don’t think Revoke is a democratic way forward, though it may be accepted as a way of cutting the Gordian knot.

    Mick, I don’t care if Brexiters go on complaining if a referendum ends Brexit, since we can point out that it is for better or worse the people’s choice. As to ‘tackling the real Brexit problems’, the problems will surely be a lot worse if Brexit happens. But if Brexit supporters do want to go on campaigning, that’s their democratic right. The rest of us can concentrate on righting the wrongs of our country, notably the stark ills of poverty and deprivation, and work with other countries to improve the EU systems.

    What would the questions be in a referendum? It could simply be A deal – perhaps to allow the UK as a whole to stay in the single market and the customs union – or Remain. I suppose the details of the deal will be finalised by the winners of the GE in concert with the new President of the EU Commission and colleagues, but since the everlasting conundrum of having one part of Ireland in the EU and the other part out will still be there, Remain seems more and more likely to be the winning option.

  • Can I take it that you’ll be voting for a Party President ‘that listens’, Katharine ?

  • Katharine Pindar 5th Oct '19 - 12:51am

    How well you know me, David. I’m pretty sure I could ask you the same question, and get the same answer. Other things to do: off to Whitehaven tomorrow to introduce our Copeland candidate John Studholme to some local members – wish you could join us!

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