Lib Dems vs Brexit: Wera Hobhouse: This must go back to the people

Wera Hobhouse made the case for a People’s Vote in the Commons on Wednesday. You can watch her speech here.  At the time of writing the embedding thing was broken.

The text follows:

In 2016, 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU. Today, after almost three years, we still have at least six different Brexit versions in front of us. None of them was on the ballot paper for the people to vote for in 2016. Each defender of their Brexit option makes some claim that it represents the will of the people. That is why we need to test the will of the people in 2019 and to give them a specific Brexit option versus the option of staying in the EU.

Personally, I am pretty agnostic about what is a better or worse Brexit option. All I want to see as an outcome of today’s exercise is that whatever Brexit option we decide on here is put back to the people. The people might reconfirm that they wish to leave the EU, but in 2019, everybody who wants to leave the EU will know exactly what they are voting for rather than there being a long wish list of hopes, aspirations and undeliverable promises. Yes, referendums are difficult, but they are democratic. We should not be threatened by those who tell us that they will riot in the streets if there is another referendum.

On Saturday, between 1 million and 2 million people marched peacefully in the streets of London—young and old, from all backgrounds, from different political parties and none. Do they not count? Are they not the real British people, determined but polite? Does Parliament listen to people only when they throw stones or send us death threats? “Put it to the people” was a peaceful ask from the biggest march so far this century. Let us hold the 2019 people’s vote. Whatever Brexit solution finds a consensus in this Parliament must go back to the people. The people must finish what the people started.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • What irony if it passes by one vote and it is the member from Eastbourne!.

  • Michael Cole 29th Mar '19 - 1:24pm

    Stop this Brexit madness.

  • Richard O'Neill 29th Mar '19 - 2:13pm

    Still there is nothing approaching a consensus about what choices are going to be in any second referendum. No Deal, Remain, Kenneth Clarke’s proposal. Or a simple Yes/No vote to May’s withdrawal agreement.

    And whatever the public votes for still has to be implemented in Parliament which the last two years has shown is far from easy. The EU and member states are unlikely to grant the necessary extension required unless the proposition is less vague.

    As to the last point, 1-2 million (although this may be getting into Trumpian exaggeration of crowd numbers, they are notoriously difficult to calculate) doesn’t overide the initial vote of 17+ million. Looking at crowds (or mobs in France, at the moment) as the “will of the people” is pretty dangerous. It is the language of the populist extremes. What I’ve always liked about Liberalism is the fact it has traditionally not accepted that a million angry people marching through the streets overcomes democratic institutions. What happens if the EDL attracts a million to their next march?

  • Helen Dudden 29th Mar '19 - 3:39pm

    Everyone wants to win, now that can’t be possible, we voted to leave!
    Nigel Farage has been most certainly entertaining, over the weeks.
    I would say things are going to change, the winners and losers could be very surprising.

  • Steve Comer 29th Mar '19 - 3:41pm

    I’m happy with the comment that “Whatever Brexit solution finds a consensus in this Parliament must go back to the people.” But I am very concerned that the UK could end up crashing out with a No Deal Tory Brexit by default.

    MPs need to come up with SOMETHING on Monday otherwise that is what will happen.

    A People’s vote is a tactic, and a gamble, but does not in itself a policy make. So its a question of WHAT goes back to the people, we cannot just have a re-run of 2016.

  • Denis Loretto 29th Mar '19 - 7:24pm

    We are in very dangerous territory now. Can someone please spell out exactly how we avoid crashing out with no deal? At some point our people have to stop traipsing through the same lobby as Rees Mogg and the DUP. That seems to require something positive to vote for and one can only hope that this will emerge on Monday. Even then a lengthy delay will have to be requested by the British Government and granted by the EU 27 including what may well be seen as a zombie participation in the European parliamentary elections. I have been as actively involved as anyone in the people’s vote campaign but have always felt it essential for us to have a Plan B if that campaign fails. Is there one?

  • Denis Loretto 29th Mar '19 - 9:17pm

    @David Davis

    “The UK government and parliament must therefore jointly devise a one-off Brexit plebiscite….”

    And your method of forcing them to do this is….?

  • Peter Watson 30th Mar '19 - 12:06am

    @Richard O’Neill “As to the last point, 1-2 million (although this may be getting into Trumpian exaggeration of crowd numbers, they are notoriously difficult to calculate) ”
    The organisers claimed 1 million. Vince Cable referred to “more than a million”. Now Wera Hobhouse states “between 1 million and 2 million”.
    Meanwhile, “experts in crowd estimation put the number at between 312,000 and 400,000” ( and
    That is still a huge number of people marching to make a powerful statement, but this “Trumpian exaggeration of crowd numbers” risks undermining both that and the party’s “evidence-based” reputation.

  • It si a good point and hers was a good speech. Nevertheless our MPs have messed up. Rarely nowadays, they had a genuine chance to make a significant difference, by backing all the indicative options that are improvements on the government’s deal, and leaving it until next week to start arguing preference. Instead, they fell into the trap of voting for our first preference only, ensuring that every proposition was defeated and handing the Tories and the media precisely the stick to beat parliament with that was quite obviously looming over the house when the indicative process was agreed. It was so foreseeable that I spelled it out in advance here on LDV.

    Brexit will be defeated not by an early people’s vote but by time, during which most ordinary people will lose patience with it leaving only the fanatics willing to save the coach fare from Sunderland to London by doing the journey on foot.

    The first priority is to wrest the initiative from government and demonstrate that parliament can solve the problem. At the first attempt just the votes of the LibDem MPs denied the headlines and commentary we could and should have had this weekend, than at its first attempt Parliament had succeeded where three years of work by the Tories alone had failed. Instead, all politicians look incapable.

    The second priority is to secure a long extension from the EU – which can only be achieved if there is a convincing majority behind an alternative approach (which won’t be the PV). During that extension there will be plenty of opportunity to press the case for forgetting the whole enterprise, which is and will continue to become less and less popular as people see it for what it is. Backed by a referendum, later rather than sooner.

    That our MPs have proved so incapable of seeing the bigger picture is disappointing.

  • Steve Comer 30th Mar '19 - 8:07am

    Very well said Ian.
    I’m very concerned that the Remain side in politics have picked up the Leaver habit of chasing unicorns! Monday’s vote MUST come out with a conclusion in order to get an extension form the EU. Otherwise the hard line anti-EU brigade will go the no deal Brexit they want so much.
    My 25+ years in negotiations of one form or another has taught me that contrary to what the PM says a bad deal is usually better than no deal…..

  • Helen Dudden 30th Mar '19 - 8:19am

    Yesterday proved one point, the voters are tired of the play acting in London of the MPs. Teresa May was going into very deep water without a life jacket.
    This has opened up a set of new problems. Are the MPs willing to listen to the wishes of the voters? An election now could either provide the answer with a new Gives or a further disaster. I don’t think those who wished to remain should be elected. Nigel Farage could be the answer to the problems in the Westminster Bubble!
    There are some very unhappy voters.

  • I find it fascinating that you can create two sides of a nonexistent argument by simply asking a meaningless question.
    This happened at the second of the referendums that I voted on about the European Union. I do not remember what exactly was on the ballot paper for the first one.
    It reminds me of when I started teaching. The first question I was asked by pupils – it was in Liverpool by the way – was “are you Liverpool or Everton?”. The great divide on the issue is to me as much a figment of the imagination as the football team issue. However I learned in a few minutes not to try to explain that point of view to the pupils. If some one was not interested in football they were still Liverpool or Everton.

  • Helen Dudden: yes you are both right and wrong: there are indeed very unhappy voters out there but they are on both sides, I was suprised at the strong feelings and sentiments being expressed all around me on the million Referendum march in London,
    It is to be hoped that the MPs produce something on Monday, they came very, very close last week. Ken Clarke says he has been getting more support for his Customs Union, which the Lib Dems abstained on, for heavens sake please tell me why, because this is probably the best way forward, I cannot see a referendum getting the backing of those 41 Labour MP’s who voted against or abstained last time, unless McDonnell can bring them round.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Mar '19 - 11:07am

    theakes, a second vote, will complicate it further. Once you make a decision you must follow through, unless there is a reason.
    In one post, it was likened to marriage or a divorce. When you walk away from a relationship it’s never the same, very difficult to revisit.
    I don’t think personally, it would be easy to return to, even a shadow of the past.
    As with a relationship, we move on. We look at the reasons why, and are assured we have made the right choice. We have lost the will, to put any effort into another try.
    I’m not voting in any further elections, just got rid of my polling card for the council elections, actually, I don’t care.
    I do care about being let down by democracy, as a newspaper wrote, perhaps the voters aren’t worth listening too!

  • @Helen Dudden
    ‘unless there is a reason’
    Yesterday ‘Vote Leave’ withdrew it’s appeal against the findings of Electoral Commission that it broke the law in the referendum.
    In another high court hearing it was ruled that ‘had the referendum had legal force it would have been annulled. The fact that it was advisory meant that the court could not act’. In another court case the queens counsel admitted that Mrs May knew about the irregularity and ignored them.
    This is over and above the lies, half truths and false promises of the leave campaign.
    I guess you were in London yesterday and are pretty wound up. I suggest we all take a break and calm down. A long extension to Art50 and an inquiry into the 2016 referendum. If it’s found to be a sound result then fine. Still thinks it’s daft but I’ll respect it. Until then I’ll continue to resist it.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Mar '19 - 11:52am

    Actually, I’m in a Power Chair! Not the place to be if you are vulnerable to crime, and London, does not have many disabled toilets. At present, I most certainly would not come up to the capitol.
    You judged me without even seeing me, you took my emails as being from someone who is not disabled.
    Those who voted to leave, did trust the MPs responsible, or not responsible.
    Anyway, thanks for taking me as an able bodied person, you’ve made my day.

  • @Helen Dudden
    Guess I guessed wrong. My apologies.
    I don’t judge you. I do judge the crooked, self serving politicians like Nigel Farage, who have lied to you and misled you. If you don’t like what you saw in London yesterday I would ask you reflect on the types of people you empowered with your Leave vote.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Mar '19 - 12:07pm

    We all can get it wrong.
    If things were more disabled friendly.

  • “Once you make a decision you must follow through”

    Is that the advice you would give to a suicidal person?

  • @David Davis:

    A simple solution to the first issue is: Whenever your brain serves up a “must,” edit it to “should” or “ought to.” Help us all slow imperative inflation!

    (Similarly, too many people write “I know” when they actually mean “I think” or “I believe” or even “I wish.”)

  • Helen Dudden 30th Mar '19 - 1:17pm

    No not suicide. I have a grandchild that self harms, and at times wants to die. Your examples are not the greatest. I referred to relationships, I would not wish to let a bad relationship spoil my life.
    Actually, I feel very let down as the squabbles continue.
    No, I’m there for anyone who feels at 27 years of age, they can’t take life. I was talking to young man the other day, who told me how he self harms. I explained, never be ashamed, and let no one bully you. You feel some compassion, I’m sorry if anyone is that desperate.

    Again, another problem MPs are not giving their all too!

  • Helen Dudden 30th Mar ’19 – 11:07am….

    Helen, the ‘goings on’ over the last weeks and months have made me even more determined to vote. This government has frittered away the years since the referendum in the mistaken belief that, in the words of Boris Johnson, that the U.K. could “have our cake and eat it” as it leaves the European Union. 6 months ago the EU gave May a deal that those like Johnson, Rees-Mogg, etc. couldn’t stomach; reality sometimes ‘hurts’. Since then, umpteen trips to Brussels have yielded ‘nowt’ and May’s vaunted ‘bloody awkwardness has solidified into blind ‘bloody mindedness’.

    Corbyn whipped Labour to support his ‘Customs Union’ which has cross party support and, if passed, could well result in a referendum (again a whipped Labour policy).

    While the government has had only one idea the country is literally falling apart. Child Poverty, Housing, Prisons, Probation Services, the NHS and Social Services are in all but terminal decline. As a 75 yo I really fear for my grandchildren and great grandchildren’s future. daughter is disabled and views the outside world from ‘chest height’; a vulnerable position at the best of times.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Mar '19 - 1:34pm

    P.J. 30th Mar ’19 – 11:45am
    “In another high court hearing it was ruled that ‘had the referendum had legal force it would have been annulled. The fact that it was advisory meant that the court could not act’.”

    I am seeing this repeated around the place, but it seems to have no basis in fact. You don’t say what you are quoting from, but I suspect it is from a highly partisan interview with one of the lawyers arguing the case for the referendum to be set aside, and is a total misrepresentation. You can, if you wish, read the entire judgment from the Court of Appeal here. (This is the judgment on the appeal against the rather summary High Court decision, which is what was published this month and represents the final word in the case.) It’s not ever so long and it’s surprisingly readable, speaking as a layperson. It comprehensively judges the claim for annulment to be entirely without merit – the fact that the referendum was advisory is only one small part of the argument. It most certainly does not say that “had the referendum had legal force it would have been annulled”; indeed, quite the opposite: it says that “even if the breaches [of campaign laws by Vote Leave et al.] are taken at their highest – i.e. as found by the Electoral Commission – there is no evidential basis for the proposition that they are material in the sense that, had they not occurred, the result of the EU referendum would probably have been different” (emphasis added).

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