Two years on….

So what were you doing two years ago today?

June 23rd will forever go down in history and not just for being Mary Reid’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mary, by the way.

It was a beautiful day in Livingston. I spent the day handing out leaflets, wandering round the college doing what I could to persuade people to vote. We had a good reception. We’d spent the weeks leading up to it campaigning hard and were exhausted after a gruelling Scottish election campaign. The SNP, bless them, were knackered and barely lifted a finger.

The Livingston band of helpers went rogue in the last week. We had been told that we had to hand out leaflets and not knock on any doors. We completely ignored that instruction and actually did some talking to people and I think it was a productive use of our time because we did change minds.

We didn’t lose in Scotland. Every single constituency voted to Remain, but I think we could have done better than the 62-38 result we got. We wouldn’t have found 1.3 million but we could certainly have narrowed the gap by some margin.

While we were ahead reasonably comfortably at our count in West Lothian, results from elsewhere made us wince and swear. Every so often my friend would ring and there would be much mutual swearing. In every election result there are so many what ifs. What if it had been a nice day in London and the storms and floods hadn’t depressed turnout? What if the Remain campaign hadn’t been so eye-meltingly, frustratingly awful?

I count 24th June 2016 as one of the worst days of my life. I had been gutted after the 2015 election but this was a whole different order of awfulness. I feared for just about everything we held dear – our easy access to mainland Europe and its cornucopia of nice things, our respect for human rights and our openness and generosity of spirit. The two years since have not really assuaged my fears.

We know that we are on a perilous path. And remember Mystic Clegg? He wasn’t quite pessimistic enough as he reminded us on Twitter.

This country has become meaner and more inward looking. The media decries the 48% and anyone who deviates from the true path to Brexit as saboteurs and traitors. Intelligent debate seems lost.

Take back control was the Vote Leave mantra, yet our Parliament has given that control to the extreme Brexiteers in the Government.

And we heard yesterday that it is likely that the Electoral Commission is going to rule that Vote Leave cheated.

This is slowly starting to break through to the public. A Survation poll this week found 48% in favour of a referendum on the deal with only 25% opposed.

Today, many of us will be in Parliament Square and on the streets in other cities across the UK, marching for Europe and for the hope that this madness can be stopped.

* 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.


  • Peter Martin 23rd Jun '18 - 9:29am

    I’ve read similar accounts previously. Always with a strong anti democratic bias. If the result had been equally close but the other way, there may have been another referendum but it wouldn’t have been anytime soon. Victorious remainers would have claimed the result had ‘settled the matter for a generation’. I’d have just shrugged it off with the hope that the PTB in the EU must surely start to change their ways when faced with such large opposition. I still think that’s possible.

    They need to be more democratic and at the same time take responsibility for the governance of the EU. When a problem arises in Greece and Italy, or wherever, the EU should be acting with authority in its own right but instead we see this handed over to another government.

    There are arguments for and against referendums. The time for those was before the enabling vote. Why did most MPs who now don’t want to accept the result, vote for it to be held in the first place? Presumably because they thought they’d win! Did anyone actually say that but reserve the right to ignore the result if it didn’t go their way?

  • Tis not a good time to be a brave Brexiteer. Agent Doris aka Boris has stated “F**k business”, business has started to say “OK F**k you”. The empty cupboard beckons and when the Brexit dividend turns out to be less of everything well explining that to the people you’ve been preaching too for years will be interesting . I know you will blame the EU and remainers and the fact it isn’t your sort of “Brexit, but as everyone will be poorer and that includes OAPs (less tax, less pensions and I’m not just talking about the state one either) their ablilty or desire to listen to your ravings is likely to decline rapidly. Now I know to be able to look in the mirror without seeing a man or woman who made a very foolish decision staring back at you, you will twist and turn and grab at any straw to justify why you voted out. The sad thing is no matter how you justify it to yourself history won’t agree with you, you are destined to be the Brexiteers and that isn’t going to have positive connotations. Is their a cure I hear you ask, well you could face the reality of what you voted for to avoid the awkward look in a mirror momment, but lets face it you are brave Brexiteers (people of vast self importance) so probably best to avoid mirrors and just grow a beard.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jun '18 - 10:15am

    Here comes the Doomsday scenario again. The fact is that nobody knows for certain what will happen if the U.K. does leave. The way things are going over the Channel our current partners appear to be doing a pretty good job of trashing the whole project without our help.

    No, the person I want to blame is David Cameron, who started the Referendum ball rolling when he inserted it into the Tory 2015 Election Manifesto. (Mind you, didn’t a certain MP for Sheffield Hallam himself briefly advocate an In/Out Referendum some ten years ago?) if Cameron was banking on another coalition with the Lib Dems to give him an excuse for dropping the promise, why did he release his attack dogs to ravage the Lib Dem constituencies particularly in the South West, just as he had done a few years earlier in the AV Referendum?

    As he sits in his £28,000 shed writing his memoirs and contemplating his next career move, I just wonder whether he feels happy with himself. The same applies to Lord Nigel Lawson, as he surveys to Gascon countryside from his home in France.

  • Indeed Mr Scarper and Runne aka the Worst Primeminister since God knows when aka Call me Dave has the dubious distinction of being the father of Brexit. That fortunately does not absolve people for voting for it, ignorance of the effect is I’m afraid no defence. I know someone will say Maybot is worse, not in my view she’s in a strong second place in the worst Prime Minister stakes but only because she’s struggling to deal with the mess Mr Runforit left her, without that she’d struggle to make the top three.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jun '18 - 11:40am

    OK, what WILL happen then? Give us the benefit of your wisdom, will you? Me, a climate change denier? How do you make that out?

    Just for the record, I voted to stay in the EEC in 1975 and I voted, with severe reservations, to remain in the EU in 2016. If there were another referendum I would not be changing my opinion. I don’t like the way the ‘Common Market’ has morphed into what we have today; but you can’t offer people a choice and then ignore the result. OK, we might be poorer economically so it will be up to us to smarten up and realise that the world doesn’t owe us a living. I suppose that’s another ‘mantra’ with which you might wish to find fault.

  • I can tell you as sure as the 29th of March follows the 28th that trade will increase, the UK economy will grow and we will be able to increase provision for care and services. British culture will flourish as it always has done and will remain the dominant across the world.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jun '18 - 12:48pm

    Yes, Martin, all that could happen, just as the idea of a Federal EU may take a hit from what is currently going on vis à vis migration. It depends how you interpret history; but from my far from perfect knowledge, you could argue that what we appear to be doing is actually reverting to the kind of ‘splendid isolation’ that was a feature of the 18th and 19th centuries, as far as trade and our relationship with the European nation states was concerned. However, unfortunately for us, Britannia no longer rules the waves (not that Messrs Davis, Johnson, Fox and Rees-Mogg appear to have heard!)

    As far as the 29th of March following the 28th, don’t forget that the 29th of February doesn’t always follow the 28th. By the next time it comes around we might have a better idea where we are.

  • John Marriot. Much as I agree with the thrust of your comments no one could accuse the British of prosecuting a policy of ‘splendid isolation’.

  • David Raw. I am impressed that you can read anything into that particular comment.

  • Just “believe” cry the brave Brexiteers. Tick tick cries time, not looking good is it.

  • No, the person I want to blame is David Cameron, who started the Referendum ball rolling when he inserted it into the Tory 2015 Election Manifesto.

    Whilst D.Cameron has a part to play in not standing up to the Conservative party, we shouldn’t forget the Conservative backbenchers who actually wanted the referendum:
    Brexit: How rebel MPs outfoxed Cameron to get an EU referendum.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Jun '18 - 4:52pm

    @ Martin @ John Marriott,

    No-one knows for sure what will happen if we stay or if we leave. The EU, as we know it now, won’t be the the future ‘Europe’ anymore than the 1975 EEC or Common market turned out to be the future Europe.


    “when the European Union itself is crying out for the kind of internal reforms advocated by the UK.”

    Possibly by some in the UK. But not the whole of the EU. For starters, there’s just the not-so-small problem that the mainstream German political parties, with the possible exception of die Linke, will never allow them. Then there’s the Dutch, the Austrians, the Hungarians, the Poles, the Danes, (and others) who aren’t so keen on on them either!

  • CJ 23rd Jun ’18 – 12:34pm……….I can tell you as sure as the 29th of March follows the 28th that trade will increase, the UK economy will grow and we will be able to increase provision for care and services. British culture will flourish as it always has done and will remain the dominant across the world………….

    I trust that was irony?
    May I suggest that April 1st follows hard on the heels of both dates…

  • Expats. No I am not being ironic.

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Jun '18 - 5:43pm

    Caron is not alone in commenting on the awfulness of the ‘Remain’ campaign. I can recall scratching my head in disbelief when I discovered the route by which the official ‘Remain’ campaign had effectively self-nominated itself with no competition for the job and been allowed to take all the state cash and run the campaign. I really did wonder for a moment as to whether the ‘Leave’ people had put up this front organisation in a desperately dastardly devious plot. I was immediately worried by a few names I heard were involved. “But worry not,” I said to my self, “However lacking in skill and experience these people may be, they will effectively have the combined ranks of all the senior players in all the main political parties at their elbow, as well as the House of Lords, the CBI, the TUC etc etc etc. Surely all these people will combine in a seamless web of common sense and sing from the same song sheet together in a manner which will be overwhelming?”

    Arguably, it was the sheer arrogance/complacency of many of the players involved on the ‘Remain’ side which permitted them all to con themselves that they could go their own way in the campaign, paddle their own canoe, stay ‘pure and uncontaminated’ through not sharing messaging or any common platforms. The rest, as they say, is history. The total inability of ‘the campaign’ (sic) to effectively combat the red battlebus message “£350 m for the NHS” made me doubt we would win. The lack of engagement in the campaign of 70 per cent of Lib Dem activists I know added to my worries and the day before polling day, talking to a hospital worker waiting for a taxi on a I was sure we were going to lose. She told me that more than 8o per cent of the staff on her ward were voting ‘Leave’.

  • Looking back is it possible to see at what point we as a party failed the UK public on the EU? In the 2009 election we had one fewer MEP’s elected but statistically it was a small increase (there being a reduction of 6 in the UK’s allocation of MEPs) and our vote shared dropped a small amount. It seemed like business as usual (well as usual as it was in 2004). Even in 2009 it was possible to believe that we could continue as we were. It was an issue in the 2010 general election but we were in no position to address it. Perhaps we should have become more concerned after 2012 when our economy was picking up and the number of migrates into the UK was increasing and the EU economy was still not doing well.

    In the UK we accept free movement of people and the idea that the richest parts have to transfer funds to the poorer to try to reduce the economic pull of the richest parts. We should have recognised this and tried to do more to convince the whole of EU that its economic policies were failing and more needed to be done to reduce economic migration by improving the areas from which the people were coming from. However, our leadership had been following similar failing economic policies between 2010 and 2012 and even when the policy changed the leadership of the party couldn’t admit that the previous economic policies had failed. By then it was not possible for social liberals to re-capture the party and fix these problems to enable us while in government do something to reduce the support for leaving the EU which increased in the later years of the Coalition government. Would the EU referendum have been lost if EU immigration had fallen in 2015 rather than increased and looked set to continue to fall for years to come? With such a close result the answer must be maybe.

  • John Marriott 23rd Jun '18 - 6:43pm

    I wondered how long it would take for us to get round to freedom of movement (which is already featuring on the Dick Newby thread). We’ve had this argument elsewhere and I, for one, reckon that migration was the clincher for many people two years ago.

    Now.. who to blame? Of course the usual mainly Tory suspects come to mind. However, I think that David Raw is being slightly unfair to Sir Nick. Yes, he did briefly promote an In/Out Referendum; but the public in general, once Cleggmania had waned, weren’t really listening to him. And he is at least still popping up now and again in the public conscience.

    No, I still blame Cameron – and where is he now? I just reckon that, if things really do go pear shaped after Brexit, he may be vying with Tony Blair (and in some quarters, Lady Thatcher) for the title of the most vilified PM in our history.

  • I don’t think the country has become meaner. IMO, the version of Britain sold to the world from the Blair years up to the referendum was more the product of reinforced PR than reality. The idea of a changed/modernised country and of a people comfortable with it was always a bit of myth. Like discontent in Eastern Block before the fall of the USSR all one really needed to do to see it was to listen to the grumbling people rather than rely the official literature.

  • Bless are we playing be nice to Brexiteers again. Don’t challenge there rants it upsets them.

  • I do think that once again some of us are looking with rose coloured spectacles at those we choose to look on as our personal heroes. Sure Mystic Clegg correctly called what would happen with a lost referendum, but so did many others. What we need to remember is that one of the main reasons the anti-establishment vote went so comprehensively to Leave was because of the total lack of faith they had in the establishment and Westminster politics.

    And one major reason for that was because the leaders of the one party that had been consistent standing up for people against that establishment had, just as soon as it had got into power, betrayed those people, and instead of bringing an end to broken promises, broke his pledge.

    And finally, once he had totally destroyed our credibility, and lost most of his MPs, MEPs and councillors, there were not enough Lib Dems left to stop the Conservatives and their death wish for our country.

    So most people do remember mystic Clegg, but not for being right on Europe.

  • David Evans 23rd Jun ’18 – 11:52pm………………… What we need to remember is that one of the main reasons the anti-establishment vote went so comprehensively to Leave was because of the total lack of faith they had in the establishment and Westminster politics……..

    Exactly! One might even call it the ‘Trump Syndrome’ (or call Trump’s victory the ‘Brexit Syndrome)…
    The Brexit Strategy was to play on the fears and disappointment of masses of those who thought ‘things couldn’t get much worse’.
    Brexit kept things simple; they promised herds of unicorns and pots of faerie gold. Even if the majority didn’t wholly believe in £350M a week for the NHS they expected ‘something’; even if the thought of’ taking back control’ was fuzzy and vague at least it was ‘something’.
    Most people don’t listen to political debate; they just read the headlines and Clegg’s ‘more of the same’ was just about the worst rallying cry since General John Sedgwick’s. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance”…

  • Teresa Wilson 25th Jun '18 - 8:02pm

    Peter Martin,

    The reason the EU hands problems over to ‘other governments’ is because the problems are occurring in the countries ruled by those governments. The EU itself is an experiment that has never been tried before, neither a superpower like the USA nor a nation state. Where responsibility begins and ends is still being argued out between its members. However, most people in the EU are probably not sufficiently keen on the idea of a federal Europe to want to cede all their sovereign rights to an EU government, so I suspect the nation states will continue to deal with their own problems for a while.

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