Skip to main content

A people's vote is not so simple

Supporting Boris Johnson's Brexit Bill with a referendum attached is a risky option for those who believe it is a bad Bill.  Labour is right to agonise over the decision.  However, in the end, it might be the only option available.

Labour has argued consistently for a customs union with the EU as the best way forward short of remaining in the EU.  The May/Johnson withdrawal agreement is a long way from that objective.  So, should Labour now allow the Bill to pass through parliament on condition of a referendum?  Or should it hold out for a renegotiation and a better deal?  Short of Labour winning a general election, the latter option looks unlikely.

Would it be responsible for parliament to put what it considers to be a bad deal back to the people to decide? And if they do, would it produce a precise result.  What conditions, if any, should be attached to the vote?

One reason for putting a deal back to the people is that parliament is unable to agree on what is a 'good' deal.  However, the argument for a  people's vote goes further than that.  It isn't merely that a 'bad deal' should be put back to the people.  If parliament has failed to resolve the difficulties, then how would a people's vote do so?

It would be a lame campaign that argued merely that voters should support the deal because it is the only deal the government has negotiated.

 Some would argue that if voters want to leave with a deal, then they should have workable options to choose from, else voters might reject the deal for the same reasons parliament has done to the May/Johnson withdrawal agreement.   This does not tell us what the 'will of the people' really is.

Would parliament be saying to voters that this is a safe option to vote for?  The people might think so on the assumption that the deal has been rigorously examined by parliament.   But that is not so.  It would not have been.   They might assume that the government has considered the possible harmful effects, but decided that they have covered them.   You don't expect a surgeon to suggest an option unless they think it would produce a reasonable outcome.   But for the May/Johnson deal, parliament has consistently found that it would not do so.

Presenting a bad deal, the details of which are uncertain might leave us in the same position as now - a divided country with no clear path forward.   If voters say 'no' what does that mean?  Does it mean they want to remain? Or is it that they see the deal is a lousy arrangement?

A referendum appears as a simple option, but the result may be unclear and downright dangerous. It might further entrench opinion, and the campaign may be a bitter one, leaving the country more divided and broken and in an even worse constitutional crisis than it already has.

If the option is Deal or Ramain, then what genuine option would leavers who believe it to be a bad deal have?  If there are more than three options, then how can the majority option be decided?

A People's vote is not the simple solution it appears to be.

However, this does not mean it should be ruled out.  On the contrary, a people's vote is needed, not to resolve what parliament has failed to achieve - an agreed compromise.   A people's vote is necessary because it is the right thing to do.  To put a reasonable and workable deal back to the people to decide if it is really what they want.

Anyone thinking a people's vote is easy to formulate is fooling themselves.  A people's vote is right, but how is it to be done?




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

Noise pollution puts nature at risk

 "I just want a bit of peace and quiet!" Let's get away from all the hustle and bustle; the sound of endless traffic on the roads, of the trains on the railway, and the planes in the sky; the incessant drone; the noise. We live in a world of man-made noise; screeching, bellowing, on-and-on in an unmelodious cacophony.  This constant background noise has now become a significant health hazard.   With average background levels of 60 decibels, those who live in cities are often exposed to noise over 85 decibels, enough to cause significant hearing loss over time.  It causes stress, high blood pressure, headache and loss of sleep and poor health and well-being.   In nature, noise has content and significance.  From the roar of the lion, the laughing of a hyena,  communication is essential for life; as the warning of danger, for bonding as a group or a pair, finding a mate, or for establishing a position in a hierarchy - chattering works.  Staying in touch is vital to working

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba