In the latest debate between the two contenders within the Labour Party, Corbyn made his view clear that the Brexit referendum is final and there can be no second thoughts, whilst Smith made it clear that he wants the vote taken again, either as a new referendum or else as a manifesto pledge. I see problems with both of those viewpoints.
The problem with Corbyn’s stance is that it does not allow people to change their minds, under any circumstances. That’s inflexible and unrealistic; people do change their minds about all sorts of things in the light of events. And the consequences of Brexit were so poorly – or even misleadingly – set out that it is likely that people may reach a different conclusion as the consequences become clearer. Corbyn’s stance denies people the opportunity to reconsider.
The problem with Smith’s stance is that it sounds like he wants to over-ride the democratic will of the electorate. The issue was put to the electorate, and the voters gave what is to him the ‘wrong’ answer. I can’t think of a better way of hardening opinion than telling people they must vote again until they get it ‘right’. It’s the wrong answer from my perspective as well, but I can’t honestly argue that people must vote on the issue again just because I don’t like the answer. On that basis, I’d be calling for almost every election to be re-run as well.
There is, though, a middle way between the two positions which both respects the decision taken and respects the right of people to reconsider in the light of additional detail. That middle way is to argue that the negotiations should commence and the detail start to be filled in, and then, if over a sustained period it becomes clear through opinion polling that opinion has significantly changed and that a different result would ensue, then, and only then, could a second referendum be held.
What’s so difficult or challenging about that?