Friday, 12 August 2016

Alas Smith and Corbyn

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?


Spirit of BME said...

There is always a problem with democracy, in that people view the same issue from different perspectives and those that lose the vote cry foul.
Over time these issue come to a crunch situation and the political elite believe they know better and when the great un-washed go counter to their wishes then all is not well.
In the anti- slavery debate, elements of the elite and the” so called “Church of England warned that if these people were freed, their economic circumstances would be dire as uneducated they would be exploited by the labour market for decades – and they were.
The leaders of the Chartists were accused of misleading the poor into believing that they had the skill and capacity to partake in political life, as they stated that in the language of the time, the poor did not have “ripened wisdom”
Again, in votes for women the same theme was played out.
Owen Smith is a perfect politician in that he will say anything, his father did stick to principles, as I witnessed in the Plaid summer school, when he addressed us on economic theory – he was totally tonto.

Anonymous said...

"Owen Smith is a perfect politician in that he will say anything, his father did stick to principles, as I witnessed in the Plaid summer school, when he addressed us on economic theory – he was totally tonto."

Dai Smith addressed a Plaid summer school? Would've liked to hear his speech!

Jonathan said...

I cannot remember people calling for almost every election to be re-run. General Elections may well be imperfect affairs, but the British do seem to accept outcome of General Elections as binding. We have a different situation here. The outcome of a Referendum clearly has weight, and noone is suggesting otherwise. But the two doubts are (1) Referenda are NOT binding either in law or in Constitutional custom and (2) there is a lot to doubt in this particular case as neither participant was convincing, and the consequences include a great deal of harm in the eyes of a lot of people.
Personally, I think that things are in such a mess that even Theresa May will have to take a very deep breath indeed before triggering Art.50. I bet she won't. Outside bet, admittedly - any takers?
I am not a natural fan of Owen Smith, but he and I share the same standpoint - we do not like Brexit and we are going to fight our corner, constructively and over time. You call this "a middle way" but it isn't really. More accurately, we are simply expressing views opposite to Brexit. Smith and I will share the problem that, as soon as we state our opinion, we will be shot at for not accepting Brexit. So be it, let them shoot!
Unlike Smith, I state my pro-Eu views, and add that Wales' best option (Yes, despite the vote in Wales!) is to build its economy however it can and however hard this is, and argue if necessary for a distinct membership of the EU for Wales. Ok, shoot me!
Jonathan Edwards

John Dixon said...


I agree with most of what you say. I too think that Brexit is a mistake, and see nothing wrong with anyone arguing that we should remain in the EU. We are not bound to follow public opinion on the issue. But, and it's a big but...

1. Having decided (foolishly in my view) that the matter would be put to a referendum, and having told people that they would make the decision in that referendum, I think it would be a further act of folly, in terms of people's engagement with the political process, to seek to reverse the decision without a further referendum. That point underlines the need for us to take a coherent view on what issues do or do not require a referendum before calling for one, rather than seeing it as a convenient way out of a political hole (although it actually turned out to be a way of digging the hole even deeper...).

2. Calling for a further referendum without (or rather in advance of) evidence that public opinion has shifted is again likely to reinforce the divide between politicians and people. We need to win the argument before calling for another vote.

What I am saying is that the way forward is not simply to call for another referendum, but rather to convince people that membership of the EU is the right way forward, something which the Remain side conspicuously failed to do during the campaign (indeed, it often seemed that they weren't really trying). Then, and only then, is a second referendum worth having; prior to that, there is a risk of simply confirming what's already been decided. Doing so, however, requires a wilingness to tackle head-on the nonsense about immigration and its effects. I see little sign that any mainstream politicians are even considering doing that.