Monday, 15 January 2018

Leadership responsibilities

Given Farage’s comment before the 2016 referendum on the EU that a narrow Remain victory would be “unfinished business” and lead to a demand for a second referendum, there was a strange and unusual consistency about his statement last week that he was “warming to the idea” of holding a second referendum, even if his motive was more to do with ensuring a complete separation than allowing people to change their mind.  However, consistency and Farage are not concepts which sit together well for long at a time, and he subsequently seems to have reverted to his previous position, which was, in essence, that any vote which goes his way is irrevocable; it can only be revisited if he loses.
The reaction from within his own party underlined what a happy ship UKIP isn’t at present with some saying that his judgement is shot to pieces and some even calling for his expulsion from the party.  The UKIP AM for South Wales Central has become somewhat notorious for making outrageous comments, but I suspect that he’s actually more in tune with the membership of his party than those who would prefer him to be more guarded.  His comment "Why would you run the risk? We've won the vote, why would we put that at risk by having a second one?” neatly summarises the attitude which the Brexiteers (including Farage apart from last week’s brief wobble) have held since the referendum.
Democracy is not, and can never be, a case of making a decision on one day and living with that for ever after; there has to be an opportunity to revisit decisions once taken.  It has seemed since the referendum that the Brexiteers are demanding ever more stridently that those of us who feel the wrong decision has been taken are duty-bound to remain silent and support the result, and that anyone who does not is some sort of traitor.  It’s a fundamentalist, almost totalitarian, approach to an issue which saw the electorate divided almost equally.
The issue is not whether a second referendum is undemocratic or not, it is about what circumstances, in a democracy, should be considered sufficient reason to revisit a decision taken by popular plebiscite.  The Lib Dems have been arguing for some time that the emergence of more detail about what Brexit actually means, and the incorporation of that detail into a deal of some sort provides the ideal opportunity and should be the trigger.  I’d agree that it’s the obvious opportunity, but I’m not sure that it’s sufficient in itself.  The more important factor to me is clear evidence of the sort of change in public opinion which would enable a majority of MPs to argue that holding a second referendum is meeting a public demand rather than merely expressing their own view. 
We’re not yet at that point, although I’d like to think that we can get there.  What doesn’t help, though, is for politicians who would prefer to see the decision reversed to be arguing that there are no circumstances in which there can be a second vote, because ‘the people have spoken’.  It’s as though they want to opt out of any responsibility for opinion leadership and simply wait for people to change their minds unprompted.  They are, effectively, discouraging rather than encouraging a change of opinion.


Anonymous said...

Stupidity beyond words.

A second referendum might well offer us the opportunity to declare ourselves once more loyal to the concept of the EU. But so what? Unless the EU 27 want us back in we can't go back in. It's the same with Scotland. Leave the union by all means. But don't expect to be allowed to re-join at a later date. Or not without consequences.

Why, if it was so easy we'd all vote for an independent Wales secure in the knowledge that England would take us back if we subsequently had a change of heart.

No, we have to live with the consequences of our decisions, no matter how distasteful. It's been a jolly a good lesson!

John Dixon said...

Perhaps you missed this one earlier today? And there's still time, as things stand, to stop the process - although I'd agree that if we simply let it happen and then re-apply, there may well be consequences.

"No, we have to live with the consequences of our decisions, no matter how distasteful." If people make a decision and stick to it, then that is, of course, true. But if people make a decision, and then come to regret it in a timescale which allows a rethink, are you really saying that there should never, ever, be any possibility of a change of mind? It's a strange black and white view of a technicolour reality.

Anonymous said...

For sure we can change our minds ... the hard part is getting others to change their minds, especially those others we may well have rather recently offended (in this instance the EU 27).

'Think before you act' used to be quite a common expression in former times. Perhaps it's time for a come back!