Wednesday, 29 June 2016

On referendum results - should politicians do their jobs or shout at the storm?


Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

The rules, broadly speaking, of direct democracy are that if one side gets 50% plus one that view prevails. Now I appreciate that there are rooms filled with learned political science and constitutional law stuff that discuss precisely what we might mean by 50% plus one, but the core principle remains.

In May there were elections to the Welsh Assembly - hard fought by all the political parties on issues relevant to Wales. We see democracy in action - representative democracy which has slightly different rules - and we think it good.

Remember this:

Just 721 votes separated the 'Yes' and 'No' camps in that referendum. Now if we accept the principle of direct democracy (and I know there are good arguments questioning referendums in representative democracies) then the right response is exactly the response we took over that Welsh result - accept that the people have spoken and make it work.

That is what the public elect us politicians to do - interpret the people's wishes and act on their behalf in deciding policy. The thing about referendums is that - whether we like it or not - people's wishes are clear (at least in terms of democracy). Shouting at the democratic choice of the people as if you were King Lear raging at the storm might make you feel a bit better but it does not serve the will of the people. So can we - politicians that is, the self-righteous commentariat seem to be beyond help - just do our job. Look at the options that Brexit presents, debate those options and arrive at a view - contested or otherwise - about which direction to choose in response to what the people have said.



Anonymous said...

Setting aside any dodgy maths, here's what should happen now.

'The people' have given their legislators a clear instruction to organise the UK's exit from the EU.

Any MP who feels unable to accept that direction should immediately resign his/her seat in Parliament and, if he/she wishes, stand again in the by-election on a 'Remain' ticket - only if re-elected should that MP then feel able to debate/vote against Brexit in the House.

(The by-election result in Doncaster, Ed Miliband's seat, would be fascinating, after 70% voted Leave - a pattern repeated in many previously 'safe' Labour seats).

This will, of course, never happen, largely because most of them have the moral integrity of a starving tiger.

Junican said...

Regarding the Welsh referendum, was it not our constitution which demanded it? In the UK constitution, The People are supreme. The Power to make laws for the whole UK is devolved by The People to Parliament. Parliament has no constitutional right to devolved that power further. This was the first referendum ever:
8 March 1973: Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or join the Republic of Ireland (yes to remaining part of the UK)
The people of NI were asked to decide whether or not they wished to retain their constitutional rights as part of the UK.
The wording of the Welsh Assembly referendum has me a bit non-plussed. But I suppose that it comes to the same thing - "Do you, the People of Wales, wish to move part of your constitutional right to make laws from Parliament to the Assembly?"
I have been wondering if the present referendum was intended to justify Gordon Brown's signing of the Lisbon Treaty, IF that Treaty has since been interpreted to involve the partial transfer of the constitutional rights of the people of the UK to the people of Europe. If not, then why was there a referendum? Why did not Parliament just decide?