Monday, February 29, 2016

We are stuck with this stupid EU Referendum which at the moment we need like a hole in the head

The use of a referendum in the UK is a recent phenomenum and a regrettable one. It is profoundly undemocratic. Our Parliamentary democracy for a couple of centuries or more was based on the premise that we chose Members of Parliament to govern us. Immensely complex issues are debated and Parliament decides. True there are Whips and it is true also that elected Governments usually get their way. That's how it should be - but there are checks and balances. There are also Civil Servants to analyse these complex issues and advise Governments (and Oppositions) as they make their decisions.

A referendum is a blunt weapon which forces a (usually) binary choice on the electorate. Complex issues are reduced , absurdly, to YES/NO choices. Parliament is bypassed. Government is superceded by the serendipitous choice of a largely ignorant populace on any one day. Was the Scottish Independence referendum really about independence ? Only partly. Mostly It was a protest vote against a Conservative Government. Will the EU referendum be about the myriad (and complex) aspects of the UK's membership of the European Union? Of course not. If anything it will be about immigration and many people will see it as a chance to protest about multiculturalism. Listen to Nigel Farage if you doubt that !

Governments and Parliaments abrogate their responsibilities when they resort to referenda. Usually, certainly in this case, it's because a Party Leader cannot control their own rebellious Party. And do they work? For a while maybe. But issues are never really put to bed. If there is a "Remain" vote will the likes of Dan Hannan and Nigel Farage shrug their shoulders and say "The People have spoken"? Of course not. And if we vote "Leave" ? My guess is that the disaster that would entail will prompt much soul-searching and some sort of fudge that will broadly maintain the status quo albeit with a thin veneer of difference for Britain ("Associate" member status ?) that could be sold as UK having "left" the Union. Though actually we wouldn't have! What a farce.


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