In my last article about Brexit I made a strong case for a second referendum based on the fact that if the entire electorate were to be taken into consideration little over 37% voted to leave the EU. Admittedly by the same token approximately 34% voted to remain. There was a turnout of 72% and the rest of the electorate either didn’t vote or had their votes spoilt in some way. The basis of my argument was that a vote to leave needed to be an active vote and a threshold of 50% would have been required. A non-vote would therefore not count for a Brexit vote. To justify this seeming bias I explained that passivity and lack of interest could and probably should be interpreted as I don’t care. Change requires activism and it was necessary for the Brexit supporters to ensure their campaign led to the requisite number of votes based on the entire electorate. I have reproduced the results below.
The May 2019 European elections would have been a perfect opportunity for Remainers to send a strong statement of intent. The results when they were announced showed the decimation of the main parties. The Conservatives under Theresa May have lost popular support due to what many see as her mishandling of the whole situation and Labour under Jeremy Corbyn failed at least in part due to his failure to make clear what his stance is and how his party stand on Brexit. Corbyn’s dithering makes Theresa May’s ‘Brexit means Brexit’ in comparison clear, rather than the empty rhetoric it truly represents.
A further consequence of this was that Nigel Farage’s newly formed Brexit Party (a mere 6 weeks old) won at the polls taking just under a third of the total vote. Combined with other leave groups (UKIP being the obvious one) they commanded approximately 34% of the popular vote. However the overall vote showed that Pro-Remain parties (in particular the Liberal Democrats and the Greens) secured a greater number of votes, but it was a divided vote. Compared to the referendum, the turnout was low and the figures are probably more an indicator of a return to apathy and a weariness of our politicians’ ability to deliver anything. Unlike the referendum though this really is a first past the post election with a simple majority being enough to secure election.
The result, summarised above by the BBC, sends a mixed message on where Britain stands concerning Europe and the Remainers only have themselves to blame. Realistically only three parties have a chance of acquiring real power (no disrespect to the Greens – who at best will be seen as a fringe by a majority until the world faces a cataclysmic ecological disaster*), and for a long time there seemed to be only two.
* I know some will already say the world is teetering on the edge – see for example Extinction Rebellion. Most will not believe that we face imminent danger until rising sea waters are lapping at our feet or something else just as visible.
The Liberal Democrats have undergone a remarkable resurrection after getting into bed with David Cameron and sacrificing their principles (think Nick Clegg and Student Tuition Fees). They were completely crushed in the last general election and the unheard of happened when a sitting party leader even lost his seat. Since the referendum though they have developed a clear and effective remain policy that has been communicated across all channels. Unlike the Conservatives and Labour we know where they stand. We may not agree with all of their policies, for example increased funding for the NHS means higher taxes or we might be uncomfortable with their age old adherence to Proportional Representation (which suits them politically more than the Conservatives or Labour), but if it is a one issue vote everybody who is in favour of remain should have got behind them.
It may mean tactical voting, but if that 40% had largely been made up of Liberal Democrats the country would have to sit up and pay attention. The waters would have been muddied and there would have been no clear mandate to either remain or leave. This would have forced a new referendum – which should be conducted on the principles outlined previously.
Instead Remainers splintered their vote and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party became the largest single block. This could have been avoided.
Halloween beckons and with it a no deal future. Remainers if you want to stop it step up and stop shooting yourselves in the foot!
© Richard Horton, Omega Support Services.