Last night’s emission on Channel 4, wherein the figures from a recent poll on Brexit – the largest since the 2016 referendum covering the opinions of 20000 and therefeore statistically relevant- suggest that a new referendum would see a change in opinion was worth an hour of one’s time. Well done Channel 4; again you have done something which could be a game changer! There is concern in certain quarters, however, that the country is divided and that a “People’s Vote” would exacerbate those divisions.
Meanwhile, in the US, we hear the same concerns. A vote against the president – for that’s how the Republicans and Trump now see it – would be divisive. HE is the only one capable of uniting the country, according to him and them.
So when the nationalist/anti-liberal/isolationist minority discover that they do not speak for the majority – many of whom do not vote until they understand the consequences of their actions – they broadcast their own brand of project fear; if we allow the people to accept that they were mistaken when they voted Trump or Brexit, then we are undermining the system. That is surely not most people’s view of democracy.
The fact is that when we ask people to cast a vote on a single topic, whether it be Brexit or the election of a candidate, we do not know why they have made the choice they have. They have, at a specific moment in time, chosen between two options – Trump or Clinton, Brexit or Status Quo. It does not mean that they think that the option they have chosen is eternal perfection. The basis of a democratic system is that the electorate may change their minds once they have seen what the unforeseen consequences of their choice have been. The unique nature of Brexit, however, that it will affect the lives of future generations, is a major constitutional change and is almost irreversable, makes this winner-takes-all-forever attitude absolutely unacceptable.
Farage may say it’s because of the media. Banks may say if had known it was going to be like this he would have voted to remain. Boris may say that he would have done a better job than May. Ultimately, we should be trying to reflect the will of the people based upon the facts as they are and the truth as it is now revealed.
There is a parallel with the appeal system – it recalls the pretence in legal circles that a judge and jury can never get it wrong, when we know that the opposite is true and that an appeal system is essential for any legal system to function properly.