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The Will of the People

On recent radio reporting about the Brexit debate, David Davies has been insisting that Parliament won’t get a chance to debate what position Britain takes once we press the Article 50 button next spring. From a report in yesterday’s issue of The Guardian: “Davis brushed off complaints about the lack of transparency, telling parliament that May had an overwhelming mandate to negotiate the terms of leaving the EU.” Would a Parliamentary debate be constructive? Possibly but what I take issue with is the idea that ‘overwhelming mandate’ is a satisfactory summary of the EU referendum.

Based on the 72% of the electorate who turned out to vote, there was a clear but small majority in favour of leaving the EU – a little under 4%.  Had the result gone the other way, I don’t doubt that Davies and other Leave campaigners would be clamouring that it didn’t mean we had to take anything the EU foisted on us and that there was a clear mandate to limit movement of people and so forth.

What fool decided on the populism of an “in / out referendum” or set off on the course without thinking about how the results would be interpreted? We could blame that man who has now not only stepped down as Prime Minister but turned his back on politics. It doesn’t say much for the whole political system though and its ability to deal with consequences. It could be much worse but I hope some British politicians are taking time away from the bickering and the misuse of important words like ‘mandate’ to think about how they can make it work better.

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