“Let’s not re-run the referendum campaign” – Those that say this might have a vaguely reasonable point if a rational and more honest campaign had been run. The reason that arguments still need to be had is because they were not actually had at the appropriate time; because politicians and journalists did not know or understand the substance requiring consideration nor their various consequences, any better than voters. And because some simply did not care. But the electorate needed to know all manner of what questions to ask and precious few people ever asked them.
If you think about it, every plebiscite re-runs arguments. It’s part of the messy, ongoing nature of Democracy. Politicians do it all the time – and social media, too, now. Hell, people are re-running arguments from decades, even centuries ago. Whether or not they are helpful or even relevant, still. This one is.
I don’t particularly want to want another referendum, either. Certainly not several (Scotland and Ireland.. Wales..?) You know I always thought the first EU ref was reckless and unnecessary and that the result was swung by a misdirected hissy fit. But, seriously, Brexit: what the heck did you expect? That Remain would cave and go quietly into catastrophic but preventable repercussions?
And it is foolish and weak to cry voter fatigue when, short of Parliament coming to its senses and riskily circumventing the People’s much-fêted Will, another public vote is the best available solution to settling something properly. Anyway, it serves ‘us’ right for not doing it properly, in the first place. We could have had a double majority. Cameron said no. We could have had a minimum differential. Cameron said no. We could have let 16/17ers vote on their futures. Cameron said no.
That tick in the ballot box: it was just the start. Now comes the hard bit. A healthy democracy requires ongoing engagement and active participation. What a sorry lot we are if voters can’t take some responsibility for the “will of the people” and the downside of political choices and show keenness for a better understanding and a sharper attention to detail. After years of voters protesting that politicians don’t listen, it is surreal to imagine people preferring to make sure they don’t.
If all things now have a Brexity lens and if Brexit suddenly looks and sounds more complicated than sold, well, too bad. It always was going to be and if clarifying “the will of the people” sounds like too much effort, too threatening, too divisive or patience-testing, especially after having actively supplied the need, then, tough shit. Can’t willingly open cans of worms and then complain about the tangled fallout because “people are tired of elections”. Another tedious plebiscite is surely more sensible than simply rushing into a permanent mistake.
And it has to be a referendum rather than a general election, not just because the choice needs to be clear of party promises but because the latter option gives us no viable, electorally palatable alternative. No matter the demonstrable tunnel-vision and incompetence of the Tories, Labour offers a demonstrably incompetent ideologue. Both have bought into Brexit. Faced with yet another least-worst-option choice, the Conservatives would likely get another mandate. And then they will be Brexit on Viagra.
[PS: If any anti-Brexit moderates of the Conservative and Labour parties should conclude that their party is a democratic dud and decide to stand up for the best interests of a United Kingdom by giving their numbers to the Lib Dem benches – and voters a real choice, thereby – I reckon I could live with that.]