Mulligan democracy?

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One disturbing development in politics is the promotion of mulligans. The idea of ‘that is the shot I would have played if I had another chance’. Sadly some people think that is fair game and even worse, democratic. The lead up to the Brexit referendum almost a year ago saw “leave” and “remain” go at it. Months of campaigning, panel discussions and other forums were largely irrelevant. Both sides accused each other of lying and spreading falsehoods but ask yourself in the history of politics – if you believed everything that came out of a politician’s mouth you’d be lying to yourself. To host a second referendum would basically say ignore democracy until you get the result you want. Maybe like a modern day prep school sports event – everyone is a winner at St. Barnabus’.

People were well aware of the issues of Brexit going in. The idea of people being too gullible is frankly condescending in the extreme. Many long standing Labour voters went for “Leave”. They weren’t voting Tory by stealth. They took a view. It wasn’t just about immigration. They were feeling pain in real time, the valid threat of their future economic security. The higher unemployment rates and withering opportunities aren’t scare stories from politicians but here and now. For example the people of the Midlands didn’t need stats, Farage or Boris to sway them. Just like those that voted Trump – they were feeling the pressure of harsh economic realities that weren’t reflected in rosy government stats that were waved in their face as a testament to their superior leadership skills.

While Remainers can whine about ‘fake’ figures of how much the EU takes every week from the UK, immigration or the number of regulations that affected Brits, financial markets proved over the 12 months since the vote that the ‘Leave’ outcome didn’t crash the economy or skewer asset prices. In fact the idea of a potential Corbyn Prime Ministership sent the pound and markets into panic. If he was to get in then Macron will get his wish of a financial center in Paris. Investment money would vanish out of the UK. It isn’t an idle threat but a reality. Capital is global.

Some argue that had the people who thought ‘remain’ would be a foregone conclusion bothered to vote then the UK would have stayed in the EU. Maybe. They were given a democratic opportunity to exercise a choice and they didn’t. Many of the 1,000,000 new voters who signed up since Theresa May called the snap election who didn’t do so before the referendum had a choice a year ago. Do we give them a free hit? How do we truly instill the realities of a true democracy if we have to attach L-plates to beginners? It doesn’t matter one jot if there were enough dormant or eligible voters to defeat the referendum if they don’t show up on game day. Is the Premier League football FA Cup given to the team that won the most games til the final but doesn’t show up because of their for and against stats?

It is an important question because the lesson should always be that people must take their vote seriously every time. Even John Cleese is understanding this. If they can’t be bothered when they have a chance to vote then  that is self inflicted and we should have no sympathy.

Theresa May gave voters a democratic chance to give her a mandate and she got thumped. There were two parts to this. Some young voters were surely lured by the offer of free education and a chance to reject Brexit by the back door. Theresa May was too arrogant to think the population would roll over and give her carte blanche to carry out her plans along with a biting austerity budget for good measure. A refusal to do a debate vs Corbyn, a slapdash manifesto and dreadful performances when she appeared sealed her fate. Corbyn came across as the warmer candidate and simply campaigned better. Still an election and a referendum are two different beasts. Just because more voted for Labour than expected doesn’t mean they want an end to Brexit. They did it to send a message to May.

Still the idea we propose a second referendum is a bad idea for democracy. Unlike elections, referendums are yes or no.

Don’t buy the argument that people were sold a pup. That the elderly are bigots, racists and have no concern for their kids or the youth. That the youth should have twice the vote of the elderly because they’re on the planet for longer or the elderly should have their voting rights cut. Saying people are stupid is not a valid answer. Why not have an IQ test for voters to determine voting rights??  If lessons aren’t learnt through bitter experience then why bother holding elections or referendums at all. If anything this election showed through the higher turnout (68.7%) that the lesson is being learnt and the electorate has told politicians they won’t be taken for mugs.

The referendum was held, Article 50 was passed as an Act of Parliament and our Dear John letter was handed to President Tusk. The UK would be a total laughing stock to divorce and then ask to remarry again. Corbyn will undoubtedly have a much stronger say in negotiations and has a vested interest to ruin what little legitimacy May has left. She is left with a divided party created by her unwillingness to listen. The Tories are toast with her at the helm and the DUP alliance smacks of desperation. A Diet Coke Brexit is pointless. We’re in or we’re out.

The Conservatives won the popular vote despite the shambolic display although Labour took 60% of the votes from UKIP. What we can say is that politics is not like it used to be. The electorate is fickle. Loyalty is no longer a given and abandoning core party principles will see politicians punished at the polls. May must step down for the sake of the Tories. as the HMS Tory takes on water under Captain May, more will seek to abandon ship until she walks the plank.

This miscalculation by May will go down as one of history’s biggest political failures. Do not be surprised if we do get a second referendum but be very worried about the precedent it sets for the future. Democracy is at stake and even arguing that it is in the interest of the people to take a mulligan on this issue is effectively saying their votes don’t matter. That referendums have no meaning. Of course the Remainers will cite opinion polls that give them the answer they want to hear but as we all know polls are useless these days. May had the biggest lead and highest popularity in living memory yet got this result.

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