Democracy

As I am sure you all know, last Thursday 23rd June, the UK held a Referendum on whether or not to remain in or leave the EU. It was an extremely hard decision, probably one of the hardest decisions that most people will ever have to make, at least in a political context. In the event the UK chose ‘Brexit’. Everyone knew it would be close and even those in favour of leaving were doubtful it would actually happen, so the country has been left surprised, even shocked at the result.

The campaigning was aggressive, to say the least. There was much scare-mongering, mud-slinging and, shall we be kind and say, half-truths from both sides. There were many predictions of gloom and doom, again from both sides, and seemingly very little truth – but then how could there be? A break with Europe would be a step into the unknown. Nobody can accurately predict what will or will not happen, we don’t have a window on the future.

I am sure most people thought long and hard about which way they would vote. I know I did. I had ‘made up my mind’ well in advance but even so I spent a sleepless night on the night before the Referendum, re-assessing my decision, going over the issues again and again, trying to gauge what the result of my decision might be, making sure I believed I had made the right decision – and then I cast my vote.

We had the highest turn-out of voters that this country has seen for a long time, 72.2%. As expected the result was close, but a significantly larger number voted to leave than those who voted to stay (51.9% to 48.1%). This is a democratic country, the Referendum was democratic and the result was democratically decided. Yes, the result was close. Yes, many people wanted a different outcome but hey, that’s democracy.

One thing that was predictable is that there would be an immediate impact on the stock market – there was; the pound fell, many other markets around the world fell. What the pundits and the media failed to point out is that by the end of the day the pound had actually rallied a bit. We have to accept that there will be a period of instability, this was inevitable, but eventually things will settle down again, they always do. Obviously there will be changes and change is unsettling but fear of change is no reason not to change things. Nothing in life is more sure than the fact that things change.

Do you know what I think is the saddest thing to come out of this? It is the shocking disrespect for democracy that some (not all, of course) of the people who had wished for a different outcome are now displaying. Quite apart from the verbal attacks on the leaders of the leave campaign, ordinary people who voted to leave are having their intelligence insulted, both all over social media and face to face, they have had bricks thrown through their windows and they have been threatened with violence. Some may have even actually experienced violence, I don’t know if this is so, but it wouldn’t surprise me, we live in an increasingly violent society.

These people seem to believe that anyone who didn’t share their opinion had no right to vote, that they are lacking in sufficient intelligence to be able to make a decision, the fact that this was a democratic majority seems to pass them by. Democracy didn’t go their way so therefore democracy doesn’t work.

Now there is a gathering view, complete with a petition to the Government, that we should hold another Referendum (never mind how costly to the tax payer that would be!). What then? What if the result is still the same? Will they demand another, and another, and another…until they get the result they hoped for? Suppose they do get the desired result, will the ‘leave’ group then demand another Referendum? What about other elections – a general election, for example? Are we going to have to have a re-vote every time one group doesn’t get its own way? This is the route to anarchy, the country would become ungovernable.

And what about Europe? If we change our minds, do they think everything will be rosy? That we will be welcomed back with open arms and with the same ‘influence’ that we had before? Do people really believe that if we stayed in the EU we could change things from within?  If the EU had dealt better with David Cameron when he attempted to re-negotiate our position instead of sending him back with nothing there might have been  a different result. If they had addressed the concerns of the British people when they had the chance perhaps there might have been a different result. What they actually demonstrated was that anyone who thinks the EU can be changed from within is living in cloud-cuckoo land.

The UK has made its democratic choice, now we must accept it and make it work, after all the country worked before the EU and can do so again. When the new Government is formed those who lead us out of Europe must respect the vast numbers who did not choose to leave and do what they can to alleviate their genuine concerns, but let us not lose sight of the fact that this was a democratic choice. The onus is also on those who wished to remain in the EU to help make it work, for the sake of their own and their children’s futures, rather than continue complaining that they have been robbed of their futures – the future is what you make it.

This Referendum was democracy at work, a direct question addressed directly to each individual member of the public eligible to vote, regardless of party politics  – should we stay in the EU or should we leave? The majority voted to leave. No voting system is perfect but Democracy is the best system we have, let us please respect it.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Frank
    Jun 27, 2016 @ 14:32:51

    Yes, you’re right, and certainly there’s no excuse for violence, but… After many years of turbulent but loving and by-and-large happy marriage, one partner decides for no mutually acceptable reason (not helped by some malicious gossip overheard down the local) to get a divorce… This is no an argument over which movie to go and see, this is outright destruction of a relationship. It hurts.

    Half the country is in shock. (Half the country feels like it’s had its core European identity wrenched away from it, and must now put up with Farage and the Xenophobes gloating – how can anyone be proud be British and stomach such representation?) The other half is about to be shocked when they discover exactly what ‘Leave’ actually means.

    Your ‘half-truths’ is overly generous. The misinformation and ignorance that has characterised this referendum has been a case study for why referendums are A Bad Thing. 99% of the people voting have little real understanding of what the EU is, or of what we will end up sacrificing. For democracy to work, voters need to understand what they’re voting about.

    Experts: “Voting ‘Leave’ will be a disaster.”

    Leave Campaigners: “Stop spreading fear. We’re going to make history!”

    Well, certainly, but when has that ever been a good thing?

    Reply

    • Libby
      Jun 28, 2016 @ 19:10:07

      Thank you for your reply Frank. It is good to debate these things. It saddens me however that you too feel the need to insult the intelligence of the over 50% who voted to leave the EU. I admit to being amazed that you have absolute knowledge of who these people are and inside information on how they think to be sure that 99% did not know what they were voting for. Most certainly you seem to be sure that they are all Xenophobes. Strangely, I personally know many, but I admit not anywhere near all, of those who voted to leave and those that I know are neither ignorant about what they were voting for nor are they xenophobic. The media made much of the immigration issue but for most of those I know who voted leave, although this was a concern, it was by no means the major issue. Believe it or not there were others – issues that is. But being concerned about immigration does not make one a xenophobe – one can be legitimately concerned about the numbers of people, regardless of ethnicity, coming to this country and stretching our resources beyond their limits. Interestingly many British people of non-British ethnicity also expressed concern about immigration and voted leave. I agree, many ‘experts’ predicted that leaving the EU will be a disaster, but many ‘experts’ also believed it would be a good thing – I suppose it depends on which ‘expert’ you choose to believe. It would not do for us all to think the same and in fact I think the world would be poorer if we did, however the fact remains that the majority voted to leave and it is now up to everyone to make sure it is not the disaster you anticipate.

      Reply

      • Frank
        Jun 28, 2016 @ 20:40:53

        You’re misinterpreting what I said.

        (1) I did not claim that half the country voted out of xenophobia. Farage, however, and many prominent leave campaigners were undeniably playing the xenophobia card – and how delighted they looked with the result.

        (2) I said 99% of the country (including myself, and certainly not restricted to those voting ‘leave’) had ‘little real understanding of what the EU is, or of what we will end up sacrificing’. That is *not* saying people are idiots. That is saying that our relationship with the EU is a highly complex one that even very intelligent people cannot understand completely.

        (3) I don’t know what pro-Leave experts you’re thinking of, but many of them assumed that it would be possible to ‘leave’ the EU and yet continue to trade freely, but what are the chances of that? (To continue the divorce analogy, it’s a bit like saying, ‘I want a divorce – but can we still have sex whenever I want?’)

        The reason I made my comment – and sorry for the rant, that and this – is that you were claiming the referendum was an act of democracy. Well, that’s only true, really, if the people understand what it is they’re voting for – and I think it’s increasingly clear this week that no one, certainly not Boris & co., knows what ‘Leave’ actually means.

        I have heard many of the reasons people voted ‘Leave’, and I do sympathise with many of them – although ‘shaking things up’ and ‘making history’ infuriate me.

        Quite apart from the EU question itself, merely asking it has exposed the ugly side of the British character and shocked the whole world. If Article 50 does get declared, it’s entirely possible that Scotland and England, perhaps Gibraltar and Northern Ireland too, will all go their separate ways. So much for Great Britain.

        I was born in England but my heart is Scottish. I loved being British. I loved being European. Now, I don’t know. Right from the moment it was announced, I hated the EU referendum. Some questions should never be asked.

      • Libby
        Jun 29, 2016 @ 19:44:38

        If I have misunderstood you Frank then I sincerely apologise. I do in fact agree that many people probably do not fully understand how the EU works and as you say, the whole issue is complex. Most people do not know the names or faces of those that run the EU which is also a cause for concern and encourages suspicion – perhaps these people should show themselves and be more answerable. I may be wrong but I don’t think any of them came to the UK to offer any reassurance. If anyone voted to leave simply to ‘shake thing ups’ or to ‘make history’ it is of course ridiculous.
        In my original post I was actually trying to play an fairly neutral hand, talking of the lack of respect for Democracy not about specific issues involved in the decision. However, even today insults are still being bandied about on social media which is totally unacceptable in my book. People are entitled to their opinions, insulting the intelligence of those who do not share your opinion (not you personally!) is beyond anything that can be considered acceptable, as is throwing bricks through windows (which I know for a fact has happened in my own area) or other violence.
        The fact remains that many people were very dissatisfied with the EU and something had to be done about it, especially as the EU was obviously reluctant to address those concerns. As it is it has now been demonstrated over half our voters were dissatisfied for whatever reasons. We must respect their opinions and not continue slinging insults at them, but also, as I said before, we must also respect the concerns of those who voted for the opposite outcome.
        I think this vote was inevitable sooner or later since the EU was so reluctant to address the concerns of the British people. I can’t agree that the question should never be asked – if you are not satisfied you have every right to question and expect answers, this is a right that should not be denied. I think perhaps it was rushed in too quickly however but like it or not the decision has been made and it is time now to move on. Like you I love the UK, its varied lands and all its people and I would hate to see it broken – I think most people on both sides would agree with this.

      • Frank
        Jun 29, 2016 @ 20:38:28

        It is unfortunate that the media gives so little positive attention to the EU. We see far more of Farage’s whining and destructive non-engagement that we do of the honest, hard-working MEPs. Ultimately the European parliament is working to create harmony between many different countries, and it can be difficult often to see direct relevance to us.

        Any centralised administration gets viewed with suspicion and hostility by people far from the centre. People in Scotland and the north of England have a traditional distrust of Westminster, and the recent rise of Scottish nationalism is a direct result of Margaret Thatcher’s discriminatory policies…

        Westminster is very quick to lay the blame on the EU when there are factory closures, but without the EU would Westminster really do anything differently?

        There are of course many reasons to complain about the EU, but I don’t think much effort is put into showing the positive side.

  2. elaine patricia
    Jun 27, 2016 @ 15:56:29

    Absolutey

    Reply

  3. The Weekly Day
    Jun 27, 2016 @ 16:36:10

    I love civilized, rational, fair, and intelligent people like you, Libby. I don’t understand much about your country leaving the EU, but I do see that a lot of people are alarmed and lots of people are saying so many bad things are going to happen all around the world now. I don’t know anything about that, but I agree with you that your people voted and that was the outcome of the vote.

    Reply

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