The argument for multiple referenda;
“Democracy is not just an election, it is our daily life.” Tsai Ing-wen
The political landscape has never been vaguer or indeed more frightening on this island. Watch the latest edition of Question Time to hear the audience boo comments suggesting that a mild mannered, pro equality gardener with a penchant for jam be anything other than a disrespectful terrorist who is a danger to the UK while we await a vote between the current Foreign Secretary, who sold more of the NHS than 99% of previous Health Secretaries… or… well Boris Johnson. How depressing is that?
One of the more startling headlines this weekend came from Jeremy Hunt, who went against his own Scottish Conservative Leader to suggest that even if the SNP win a majority on a pro 2nd independence referendum, that he would still refuse to grant one as PM. Such flagrant disregard for democracy in this country and indeed the UK, should be a shock, except the very notion of democracy in the UK these days is something which would not pass a basic theory test.
These are trying times, and as someone who campaigned for both Scottish Independence and remaining within the EU, it is difficult not to ask for a do-over to make sure my own views should be considered. In a democracy, we as Scots are used to having our views be usurped by our larger nations, not since 1955 did we actually vote for a Conservative Government which we have endured for the majority of the last 40 years. Perhaps this is why Jeremy feels he can treat any potential spike in pro independence support as something he can squash with a single word. Or perhaps as a history scholar he feels confident that the parcel of rouges (Davidson, Mundell et al) will gain enough support to ensure that we as Scots continue to behave like cowering beasties and fall quickly into line.
Of course, the lack of a second referendum is not solely a Scottish issue, the subsequent failure of the House of Commons to achieve a successful departure within the European Union has caused many to suggest a second EU referendum. Indeed, many of those voices who claimed that a referendum in Scotland should be one time affair, now suggest that perhaps the people of the UK ought to be given a recount as their minds may have been elsewhere in 2016. Despite such fuzzy arguments, I am here to present an argument for why both referendums need to be re-run.
You see within a democracy, there is only an endurance for accepting what you did not vote for based on accountability. If a party is elected based on a manifesto you disagree with or believe they will not deliver, you are safe in the knowledge that in 4-5 years this party will be accountable for their deeds and broken promises. The problem with referenda is that there is no such accountability.
I’m not here to argue that the 17 million who voted for Brexit were duped by Farage or the side of a bus… although I think, thanks in part to Rupert Murdoch some probably were… but it seems to me that within referenda, we are allowed to offer anything and no longer be held accountable for it. In the EU elections we were told that millions would go to the NHS and look at us now… Faced with a vote in which only Conservative members can take part, which will decide whether we have a Prime Minister who supports the privatisation of the NHS or a Prime Minister who… supports the privatisation of the NHS. Where is the accountability?
Likewise, in Scotland, as someone who campaigned for 2 years to ensure a yes vote I was dismayed to find that Yes was leading with 2 weeks to go as I knew this would unleash the venom of Project Fear. But ask most Scots who were swithering, and they will tell you it was the promise of more powers, more of an influence within the UK and assurance of pensions, the NHS and staying in the EU that swung it. Surely this is a set of circumstances now in 2019 so far removed from reality of UK life that the people of Scotland deserve another say.
Thurgood Marshall once said; “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.”
I no longer see a democracy in the UK anymore. While all we hear in the media is the 17 million who voted leave, what about the 16.5 million who voted stay, or those who now realise The Sun, The Mail, The BBC may have pushed us in the wrong direction. The young who couldn’t vote and the old who realise they made the wrong choice.
When Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt can achieve the Premiership in the UK without seeking a national vote safe in the knowledge that the main stream media will have the affrontery to say that Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security without rebuttal, then it is no wonder so many in Scotland now feel the time is right to leave. As a Labour member I have finally found a UK leader who typifies what the Labour Party was created for… and yet now see that the people he wishes to help in England, would rather elect a clown like Farage or Johnson.
A democratic decision should be respected, but only if that victory gained is supported by the en action of promises made. If not then election or referendum, it should not matter… It is only right that a second hearing of the people takes place.