Friday, 12 January 2018

On Nigel Farage and a deal referendum

Two posts on consecutive days? That's not something that's happened for a long time! Although this is, essentially, a re-hash of some thoughts I posted on Twitter earlier.

There was much excitement amongst "Remain"* campaigners today when Nigel Farage announced he was beginning to come round to the idea of a second^ referendum. His thinking being that a second** "leave" win would kill off any further thoughts of re-entering the Union "for a generation". On this last point he is right - just as it took dissenters^^ from the 1975 result over a generation to reverse that decision.

(Of course, for all his talk of the finality of the 2016 vote - the day democracy stopped, folks - we know that his campaign would have continued had the result gone the other way by, well, by any margin.)

Anyway, lots of people jumped on this news - arch remainers*** Ian Dunt, AC Grayling and Nick Clegg, amongst others, made hay whilst the Lib Dem Press Team and prominent spokespeople went to town on the news.

But why? Or, at least, why the lack of trepidation?

I mean, it's not as if Farage hasn't a record of being disingenuous, is it?

Now, I know that the polls are showing a lead for remain over leave now - and that is welcome, as far as it goes. But for the majority of the population, the matter is settled, so the question is considered moot. If it were to be reopened, whether on the nature of the deal agreed or otherwise, the numbers would rapidly change - and the narrative and tone of debate would be even worse than before.

Now, this isn't intended as a council of despair - but it is intended as a dose of realism. It's also not intended as an argument against having a deal referendum. That's a policy I support, albeit I would have liked the party to have also adopted a line that categorically said election of a Lib Dem majority government^^^ prior to actually leaving would be a mandate to reverse the process. Would such a policy have made a difference at the last election? I doubt it, but I'm not about to second guess when the next election may be, the role Brexit may or may not have in that, or the outcome.

No, I support the policy on the pragmatic grounds, outlined in part in this exchange:

Put simply, I think the restoration and exercise of Parliamentary Sovereignty followed by the throwing out of Brexit would plunge this country into a much greater level of turmoil than another referendum. I'm not suggesting war, but there would be substantial civil unrest and political instability. In addition, the forces of xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism (not to mention other forms of hate and discrimination) that the Brexit vote has given licence to would then be unleashed in a way we have not seen in a century.

So, back to Farage. He has his own agenda, and we ought to be very, very careful in the way we react to his pronouncements. Rather than reacting with glee, his words should give us pause.

*One of the things I bitterly, bitterly despair about is the way Brexit colours *everything* in our political debate, and huge swathes of people identify, or are identified as, "Remainers" or "Leavers" without either side seeking to engage with the other. There is a lot of speaking in echo chambers, or slinging mud, insults, sneers and jeers at the "other side" and not a lot of anything constructive. And, before anyone else says it, I don't consider consider myself blameless in this regard, although I do try to avoid sneering: that's just not a pleasant, or Liberal, thing to do.

^Shorthand. I prefer to call it a deal referendum. Or "a first referendum on the facts." But as far as a choice between staying in or leaving the EU/EC is concerned, we've had two of those already.

**in short order.

^^Farage himself would have been only 11 at the time when 67% of those who voted opted to secure a brighter future for themselves and future generations.

***Gah, even I'm doing it now.

^^^I know, I know.

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