Tag Archives: Brexit

The Will Of The People

Today, the 15th November 2017, the results of the (non-binding) Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey were revealed. Voters were asked the question, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” They had two options – ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The result was a 61.6% vote in favour of ‘Yes.’ The turnout (defined here as legally cast votes) was 79.3%.

On the 23rd June, 2016, the United Kingdom held a (advisory) referendum to decide whether or not it should remain a part of the European Union. Voters were asked the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” They had two options – ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union.’ The result was a 51.9% vote in favour of ‘Leave.’ The turnout (defined here as legally cast votes) was 72.2%.

On the surface, these two scenarios and outcomes may appear very similar. They are not. Unfortunately, we now need to talk about statistics. The data is everything, because it tells us what is really happening. Please bear with me. I will be as terse as I can.

In the Australian Marriage Equality Survey, 7,817,247 voted ‘Yes.’ Frustratingly (if, like me, you are a supporter of marriage equality), this equates to 48.8% of the total electorate (16,006,180), thus falling just short of an overall majority. So, not then ‘the will of the people.’ Or is it? To achieve more than 50% of the total electorate, 8,003,091 votes were required. The ‘Yes’ vote was only 185,844 short of this target – or 5.6% of those who did not vote. Is it reasonable to assume they would obtain these votes were it possible to ask the non-voters? Yes of course it is. In fact, it’s practically guaranteed that they would. Therefore, the result of this survey can and should be considered the will of the people, and the Australian government should move to legalise same-sex marriage immediately. Happily, their Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has already indicated that he wishes to change the law by Christmas.

In the UK’s EU Referendum, 17,410,742 voted ‘Leave.’ This equates to 37.4% of the total electorate (46,500,001), well short of an overall majority. The ‘Leave’ vote required 5,839,259 more votes to achieve over 50% of the electorate – that’s 45.1% of those who did not vote. Is it reasonable to assume they would obtain these votes were it possible to ask the non-voters? No. The data suggests strongly that the total electorate is in favour of remaining in the European Union. 62.5% of people under the age of 50 voted ‘Remain’ and we know that the over 65s were twice as likely to have voted as people under 25. Clearly then, leaving the European Union cannot and should not be considered the will of the people.

The key factors in all of this are the margin of victory and the voter turnout. ‘Yes’ won by 23.2% in Australia, with a 79.3% turnout – a clear and resounding victory. By contrast, ‘Leave’ in the UK won by just 3.8%, with a 72.2% turnout – ambiguous to say the least. Thus, while Australia unites and rejoices, the UK becomes ever more divided as it stumbles towards the EU exit door with no apparent plan in place and a government that looks distinctly out of its depth.

There was of course a very easy way to avoid this situation. When devising the grounds upon which they would agree to act in response to the results of the referendum, the UK government should have required certain criteria to have been met. A minimum 75% voter turnout and a 5% margin of victory seem to be the obvious choices. It is unconscionable that the Tories were so irresponsible as to not put these safeguards in place.

It would be remiss of me also not to point out that, while marriage equality is something one could expect the public to fully understand and make an informed decision on, the consequences of leaving the EU are not (especially when so much misinformation was spread during the campaigns). Therefore, the UK’s EU referendum should never have taken place to begin with.

Alas, the EU referendum was only advisory and Article 50 can be revoked. It is now the duty of the UK government to acknowledge that not only did ‘Leave’ fail to win an overall majority of the total electorate, but that it never could have. It should then cancel the process of leaving the European Union and focus its energy instead on effecting change from within. One might almost say it should, ahem, take back control.

Brexit: Now Is The Time To Fight

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So a week has passed since the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union, and with it immediately threw the country into economic turmoil (we’re on the verge of relegation from 5th to 6th place in the world’s leading economies and have lost our triple A credit rating status), brought down the existing Prime Minister, David Cameron, leaving the country without stable governance, and tarnished our reputation internationally, not least due to the shocking rise in hate crimes toward foreign nationals in the aftermath of the result – apparently many appear to believe that the outcome of the referendum legitimises racism and means we’re poised to tell all immigrants to go home. Among the plethora of potential long term consequences is the increased likelihood that Britain will be broken apart, as Scotland voted regionally to remain a member of the EU. Who now could blame them for once again seeking independence?

And all of this for what? We haven’t regained our sovereignty, for it was never lost. The EU has a parliament of 751 members, voted for in free and fair elections by the citizens of member countries. There will be no more money for the NHS. The £350m a week that was claimed to be available by the Leave campaign, isn’t actually there (the highest possible amount is in fact £161m but this doesn’t take into account other inevitable costs of leaving the EU), and does anyone imagine that the Far Right would spend it on socialised medicine even if it was available? On matters of security, Britain has now made itself vulnerable to what intelligence experts refer to as the ‘discontinuity effect’. 40 years worth of cooperation and institution building now has to be unravelled and reset. Doubtless it will be in the interests of everyone to continue to work together, but changes of this magnitude take time to impart, potentially creating gaps – gaps that terrorists are experts at taking advantage of. As for immigration, the real issue that ‘leavers’ voted out on, well anyone capable of doing further reading beyond the headlines in The Sun and Daily Express knew that access to the single market (touted as unnecessary by the ‘Leave’ campaign before the election but now acknowledged as essential by the very same people) was always going to turn on our borders being open. There will be no significant change in immigration.

Yet in spite of this unrelenting disaster for the future of Britain, a strange air of resignation appears to have taken hold. I keep hearing and reading things like ‘let’s make the best of it’, ‘we’ll find a way, we always do’ and perhaps most aggravating ‘the most important thing now is to all pull together and heal the divisions.’ Even ‘Remain’ voters seem to be falling over themselves in a race to come across as the most reasonable. It reminds me somewhat of those atheists who nonetheless compete to see who can tolerate the most religious intolerance. Well I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me, but this self-congratulatory posturing is not for me and I certainly do not feel much like bridge building. Here’s why:

  • The Leave campaign was almost entirely built on lies, as laid out above but also now largely admitted by many of those involved. One of the most unsavoury features of the past 7 days has been witnessing key figures in the Leave camp seeking to distance themselves from the campaign they had led.
  • The Remain campaign simply did not get its key demographic to the polling stations. Only around a third of 18-24 year olds voted, compared to more than two thirds of over 65’s. Yet 73% of young people intended to vote ‘Remain’. Statistically speaking, the older you are the more likely you were to vote ‘Leave’ – over 60% of the uppermost demographic voted ‘Out’. By contrast, considering that the consequences of this decision are decades long, it is the young who will be the most affected.
  • We now know that significant numbers of those who voted ‘Leave’ regret their vote. They say that they voted to leave either because they believed the lies or because they thought that a positive result for the Remain side was a done deal and so decided to use their vote as a form of protest. If the polls are accurate, then we would see somewhere in the region of a 900,000 vote swing in favour of ‘Remain’ if all those who voted could have another go.
  • At the time of writing, 3,923,805 people from the United Kingdom (4,086,208 worldwide) have signed an online petition demanding a second referendum – approximately 9% of the total electorate. If you haven’t done so already then please go ahead and sign now. You can find the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131215/
  • I would argue that our membership of the EU is not an issue that ought to be decided by a referendum. This probably requires an essay in itself to fully flesh out, but in summary I feel there is simply too much required reading to do in order to be fully informed of all the facts. The reality is that most people do not have the time to do it. This is an issue, like thousands of others, that our politicians are paid to sort out on our behalf.

I believe these 5 points layout not only a compelling case, but also a moral duty to challenge this debacle. It is not anti-democratic, as staunch ‘Leavers’ would have it, to seek a peaceful way out of this mess. Indeed, it is the final con trick of the Far Right to bully people into thinking that they have no choice but to accept the result lying down. On the contrary, the wonderful thing about a democracy is that there are always options available to protest governance without having to resort to anything other than conversations and debate. I would like to beckon you all to do whatever you can to keep building the pressure on our MPs so that they feel empowered to reject our exit from the EU by whatever means possible. If we have to have another referendum, then so be it. Now is not a time to feel sorry for ourselves or to surrender. Now is the time to fight.

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

– Benjamin Franklin