No Shades of Democracy
As pretty much everyone in the world now knows, the U.K. referendum on the EU has now taken place and the result is to leave by a slim majority.
This post isn’t an attempt to get into the rights and wrongs of each side — there are many, many articles and news reports doing this to death right now.
Instead, this post is about two things that disappointed me. First the dreadful campaigning by both the Remain and Leave camps, and second the attitude of a minority of the losing Remainers. I’m on the losing side, but it was a free vote, so I have no complaints.
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt
This was the overriding approach of the campaigning from both sides. Very little about why siding with them would be beneficial, but a huge amount on how terrible it would be if the other side won. It might be bad if we win, but imagine how much worse it will be if they do.
Next came the insults. If you wanted to leave you were an ignorant racist. Imagine how that sounds if you already feel like nobody cares what you think. If you wanted to stay you wanted the UK to be overrun with benefits claiming immigrants, and send mythical amounts of money to the EU every day that could go straight to public services. Again, not pleasant if what you are in favour of is closer integration with Europe and freedom of movement.
This approach is unlikely to change anyone’s mind, instead their feelings become more entrenched.
Then things took a turn for the bizarre – out of the EU would result in World War Three, staying in meant the armageddon for the NHS.
Finally it was the world’s weirdest personality contest. The CEOs of 50 of the FTSE 100 companies think we should stay in, and they are much smarter than you, so you should side with them. This just a few weeks after hearing many of them were completely out of touch with reality around their multi million pound pay packets! I’d argue the only people these CEOs represent is themselves and their shareholders, so why anyone should take their advice is a mystery. James Dyson wanted out, and he’s a clever inventor, or did he just want to manufacture more powerful vacuum cleaners?
As we descended into parody, the IMF was presented as impartial and David Beckham jetted in from LA for lunch with the Prime Minister and to give us the benefit of his insight. Vote out and you were siding with Farage, which clearly no sane person would want.
The undercurrent to a lot of this was: don’t think for yourself, listen to people who know better than you and do what they say.
You Maniacs! You blew it up!
Which brings us on to the immediate reaction of the losers to the result. As telling people they were stupid and racist worked so well during the campaign, let’s deal with the loss by telling people they are stupid and racist and should be ashamed of themselves.
A petition was quickly started to force another referendum, as we didn’t like the results of this one. It’s not fair that nearly half of the country has their views ignored, but it is fair that more than half of the country has their views ignored because they hold the wrong views. Apparently everyone that voted remain did so after careful consideration but everyone that voted leave didn’t know what they were doing. The news today reported that there were a lot of people in the UK googling ‘What is the EU?’. The conclusion drawn was that these were Leavers who had suddenly realised what they had done, but there is no data to support that. It could equally be people who had voted Remain without understanding why and now wondered what were about to lose.
This is all patronising and arrogant in the extreme, and if you think I’m gloating or pleased about this, you are wrong.
I voted remain
And I lost.
Was it the result I wanted? That doesn’t matter.
Did people vote as a protest and not realise the consequences? That doesn’t matter.
Was all the information given to voters on both sides accurate? That doesn’t matter.
Was it less than a 100% turnout? That doesn’t matter.
Was it within a few percent of a different result? That doesn’t matter.
Should there have been a vote in the first place? That doesn’t matter.
Did certain areas of the UK vote overwhelmingly to remain? That doesn’t matter.
None of the above matters, because a free vote has taken place and the votes have been counted. There were no caveats around the vote, no reserving the right to rerun the vote under specific circumstances. It’s done. Over. Railing against it will accomplish nothing.
I also vote Labour, which means I’ve had more governments that I have voted against than I have voted for. This is the nature of democracy and I accept that. I don’t accuse the rest of the voters of being fascists who only care about themselves, as that would make me look stupid not them. I also don’t demand another go because it’s somehow not right.
I, like many other people I suspect, voted on the basis of my current circumstances. The EU isn’t perfect, but my life is pretty good, so on balance I decided to leave things as they were. To accuse everyone who voted differently of being stupid and racist would mean that their circumstances are irrelevant and I don’t need to hear their opinion as I already know it is wrong and based on irrational hatred. That would say more about me than them in my opinion.
One person, one vote
This is at the heart of any democratic system. Some of the more frightening opinions that were aired suggested this needed changing to bring about the right result.
Idea 1: The over 60s votes shouldn’t count as much as those of the 18–24 demographic (although why the views of an 18 year old trump those of someone who has lived both in and out of the EU wasn’t explained). Those who have to live longest with a decision should be the only ones to decide it, although I guarantee if the 18–24 demographic voted the other way, the message would be that their vote shouldn’t count as they are too young and callow to understand.
Idea 2: people should have to take some kind of a test before being able to vote (although not before paying tax it appears – they can fund things, just not influence them).
What these ideas had in common was that the person suggesting them, or like minded thinkers, got to decide who could vote and which votes counted. Make no mistake, if you support this view you aren’t in favour of democracy. What you are proposing is a dictatorship. A benevolent dictatorship though, where only those that really understand the issues (which translates to agreeing with you) get to decide on them in the best interests of everyone. Imagine if you were the on the other side though, and your vote counted for nothing? Would you see that as a good thing?
Democracy means we do what the majority of voters want. The end. We don’t continually rerun votes until we get the desired outcome. We accept the outcome and work to influence what happens after that.
Everyone has their own opinion
They are entitled to that opinion, and to act on it, even if you, your peer group and your entire Twitter feed disagree with it.
If someone decides to vote out, knowing that their life may well be worse, but in the hope that the political elite who they blame for their circumstances will also start to suffer, that is their prerogative. I’d imagine that many people voted out as they feel they aren’t being considered when decisions are made. Ignoring the result of a free vote isn’t likely to help that.
It was close
Much closer than I’d expected, which does make it harder to accept. Twitter tells me that if only a few more people had voted the right way, everything would be okay. That’s tough though. You don’t get another go because you lost, even if you’ve rationalised the loss to a conspiracy.
The result has to stand or we abandon all of our democratic principles. No politician in their right mind would choose this path as it would make them unelectable.
It’s not all about us
Many people not originally from the UK, who may have lived here for years and made it their home, now face an uncertain future through circumstances outside of their control. Here’s a thought though – repeatedly saying that the UK is chock full of xenophobes out to get them might not make them feel that safe, and that is absolutely not the reality. The people you are accusing of xenophobia will include work colleagues, friends and family – do you really feel that way and would you say that to their faces? The message we should be sending out is that they remain welcome in our country, we want them to stay and we’ll work this out as best we can.
Screw you guys, I’m going home
There have been a few people saying they are leaving the UK as a result of this, which I view in much the same way as the bankers threatening to leave if there is any attempt to regulate them. While its a shame, if that’s the way they deal with not getting their own way then maybe it’s for the best.
Why did it happen?
I was convinced it would be about 70–30 remain, so what do I know?
Here’s an article that attempts to explain why the country voted as it did. It’s well worth a read.
The geography reflects the economic crisis of the 1970s, not the 2010s It became clear early on in the night that Leave…www.perc.org.uk
and another from The Guardian:
"If you've got money, you vote in," she said, with a bracing certainty. "If you haven't got money, you vote out." We…www.theguardian.com
I’ve never said this on one of my posts before, but this time it feels like I have to take clear ownership — these thoughts are mine and mine alone.
I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — 10 x Certified, including Technical Architect, 5 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom.
You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog