How not to run a referendum
I have developed a general rule not to sign petitions or joint letters. I realise that this flies a bit in the face of the spirit of communal action, but my experience is that nothing much good has come from it, that I've sometimes had to spend days defending my reasons for signing, and that it is generally better to take the trouble to write down your own views than simply sign up to what has been written for you.
That said, I did sign the petition asking for a second referendum, even though there were several other reasons not to. I'm not just talking about the number of rogue votes, if such they were, but also about the democratic problem: if the people have cast their vote, why do you think you should ask to re-run the whole thing just because it didnt turn out the way you wanted? I hope my justification for that will become clear later.
But the truth is, I guess, that I signed not because I thought that there was any or much chance of achieving a re-run, even if that is desirable -- but because I thought that a few million votes on this campaign might put iron in the soul of some MPs who might be minded to try to sort the Brexit mess out
For mess it surely is.
When my college wants to make any change to its statutes, it demands that there is a two thirds majority of those present and voting. I am told that the same is true in some Trades Unions, and that a two thirds majority in both houses is required to change the US constitution (with similar rules in other legislatures). This might seem like a bit of built in conservatism, and may be it is. But it does something really important: that is, ensure that there is a real head of steam, and a real majority, behind big and often irrevocable changes.
On reflection, I wonder how any responsible government or administration could have got us into this pickle: what is more or less assumed to be a binding, once and for all, constitutional decision of the people, based on a small majority 52/48% on a turn out of not much more than 70%, when the representatives we democratically elected only last year are thought to be something like 75% of the other opinion, and when the different constituent parts of the Union have taken very different views. (And remember how different this is from the 1975 version, when parliament had already voted and we were being asked to accept or reject their decision -- presumably triggering a General Election if the vote had gone the other way.)
Can we all have been so dumb as to have sleep walked into this?