Monday, 11 July 2016

A Constitutional Outrage

The Leaver's in the referendum won the vote but the margin was very small - so small that given the known variability of public opinion on the EU a result of 52:48 is not statistically different from 50:50.  That means that the result could be down to purely random factors.  On the 22nd or the 24th the result could just as easily have gone the other way.

Given the balance of the vote, we cannot infer that the public wants a radical version of Brexit with complete abandonment of our involvement in the single market, or abandonment of our security arrangements with the EU.  We cannot infer that the result gives carte-blanche to a radical deregulation of the economy, wholesale cutting of taxes and the concomitant onslaught upon public spending that the ultra-right of the Tory party dream of.  Nor can we assume that the British public wants a repeal of the ban on fox-hunting or a reversal of the policy on single sex marriage.

All we can read into it was that on the margin, on the day, a small majority wanted to leave the EU.   So, the 'leavers' have to listen to and take account of the concerns of those who voted to Remain in forming a strategy about how to proceed.  In my view the only body in a position to make the judgment about how to proceed is Parliament.  That should be done by a review of the strategic options and the publication of a Green Paper laying out the case for and against each option.  It also relies upon the Governing party's MP's choice for leader being elected.

In my view, it is a constitutional outrage that the Tory MP's vote for the next PM can be overturned by any extra-parliamentary body.  Fair enough, each party selects its leader and then on the basis of that selection the leaders fight an election and gain a mandate to govern.  If May wins the election then in a sense she is the choice of the Tory MP's who have 11,300,109   votes supporting their right to make the choice.  If Leadsom wins and the will of the Governing party's MP's are overturned there must be a general election.  We cannot have a situation where some 150000 Tory activists can overturn the will of the representatives who won their seats with 11m+ votes.

In the end, this whole debacle has been brought about by the erosion of the sovereign rights of Parliament.  We need to get back to the position where that is constitutionally reaffirmed - the issues that confront us now are far too complex to be left to plebiscites or to the prejudices of party members, on the Left, on the Right or indeed, in the Middle. 

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