Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One of the many reasons why I dislike and distrust plebiscites

A referendum may sound better but plebiscite is the term I prefer and I dislike and distrust them. I accept that we are going to have one on our membership of the EU and shall do my best to help our side win it. But I am not sanguine.

How can you distrust the people, I hear you say at the back. Easy, just look at history even if you don't trust Shakespeare's famous descriptions of how easy it is to sway a crowd. Or, if you don't like history, look at the present and see how easy it is to sway what is laughingly known as public opinion by a well placed picture or a media campaign. In addition, if we have plebiscites with any frequency on all subjects, easily comprehensible or not, easily reducible to a yay or nay vote or not, an ever fewer people will bother to turn out to vote. Instead of legislation or political decisions being made by people we have delegated power to, they will be made by a small group of people who have nothing else to do with their lives besides voting and whose views are not necessarily underpinned by any knowledge.

Those are general views and I am prepared to argue them in another posting, and another, and another, until my readers accept that I am right. Which is one of the many reasons I dislike and distrust plebiscites: the ease with which they can be called again and again in the name of so-called democracy but really to ensure that the "correct" answer is given.

We know that the EU and its minions indulge in that habit; we also know that a number of politicians who did not do as well as they think they should have done under a first past the post system want to set aside the result of the fairly recent referendum on the subject in which the people of this country decisively voted for that system.

Now we have renewed calls for another Scottish Independence referendum although it was only last year that the people of Scotland voted conclusively in favour of staying in the Union. To argue that the vote has been negated by the SNP's achievements in the General Election in May is to use what was once called jesuitical methods. The SNP did not campaign on the question of independence or even on that of a second referendum. And as this blog points out:
In fact, the SNP vote, at 1,454,436 was lower than the Yes vote in the referendum, 1,617,989, let alone the No vote at 2,001,926. The turn-out, at 71.1 per cent was higher than UK average at 66.1 per cent but considerably lower than the referendum turn-out at 84.59 per cent. It is, in the opinion of this blog, hard to prove that the overwhelming SNP success on May 7 was really a vote for Scottish independence, which was roundly rejected in the referendum.
Nevertheless, there are ever more calls from that party for a second independence referendum, each call using some spurious reason but we all know what this is all about: the SNP failed to get what they wanted and are yearning to have another go. And another, and another, and another, until the people of Scotland, exhausted and impoverished by the endless campaigns, will vote the way they are told by Ms Sturgeon and her cohorts.

According to City AM we now have Alistair Darling, one of the leaders of the No campaign, making similar noises though he obviously thinks that the offer of yet another referendum "if the Scottish people want it" will take the wind out of Ms Sturgeon's sails.

Do the Scottish people want it? There is no evidence for it unless you consider the votes in the General Election to be that, which is a tad dishonest.
The former chancellor’s comments come two days after Sturgeon said the SNP’s manifesto for next year’s Scottish Parliament election will include possible timescales and triggers for a second vote.

However, opponents have criticised her for reneging on her pledge to honour the “once-in-a-generation” vote.

Scotland’s only Conservative MP, David Mundell, who is the Scottish secretary, said yesterday that a second vote would be at least 15 years in the future.

Yet, in a separate interview with the Telegraph Darling claimed that Sturgeon did not want a referendum any time soon as she knows she would lose.

The First Minister of Scotland is only raising the possibility of a second referendum now to appease SNP members and “let them down lightly”, he added. “There’s no high principle here. It’s base political calculation.”
Base political calculation? Oh surely not. Still, as long as one can keep that issue at the forefront we need not look too closely at the SNP's lamentable record of government in Scotland.


  1. Well put. As I've commented elsewhere, does anyone seriously think that if they'd won a year ago there would be any talk of another vote at all, let alone so soon? The result of September 2014 would be taken as, to use Donald Dewar's dimwitted expression, “the settled will of the Scottish people”, and that would be the end of it.

    But yes, there's no doubt that this is base politics. It can be no coincidence that they've dug the referendum up from the grave in the same week that Corbyn was elected Labour leader (the anniversary is this weekend, not last; close enough for plausible deniability, but come on...). The Nats' most powerful bogeyman, the “red Tory”, now lies dead in a ditch, shot in the head by the Labour membership. They're spooked. They need something to galvanise their base and, given their excerable record in power, this is all they've got.

  2. I share your distrust of plebiscites. Sir Isaiah Berlin said that no modern government could lose one , if it used the resources of the state to campaign for the answer it wanted. With so many fake charities, campaign groups and businesses dependent on state or EU funding, the weight of public money and state influence is not discernible to the voters. Just think of the huge slush fund which is the "green" or environmental industry and its supporters.

    The trouble with our system is that politicians call plebiscites/referendums to suit their convenience. I think they might be
    more suitable as a regular, built-in part of the system, as in the Swiss model where it is usually the people themselves who decide when to call one and they can be a good brake on the ambitions of the political class - as in Norway which would certainly have been in the EU by now, if the metropolitan, political class had got its way.

    1. Well, this is not Switzerland so the Swiss model is unlikely to work. I believe that even in that country, most of the plebiscites or referendums called get very low turn-outs.

  3. Helen, electing a Government is a plebiscite. Every thing else is DiMocracy

    1. You'll have to explain DiMocracy. I have hard enough time defining democracy.