The Labour Conference took place this week in Liverpool, and while a number of political hot potatoes were discussed one of the most notable was clearly the so-called People’s Vote.
This would, essentially, be a second referendum on Brexit, presented to the public with a more ‘transparent’ overview of the costs, both social and financial, of the UK leaving the European Union.
And after much debate, which initially suggested that voters would not be able to ballot for Remain, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer confirmed at the conference that might not be the case.
“Nobody is ruling out remain as an option,” he told Labour delegates.
It was an announcement that got a warm welcome from those gathered, unsurprisingly given that 90% of Labour members are of the Remain persuasion, and you wonder how the British public would view the possibility of Brexit being voted on again and even reversed if that was the will of the people.
But how close is the People’s Vote to actually being a reality?
The People’s Vote: Everything You Need to Know
A campaign group, featuring a number of MPs from all parties as well as public figures, including old Jean-Luc Picard himself, Sir Patrick Stewart, was launched in April 2018 to get the People’s Vote off the ground.
Senior political figures, including Labour MP Chuka Umunna, the Conservative Anna Soubry, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s first ever elected representative, and Jo Swinson, a Liberal Democrat, are also involved, with Umunna on record as saying “in our democracy, it is vital that the people get their say on Brexit, rather than their elected representatives in Parliament being reduced to some rubber stamp for whatever plan Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove have been putting together behind closed doors.”
It is, despite many reports to the contrary, a platform that wants the British public to have a say on the terms of the final Brexit deal; NOT an underhand way for a second referendum on Leave or Remain, as is the misconception of many of its critics.
The possibility of such a referendum has been presented by Starmer and others, but there would be no legal precedence for the original Leave vote to be quashed without significant evidence to suggest voters had been misled in some way.
The marketing blurb for the People’s Vote campaign reads ‘whatever your opinion on Brexit, no one would disagree that it’s a big deal. And not a done deal.’ It taps into the psychology that is very much prevalent at the moment; that is, our elected representatives are making an absolute horror-show of the divorce bill negotiations.
The spectre of a No Deal looms – something confirmed to be potentially disastrous for UK businesses, and that is what the People’s Vote aims to stop from happening, or at least minimise the damage of such an eventuality.
“The People’s Vote campaign seeks to ensure that the government’s Brexit deal is put before the country in a public vote, so that we can decide if a decision that will affect our lives for generations makes the country better or worse off,” is the sales pitch.
The Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable, is another known supporter of the People’s Vote. Talking about the two years that have passed since the original referendum, he said that ‘the situation has changed, the facts have changed’.
“We were all told the British Government was going to save vast amounts of money.
“We now know that’s not the case: there’s the £40 billion divorce settlement, the economy’s slowing down, there’s less money for the NHS.
“We were told it was simple – it’s actually proving unbelievably complicated.”
Critics of the People’s Vote
It would be fair to say that the vast majority of the Great British public believes in democracy, and so by that token the slightly sinister side of the People’s Vote – to secure a second Leave vs Remain referendum – should be shot down.
Like it or not, we as a populous voted Leave – albeit with a 51.9% majority, and so we know have to deal with the fall out.
Theresa May has continually refused to give in to calls for a second referendum, calling it a ‘gross betrayal of our democracy’. For once, she has a point.
We elect our MPs to get these jobs done on our behalf; maybe it’s time to let them get on with it, for better or worse.