The potential for a break-up of the UK is very real
16 August, 2019
• I ENTIRELY agree with Stephen Southam that democracy is precious and needs protecting (Democracy as legacy, August 9) but suspect he and I may disagree about what this means, particularly in regard to Brexit.
From my perspective, democracy needs a number of conditions to thrive, but these don’t happen automatically and society has to work to achieve and maintain them.
For example, it needs space for safe and civil discussion between people holding different views, something increasingly rare in our shouty social-media world. So thanks and respect to the Tribune, by the way, for providing such a forum in Islington.
The public needs to be engaged, which is something conventional political parties have failed to accomplish, over many years, as election turnout rates stay depressingly low.
Voters need to be informed, an area where I believe both sides in the referendum let us down horrendously, since neither gave a clear picture of what leave or remain would really mean.
And democratic systems need to operate under sensible rules, which is where Mr Southam and I may disagree most.
Most small organisations, sports clubs, community groups, etc, require a two-thirds or even three-quarters majority on important or contentious votes, because a simple majority vote is simply too divisive.
If almost half of a club’s membership disagree with a particular result, it can end in break-up or even violence.
So, to my mind, it is madness for something as complex and far-reaching as Brexit, affecting the whole country for the foreseeable future, to rely on a simple majority vote. It puts our precious democracy very much at risk.
Whatever the eventual outcome of the process, half the country is likely to be hugely angry, even more voters are likely to become disaffected, and the potential for break-up of the UK and even widespread civil disruption is very real.
Admittedly the two-thirds or three-quarters rule should have been built into the referendum from the start, rather than complained about afterwards.
And for that failure we have to thank the ignorance and arrogance of the Conservatives’ David Cameron and George Osborne.
But from where we stand now, where the vote was so close and some people on either side may have changed their minds or reconsidered their decision, as the true meaning of Brexit has become clear, we need a clear people’s vote, to either ratify or reject the change. Preferably with a two-thirds majority. To protect our democracy.
Islington Green Party