Okay so now that I’ve used the phrase ‘people’s vote’ in the title let’s dispel that myth. This is not a “people’s vote on the final deal” as is often peddled on TV and by the people campaigning for it. However, they have been rather coy with what they would like to see on the ballot. When pressed they can’t provide a straight answer, but nearly all would like to see an option to remain in the EU. So, the ballot would look like Leave under the deal/no deal or Remain a member of the EU. Leave or Remain. We have had that vote before. This is a second referendum on EU membership. The people pushing for this vote know that a second referendum is a toxic idea to many. Simple solution: don’t call it a second referendum. They’re not even saying it’s a vote on EU membership. This is (allegedly) a vote on the final deal. The YUSU activities officer Finn Judge is asking for a mandate to spend YUSU money to bankroll the second referendum campaign. A second referendum is itself a bad idea. However, using students’ funds to bankroll a partisan political campaign would only serve to alienate a large number of students who respect the 2016 vote and those who voted to leave the EU originally. YUSU should remain neutral and not alienate these students. They should carry on representing all students and not get involved in partisan political campaigning.
Now let us hypothesise that with the full might of YUSU on their side the Remain campaigners win and the government caves in, we’re having a second referendum. No guarantee that Remain would win, but how do you think people will react? During the referendum, I encountered many people who had been completely alien to politics all their life. People in their 40’s who had never voted, voting for the first time. From what I saw, this was mainly people voting Leave. Now we are telling these people that their vote didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because they got it wrong. This would be enough to turn anyone off from democracy.
Anyone with a basic knowledge of economics knows that business hates uncertainty. This is what has been causing problems in our economy for the past two years, uncertainty. With a second referendum, we open the country to at minimum another six months of uncertainty while the legislation for a referendum goes through parliament and then we have the campaign. This is not even considering the result of this second referendum.
Then we have the ugly side of British politics, the far-right. Much to my disdain the far-right did support Leave during the referendum. One of their number assassinated a Labour MP. This led to the UK’s first far-right group to be branded as a terrorist organisation. The far-right never has any hope electorally. Hence, why you occasionally see twenty blokes with England flags in a town centre surrounded by police and about 200 counter-protesters. They protest because voting doesn’t work for them. Perhaps given that voting doesn’t work for many now because they got it wrong, we would see an increase in far-right numbers? Perhaps the far-right would turn to other means to further their ends?
This doesn’t mean to say the far-right don’t vote. It’s just that far-right parties don’t win. Recently we have seen a newly energised UKIP. While we haven’t been looking, their leader, Gerard Batten, has been dragging his party through the gutter of British politics. Cosying up with Tommy Robinson and the ‘Football Lads Alliance’. In the event of a second referendum, UKIP support will skyrocket. We saw a spike after the Chequers plan was announced and the resignation of David Davis and Boris Johnson. A second referendum will lead to a far-right enthused UKIP gaining huge support electorally. I already know of people going back to UKIP because of the ‘Chequers betrayal’ as they call it.
And finally, what would happen if we do have a second referendum and Remain win? That’s one-all, shall we go for the best of three? Or best of five? This would be a neverendum. Given that we would have just set a precedent for another vote because polling (that got it wrong the first time around) suggests people have changed their mind, what if two years down the line polling suggests people want Brexit again? Surely all these ‘People’s Vote’ campaigners that are saying another referendum is “for the good of democracy” wouldn’t now just tell one side to shut up because they lost? Given the precedent, I fail to see how you could give one half of the country another vote because of polling then tell the other half no. I would also hypothesise that if Remain had won in 2016 by 4%, we would not be seeing YUSU calling for a second referendum.
This is a futile exercise that will harm democracy, not help it. It would destroy people’s trust in our democratic system and completely alienate people from mainstream politics. Why on earth Finn Judge thinks that YUSU should be funding a second referendum campaign is beyond me. Many students voted to Remain, some voted to Leave, others did not vote at all. YUSU should be representative to all students, not just the ones that fit a certain political opinion. YUSU should remain formally neutral and not fund political campaigns that would alienate a good number of students who voted Leave or respect democracy. This would not be representing all students, only those who voted Remain. We have seen what effect that partisan political campaigning has done to the NUS. They pursued a political agenda that matched their leadership. Now, most students do not interact with the NUS save for buying a Totum card. YUSU should not be wasting money on a futile campaign that would alienate millions and unleash the dark forces in the gutter of British politics. I do not want to be fighting another referendum; I want to get on with my degree. YUSU should be helping me with that, not spending our money to pursue a divisive political agenda.