I hate referendums

Ultimately, the British people voted for a departure but not for a destination, which is why what really matters is allowing them to vote again on the final deal, giving them the chance to say no to an irresponsible hard Brexit that risks our economy and our jobs.

—Tim Farron, then leader of the Liberal Democrats, in 2016


I’m a strong remainer, and I’m strongly against the idea of another referendum. It’s not because I’m afraid we’ll lose again. It’s because I don’t believe referendums should have a place in a representative democracy.

In a representative democracy, we elect the leaders. They take decisions. If we don’t like the decisions, we elect different leaders next time.

Decisions are complex. Even a simple yes/no decision, like in the Brexit referendum, has underneath it many complex decisions required about the consequences of each of those paths (yes and no).

When leaders make the decision, they are required to delve into the depth of those consequences. They have armies of civil servants to help guide them with those decisions.

When a referendum decides a decision, it leaves the details open to interpretation. And, as in this case, bickering, indecision, and turmoil. The decisions in a referendum are made on emotion, not on deduction. They are guided by the loudest headlines, not by the deepest analysis. They are influenced by the angriest voices, not the coolest heads.

Also, referendums take away from our political leaders the one job they’re elected to do – make decisions which in their view are the best for the country (or at least the bit of the country that voted for them).

Referendums handicap our leaders – making them (second) guess the details of a simplistic decision that the public made.

It breaks the basic premise of a represntative democracy. If our leader didn’t make the biggest decisions of the term (we did), what do I judge them on when the time to vote comes again?

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