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In view of the Brexit chaos, do you think referendums are a good idea?

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This is a faulty question. It asks for a general statement on referendums based on a single example. To make a generalization using a single example is a logical fallacy. Condemning all referendums on the basis of one failure is dishonest, anti-democratic and plain stupid.

Absolutely, Brexit was a bad choice. Rather than discuss referendums in general discuss what went wrong. You will find much of the answer in right-wing scare mongering.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Good idea right now. Mass immigration and free trade are a cases in point. All the mainstream parties in the West are for those very important policies, so if you're a member of the silent majority who disagree you have no choice other than to go the populist fringe, or just put up with it. Those options create an undercurrent of widespread resentment that divides our societies.

History teaches us that really bad things happen when democracy is routinely undermined by the elites and the wealthy.

2 ( +10 / -8 )


Good post. To take the example of the UK, one motivating factor for some who voted Brexit was a simple middle finger to the parties which had ignored the views of many for too long.

Referendums can be dangerous things for parties carefully calculating how they can appeal to certain voters in key swing seats as the rest of the country can tell you what they really think.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

You'd do just as well to ask the question, "In view of the Brexit chaos, do you think parliaments that can override the democratic will of the people are a good idea?"

The Brexit chaos would be considerably less if the elites in Parliament were not doing everything they could to undermine the referendum and nullify its outcome. "Oh, look, we tried, but Brussels won't agree" is a weak excuse for not following the guidance of the referendum, but that's the line May and her supporters are trying to toe. Rejecting Brexit outright would alienate Conservative voters and could lead to UKIP supplanting the Conservative Party in British politics. Serving up Brexit bills that are unpalatable either to Brussels or else to Conservative MPs is the coward's path. "Oops, we tried, but it's impossible. Maybe we'll just have to stay in the EU" is May's desired outcome. But that's not what the referendum mandated.

So is the real source of the chaos the referendum, or is it the parliament that refuses to carry out the referendum? Or is the deeper source of chaos a Brussels government that attempts to rule Europe by denying anyone a democratic voice?

0 ( +7 / -7 )

in order to decide you need to understand.

Present them with ALL the data, good and bad and THEN let them decide.

British people didn't understand - they didn't have all the data. The referendum was therefore meaningless.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Referendums are a bad idea, They take a complex issue and boil it down to a yes or no question.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Referenda are or at least should be a valuable indicative element for democratic decision making.

Where membership of the EEC/EU is concerned a Referendum was called in 1975 produced a resounding yes vote to remain.

Archive: how the Guardian reported the 1975 EEC referendum


However the 23rd June 2016 referendum, on whether the UK should remain an EU member has reversed the 1975 result.

Importantly, an perhaps tellingly, the UK or any member state cannot be half in, half out.

An impossible political fact for the UK parliamentary establishment to live with.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When the fate of a nation is decided on by a 52% to 48% split it is too close in my opinion. That is not a decisive win.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Better referendums than banksters making the decisions.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Difficult question. Referenda seem to accentuate the worst flaws within democracy itself. Half of the electorate has below average intelligence and even the most well educated in society don't have the knowledge to make well informed decisions about every complex issue. This leads people to be easily manipulated by the media and other well financed political interests. Regular voters are also even more focused on the short term than politicians.

Governing by referendum might work in small communities with high social trust, but in large countries this would probably be quite destructive. Why would the majority vote for any taxes on themselves or welfare spending on the poor, or the education of other people's children, pensions, or even a military? Funding these things is not in the immediate financial self-interest of most individuals, yet it does benefit society over the long term across generations. Democracy has never really had a response to this problem other than to move away from true direct democracy (ie referenda) to representative democracy.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Hitler himself was a big fan of referendums. That shoud tell you all you need to know about how useful they are and to whom they're useful.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

BertieWoosterFeb. 4  06:49 pm JST

British people didn't understand - they didn't have all the data. The referendum was therefore meaningless.

It's less a case of "not having the data." The Leave campaign lied through its teeth and it was demonstrated by the Remain campaign they were doing so. Racism factored heavily as well.

Referendums have there place and are used extensively in the U.S. when state legislatures feel disinclined to take up contentious issues, even though that's why they are elected.

Brexit, however, was different as it was an advisory vote "winning" on perhaps more disinformation, also involving the Russians, than did the Trump campaign. Cameron, rather than resigning as if he'd "failed," should have said "Thank you. Parliament will get back to you in six-months or so after reviewing the options and potential outcomes of leaving the EU." He and May were both historically disposed to the EU as was, surprisingly, Margaret Thatcher. It was idiots like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and, most recently, the Dickensian Jacob Rees-Mogg., who will make a fortune for his EU based hedge fund when the pound collapses, who are the villains here.

The gammon majorities in the North, the Midlands and Wales are the people who will suffer most from Brexit, though they were the biggest supporters of the Leave campaign. It seems that, as with the GOP base in the U.S., there is no making them understand that the Tories have never had their best interests in mind. It's as if these people have forgotten how things were before both World Wars. Class distinctions certainly aren't what they were prior to WWII, but the inability to draw a line from Brexit and the financial gains to be made by a number or Tories is astonishing.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


Superb analysis to start the day with....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Depends entirely on the issue and the handling of the referendum. The Brexit vote was a mess because the populace was either uninformed or misinformed, which means that the results don't, in my opinion, reflect the informed will of the people. Add to that accusations of one side or another breaking laws governing referenda and you have a real shambles. An information campaign that lays out unbiased and accurate information is essential.

In addition to this, I don't think it's wise to commit civil rights to a referendum. Looking back at the Australian plebiscite on marriage equality, it basically gave a platform to people who wanted to spread hateful and discriminatory rhetoric against gay people, and it also gave rise to the other side to cannibalise its own supporters through, for example, transphobic attacks. Civil rights should be a given, not something up to the court of popular opinion.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


Vox populi vox dei.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Of course the people should have not just a say but control of their destinies. Governments serve the people, not the other way around.

History teaches us that really bad things happen when democracy is routinely undermined by the elites and the wealthy.

As we're seeing now in the US and other countries where the elite and the oligarchs hold sway.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The Brits were not informed when we joined the Common Market. No-one explained it, except that everyone said it would be good for business.

The Brits were not informed before the referendum, but many spent days and weeks agonizing over the pros and cons. They were not informed because no-one really knew.

The Brits are not informed today either. Most are simply depressed and would just like to get this whole thing over, one way or another. No-one knows what will happen after Brexit, despite fevered imagination by all and sundry.

As someone mentioned above, when a referendum is very close, its value is seriously weakened.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Hitler himself was a big fan of referendums. That shoud tell you all you need to know about how useful they are and to whom they're useful.

He was elected using democracy. Is democracy bad?

Hitler was a vegetarian....

Hitler liked animals....

Sorry, not a valid argument.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The premise that Brexit is the barometre of how all referendums are gauged is incorrect. The premise of referendums in general if people have been given honest information then they're great. If politicians are using people's ignorance against them then not so much

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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