Respect the result? Balls to that


"I don't want to be part of an organisation whose flag looks like a bumhole" - Michael Gove

A common refrain we've been hearing a lot over the past few days, from both sides of the debate, is this: "the British people have spoken, and their decision must be respected". And to that I have only one response: bollocks.

Let's start with the obvious. You cannot ask someone to make a decision based almost entirely on misinformation. But this is exactly what the leave campaign did, desperately shooing away anything remotely resembling a fact with a big broom. Egg-headed 'experts', with their thick-rimmed glasses and pocket calculators, were derided. "Trust your gut!" voters were implored. But as anyone who has eaten an egg sandwich from a motorway service station knows, the gut is a duplicitous organ, and it is not to be trusted.

Logic and reason were never going to hold back the charge of the Brexit brigade. But an opinion formed with no regard to available facts is not an opinion which can claim any legitimacy. We wouldn't respect the opinion of a man who fancied jumping off a building because he was tired of hearing so-called experts harping on about 'gravity' and Nigel Farage told him there's probably a net or something at the bottom to catch him anyway. If that man decided to drag us along with him in his little experiment, our objections would be slightly more forthcoming. So why is this any different?

The main counter argument is as inevitable as it is disingenuous. It doesn't matter WHY people voted to leave, say the small proportion of Brexiteers who are able to debate to a slightly higher standard than waving an England flag and kicking a mosque. The fact is a majority did, so that's that, case closed.

Democracy would certainly be simpler if everything was decided based on the political equivalent of a coin toss. But it would also be fucking terrifying. We'd probably still have capital punishment, for starters, and God knows what other progressive advancements we've made in the past fifty years would be swamped by a wave of retrograde prejudice. A majority vote is a good way for a group of children to choose which Toy Story film to watch - more complicated decisions generally call for a bit more nuance.

And there's a bigger problem here. Unlike in any other electoral decision we've ever been asked to make, we haven't actually voted FOR anything. We have voted against the EU, sure - but no one can tell us what that means in practical terms. It's a vote for a massive bloody question mark and we don't even know who's going to come up with the answer. If a politician stood on a platform of "I'm going to do some things, but I'm not quite sure what", they would not get many votes. This result is the opposite of democratic. It's a blank cheque handed to a bunch of charlatans.

And what charlatans they are. Their U-turns came at speeds which would impress Hollywood stunt drivers. We never said we'd lower immigration, Daniel Hannan MEP told an exasperated Evan Davis. What about the 350m a week for the NHS? Not fucking likely, declared IDS to Andrew Marr this morning. Vote Leave was only ever an ephemeral vessel, destined to drift apart as soon as the result came in. And as their ship gets sucked towards the maelstrom, they are desperate to chuck their rhetorical jetsam overboard, along with each other. None of them can be held to account.

Look at Boris Johnson on Friday morning. His was not the face of a man flushed with victory. Instead, it bore the grim expression of someone facing the possibility of climbing into a bed which its previous occupant had roundly shat in. Cameron may have set up the ultimate Bullingdon Club dare for his old pal, but even if Boris hits the eject button and sends his country flying straight up towards the spinning blades, he has no plan for the aftermath. Are we really to respect the outcome of this referendum when not even its loudest proponents truly wanted it?

"Typical lefty liberal Londoner," scoffs the aforementioned literate Brexiteer reading this blog. "You wouldn't be saying this if your side had won. And your web design skills are terrible". They are right, of course, on all counts. I wouldn't be complaining about the narrow result or the deceitful campaigning if remain had won. But that's because remain was the correct answer, and leave is the wrong answer.

We have been poisoned by the fallacy that all ideas have equal legitimacy, that every argument is automatically deserving of an equally weighted counter-argument. It's not true. The remain side was overwhelmingly supported by hard facts and solid, progressive ideals. The best leave could muster was demagoguery with occasional excursions into outright racism. These outcomes were not "equal but different". One was objectively better than the other, and that will only become more apparent as this whole mess continues to unravel.

There is no knowing what will happen in the coming weeks and months. The Article 50 doomsday button may never be pushed. But even if it's not, the damage has been done. The lie we liberals in our London bubble told ourselves - that England is a generally outward-looking, progressive country with a few bad eggs - has been viciously exposed. But I cannot accept the referendum result, because that is accepting that this new truth is inevitable. It doesn't have to be.

Permalink || Posted 26/6/2016 by Pete


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