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The People’s Vote is now more imperative than ever

Image: Isabelle Kennedy
Image: Isabelle Kennedy, The People’s Vote March, London 23rd March 2019

Yesterday, over one million people from across the country, marched in London to campaign for a People’s Vote on the final outcome of Brexit. Not all of us could make it to London, I could not be there in person, but I fully endorse the efforts of everyone that marched. For it was not only a campaign for a public final say on Brexit, but a campaign for the future of democracy.

Democracy is a, “ a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting”. On the surface, the Brexit referendum of 2016 appears to be a democratic process. Why then, three years on, are people calling for a People’s Vote and a final say on the Brexit outcome?

Lets first get a few things straight. The referendum of June 2016 was not democratic. The Leave campaign ran a campaign of lies – remember the Brexit bus? Most prominently, they claimed when Britain left the EU, £100 million a week would be given to the NHS. Additionally, the Leave campaign claimed the UK would have an extra £350 million a week once exiting the EU to spend on affairs at home. Both were fundamental lies. We weren’t told this at the time of voting, alongside a bunch of other false claims. It was a campaign fueled by self serving political intent, built on lies to desperately gain support – it was far from democratic.

The domination of Brexit filling the political agenda for nearly three years has neglected everything else the Tories had a responsibility to address. This has resulted in increasing inequality and homelessness across the country, for three years these problems have only escalated and this is not even the end of the process for leaving, it’s just the beginning. If we leave, by that time, the country will be in a state near beyond repair and it is all down to the selfishness of Tory elites but most significantly, due to the arrogance of former Prime Minister, David Cameron. Brexit has dominated and allowed everything else to falter. It was primarily an elite prophecy motivated by self interest, which has caused the lives of so many to already worsen.

Furthermore, to call the result of 2016 democratic, it would have to have been a complete consensus of the population through compulsory voting. 51.9% of the electorate that voted, voted for Leave, whereas 48.1% of the electorate voted Remain. Despite Theresa May claiming we must ensure the needs of “the people” be met with ardently pursing Britain’s exit, the “peoples” needs negates the 48.1% who did not support this agenda. Their concerns have been completely neglected. With Brexit shambles taking over, surely there is now a place to listen to that 48.1% and more. 46.5 million voters were registered on 26th June 2016, however, only 72.2% of these voted. It was never a democratic outcome, as it was never fully encompassing of the entire electorate. Those who weren’t eligible to vote in 2016 have not once had a say and it will be their lives that will take the brunt of Brexit.

Where do we even begin with the foul nature of the Leave campaign? Leave.eu ran an illegal campaign, with using a £50,000 donation from Jim Mellon, a non-EU citizen, unable to vote in the referendum. Additionally you could also look at the role of Arron Banks who was the main funder of Nigel Farage’s Leave EU campaign. Banks had a close connection with the Russian ambassador during the referendum and was said to have met a couple of times. Banks gave close to £12m to the Leave campaign. Undoubtedly, there is so much more we are yet to discover about this campaign. If you’re looking for something undemocratic in Brexit, don’t look to the People’s Vote, but the smear campaign led by Britain’s right-wing politicians and billionaire donors.

As we have seen, the result of 2016 was not democratic and neither is the current deal, as it does not have the consent of the entirety of the electorate, neither those who have since turned of voting age, or those that did not turn out to vote in 2016.

The People’s Vote campaign is not undemocratic, it is not a danger to democracy as some politicians and commentators have idiotically claimed. The People’s Vote wants to ensure the people of Britain get a final say on the outcome of Brexit, it excludes whether people voted Leave or Remain, that is almost significant at this point.

Democracy should be asking the people what they want and consider to be the best outcome. People underestimate what a significant impact this is going to have on the future of Britain, it will not just be a political stance, or something to put on paper, but it will have real ramifications for every individual living and working in this country, for the long term. The future will be lived by those who did not come of age in time for the initial vote, if anything we should give them a chance to have a say.

Democracy can only work if it listens to the citizens needs. Democracy is not a simple yes or no at any required time. It changes in tune with the climate around us. Democracy allows for fickle minds. To revert is not undemocratic – it is fundamentally human. To those who claim a second referendum will cause disunity, wake up, it is already here, the damage has already been done. To those who claim the result will be the same, who cares? At least then we would know it was definitive.

The political establishment in Britain needs to break out of its pursuit of pride, take some responsibility and listen to the people. It is not their Brexit, it is not their political careers and legacy that are important, it is the needs of the people. With the UK and Government Petition to Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU reaching near to 5 million signatures (correct at the time of writing), the voices of the people need to be listened to if we are to truly claim we live in a democracy and the Brexit deal we may end up securing, is truly democratic.

People may a grimace at the People’s Vote, but once directed to the images of the march yesterday, and its attendance by over one million people, they will soon wake up and realise this is an option desired by more than the minority. Attendance was not just by frustrated members of the public, but by politicians like David Lammy, Nicola Sturgeon, Tom Watson and Vince Cable. Not only being a campaign for a People’s say, this was also a cry from fellow politicians of this country that the Tory party is in disarray, with its leaders clutching at straws for a deal that will shatter this country to pieces if it ever passes. The pursuit of a People’s Vote would enable Britain to extend chances of regaining fundamental democracy.