Referendum RIP

So, it’s all over for the Lisbon referendum. As widely predicted, David Cameron baulked at the idea of holding a referendum that would be essentially meaningless. As I said in my post yesterday, at least it shows that he has some understanding of the way the world works.

Of course, the reaction of some sections of the right has also, as widely predicted, been somewhat cross, to put it mildly. The irrepressible Daniel Hannan MEP has thrown his toys out of the Tory pram in order to campaign for a referendum and more, as he puts it, ‘direct democracy’.

Personally, I find the prospect of not having referendums a great comfort. It is one of the more regrettable novelties of the past generation that referendums, those erstwhile playthings of despots and dictators, should have wheedled their way into the European body politic. Let’s face it: a referendum is a tool used by politicians to get out of political scrapes. All this talk of ‘giving the people their say’ is just a load of sanctimonious guff, and those who are lured by the siren call of referendums should be very careful for what they wish for. Those who see a referendum as their salvation from the menace of the EU have short historical memories: 1975 and all that (and that before February 1975 there was an almost 10 per cent lead in the opinion polls for withdrawal).

Politics is complex: it’s why we have politicians. To reduce huge questions of national importance to simple ‘yes-no’ answers is not just asinine, it’s positively scary.


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