Referenda, democracy and reality

Yes, I know, this is meant to be a science blog, but it’s my blog so I’ll wander off topic now and again if I want to. This blog is not a democracy after all. I'm giving a personal view many may not share but that's because we can all have our opinions in a democracy - which this blog is not.

The UK is going to the polls in just over a week's time in a referendum on whether or not to stay in the European Union.  I will vote to stay in the EU but I get the distinct feeling that in reality I am just putting a tick in a box that will determine the manner of my own execution. When the chips are down, my real feeling is that holding this referendum in the first place was a huge mistake.

General Elections offer at least some choice and the electorate have some vision of what they will get afterwards, depending upon which political party wins. Moreover, the choice has a 5-year expiry date.

The EU referendum however, is black or white, In or Out. The consequences of the decision are very foggy and it is for good, done, dusted, no takesies backsies. This referendum gives the appearance of the ultimate tool of democracy, but that is a deception. It is, instead a blunt instrument. It’s like trying to decide which hammer to use to fix an intricate watch.

Referenda are good for some things - like the one in 2011 on an alternative voting system perhaps, but this one on the EU all started with a line in the Conservative manifesto, which leads me to think it’s more about an attempt to sort out the Tory party than it is for the good of the country.  If we believe the Prime Minister, David Cameron, that the consequences of Brexit will be so dire, then why did he risk the country's future on it? Why did he not lead, as he is meant to, and bang a few heads together in his party to ensure that we remained? 

If you believe that the Government truly did this for the will of the people, then why only a referendum on the EU? Why not a referendum, for example, on whether the UK should continue to have nuclear weapons? After all this is an extremely important issue. It's not just about the economy or immigration it could be about potential armageddon. In addition, the cost of the UK's independent nuclear deterrent could cost many year’s worth of EU spending. Or perhaps a referendum on something a little more mundane such as whether the seat of Government should be moved to, say, Birmingham, instead of spending an estimated £5.7 Billion on repairing the London buildings? 

Referenda on these issues however, are most unlikely because the Government is happy to take those decisions for itself. It was democratically elected and so it has every right. So why did it decide it was unable to do the same on the UK's membership to the EU?  The fact is that the Tories have been squabbling amongst themselves on this for decades and now they have finally passed the buck to the electorate in the disguise of democracy. The spectacle of what the media have been calling blue-on-blue action has just highlighted the underlying animosity between the pro- and anti-EU fractions within the Tory party which has added meat to the dog's dinner of the whole affair.

I believe that this referendum could be the most calamitous political decision for a generation.. I hope we never see the likes of it again.