So the result of the referendum is in and in my opinion, it is the wrong result. The Leave campaign drilled into an already overwhelmed public the message that Great Britain could take back control from Europe. This was not only unfair, it was flat out wrong.
There’s a scene in Jurassic Park where Ellie Satler and John Hammond are talking about control. He’s talking about what to do when they get back control of the park. She tells him that they never had control, so they couldn’t take it back. Well, the spin that the Leave campaign put out was exactly that, but in reverse. We had control. We didn’t need to take it back.
But that’s not the issue any more. The issue now is how to come back from the mess they have created. The Leavers have no plan, and both Labour and the Conservatives are falling apart. No such scenes of panic with the LibDems, because there was no Leave/Remain divide.
The following is the email sent out by Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, to party members on the morning after the referendum:
I am devastated and I am angry. Today we wake to a deeply divided country. Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain has won this vote, but it is not a vision I share.
Young people voted to remain by a considerable margin, but were out voted. They had a clear ambition for their future, yet it has been taken from them.
Even though the result was close, there is no doubt that the majority of British people want us to leave.
We should be proud of our positive, principled, and patriotic campaign for the UK to Remain at the heart of Europe.
Our fight for an open, optimistic, liberal, diverse and tolerant Britain is needed now more than ever.
Together we can still make the case for Britain’s future with Europe, as millions of people voted for it. Together we cannot afford to let that vision to die.
The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand and fight for a better kind of Britain than the one painted by the Leave campaign – tolerant, openhearted, optimistic, and outward looking.
Later today, I will deliver a speech on the outcome of this referendum, what it means for our country and how the Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for a liberal and united Britain.
The reason I know this is what he wrote is that I am a member of the LibDems. I have been since last May when Britain woke up on Friday morning to a government it didn’t vote for. I have been a supporter of the LibDems for a lot longer, but that was when I knew I wanted to become a member. I wanted be a part of the only party committed to making a real difference. Since the results of the referendum on Friday morning, thousands of Brits have realised the same thing.
Tim Farron has committed the party to be the voice of the 48% who voted to remain. He has committed the party to building a better Britain, one that we can all be proud of. Not only am I proud to stand with him on this, I have a few ideas about where to start.
How to build a better Great Britain
Lower the voting age to 16
In the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, 16 and 17 year olds had the chance to vote. An estimated 75% did so, and of them around 71% voted to become an independent nation.
There are around 1.5m 16-17 year olds in the Great Britain, and they did not have a voice in the EU referendum. I for one would like to know why. The young of this country had more to lose from a Leave vote, and too many of them had no way to say anything about it. They have seen their future put into chaos by the generation who had it all.
Had we seen these sorts of numbers in the EU referendum, that might have been an extra 800,000 votes to remain. There’s no way to say for certain that either that number of 16-17 year-olds would have voted. There’s no way to say that they would have voted remain either. The point is that there are a lot of teens in the country now who feel let down by the older generations. They need their voices heard.
Introduce online voting
Only 72.2% of registered voters actually cast a vote in the referendum. There were many stories shared on social media of voters not being able to make it to their polling station. These are not people who didn’t bother, they are people who tried their hardest and failed. One example is Henry Fraser:
— Henry Fraser (@henryfraser0) 23 June 2016
He found himself stuck behind a mess of red tape, unable to apply for a proxy vote. Getting a last minute appointment with your doctor is nigh impossible these days. Getting an appointment so your doctor can sign a form to apply for a proxy vote? No such luck.
I don’t know how Mr Fraser would have voted, nor do I care. As I said, the past is the past and it’s time to look forward. The point is, if online voting were possible, this eventuality would not have arisen.
- An iPad (or alternative) in every polling station connected to a central database.
- An online “virtual polling station” connected to the same database.
- Each registered voter gets a unique voter ID (as now) which they use to log in, online or at a polling station.
- They also receive a PIN, sent separate to their voter ID, to prove they are who they say they are.
- A voter’s ID is only usable once, and gets flagged in the database if used already.
- Voters can now vote from wherever they are, even on the toilet if they so wish.
- Voter numbers go up, thus confidence in the system goes up.
- Nobody has to complain that circumstances stopped them from voting. Nobody can complain that poor turnout skewed the results.
There you go – problem solved.
Proportional representation for all elections
This referendum would not have happened if we used a fairer system of voting. The voting reform referendum was unfair because it was “first past the post” or “alternative vote”. Proportional representation wasn’t offered as an alternative, presumably because the Tories would have lost their edge.
In 2015, the Conservatives “won” the election with 50.8% of seats, but only 37% of the votes. The Liberal Democrats won only 1.2% of seats for 7.9% of the votes. I can’t believe I’m actually being generous to UKIP here, but the won 0.15% of seats for their 12.6% of the votes.
I hate being generous to such a party like UKIP, but they should have won more seats. Almost 4m people voted for their candidates, which under PR would get them 82 seats instead of one. LibDem’s 2.4m votes would win 51 seats instead of eight. The Tories would still have won the most seats (242 PR, 331 FPTP), but with a much smaller margin over Labour (199 PR, 232 FPTP). The SNP would have lost out with 31 seats (56 FPTP), but the Greens would have won 21 seats (1 FPTP).
Only proportional representation gives a fair chance to every party, even the ones we would rather have no place in politics. The only time that “first past the post” is fair is in a two horse race, such as in US elections or the EU referendum. General elections in the UK are not a two horse race.
Let’s look at those numbers again, just for kicks and see where else the number don’t add up:
- EU Ref: 17,410,742 votes for leave out of an electorate of 46,501,241 = 37.4% (72.2% turnout)
- 2015 GE: 11,334,576 votes for Conservatives out of an electorate of 46,420,413 = 24.4% (66.1% turnout)
Democracy in action, huh?
Increase public engagement in politics
In a Lord Ashcroft poll, 70% of Leave voters in the referendum said they did not think that leaving the EU would make a difference. I put that in bold because I think it’s important. 11% of all voters also said they pay little to no attention to politics. Extrapolated, that works out at about 3.7m voters. They made their decisions based on gut instinct and it was not an informed decision. Remain voters knew what happened overnight on Thursday was a strong possibility, that’s why we voted Remain. All voters should have a clear understanding of what they are voting for before they enter the polling station.
Turnout at the 2015 general election was only 66.4%. As I have already shown, we got a government voted for by only a quarter of the population. Voters don’t trust the system, which makes the probability of protest votes much higher. It’s likely that the votes for Leave would have been lower if we had a government we actually voted for. That said, if we got a government we actually voted for, the referendum wouldn’t have happened. Isn’t hindsight fun?
So what’s the best way to get people more engaged in politics? Schools. Get children learning more about politics in school, beyond the usual student council system. If children have a healthy interest in politics, they will talk about it at home. Parents will then have more of a reason to have political discussions at home.
And of course, young people will have more of an interest in politics if they know they’re allowed to have a voice. A lower voting age and political discussion in school will both increase youth engagement. I’m not saying politics should take precedence over core subjects, but it should be on the curriculum.
Why focus on youth engagement?
% who got through our final #EUref poll turnout filter by age group:
— Sky Data (@SkyData) 25 June 2016
Projected data from Sky shows a turnout of 36% of voters aged 18-24, and 58% of voters aged 25-34. My generation and the next are losing our voice, and it is only going to get worse if the trend isn’t reversed. I don’t want my children thinking it’s OK not to have a political opinion. I want them to grow up having discussions about how things could improve. I want them to have the courage to disagree with me on the tough issues.
Case in point: I’m Anglican, born and raised, but I will not make that decision for my children. I believe that it is their right to choose whether they follow a religion or not. Their father is an atheist, and he would prefer they were atheists too. I don’t mind if they’re Anglican, atheist, or even Pastafarian as long as they make that decision themselves.
The same goes for politics. I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, but that is my choice, for me alone. It is not my choice for them. If they choose to align with Labour, which is almost certain when living in Rotherham, that’s fine. I have family up north who are Labour councillors, so Labour is in their blood. If they want to join the Conservatives, I’ll support that decision. If they join a party like UKIP… I wouldn’t like it, but as long as it was for the right reasons, I would accept it.
That’s how I’d start
Thanks for reading. If you’ve read this far I thank you because you didn’t have to. I’m not a politician so what I say doesn’t really count. I’d love it if it did, but if you’re on the outside you’re just another whiner, which is exactly why my generation are so far behind older generations when it comes to political interest.
Would I like to have a more direct role in politics? Of course I would. I would love it if Tim Farron read this, got in touch and said “Bec, come and sort out the country with me, you’ve got some interesting ideas.” I really can’t see that happening though. And even if it did, it’d be like:
And yes, I get that telling someone you’re likely to throw up on them probably isn’t the best way to make a good impression. I don’t do well with public speaking, despite being vocal with my opinions.
What do I care about?
I’ll fight for anything I’m passionate about though, and I can get crazy passionate about things:
- The right to favour a religion or political party on your own recognisance, I have already covered.
- The right to love who you want without having to worry about discrimination – my own sexual preference having no bearing.
- Being able to like the music you like just because you like it, or wear the sort of clothes you want because you feel comfortable.
- The right to say, “You know what? I thought Breaking Bad was rubbish,” or “I read extracts of Fifty Shades of Grey for research purposes and it made me physically sick.”
And from a more political standpoint:
- HS2 is just wrong. HS3 doubly so. And that’s coming from a Northerner who the government would have you believe will benefit from both. Is it really worth putting the North through severe financial hardship, because they are among the hardest hit by austerity measures, for the sake of shaving a few minutes off a journey from London to Birmingham?
- We all know that in times of national financial difficulty there is a need to make cuts, but doing so at the expense of the country’s most vulnerable is not the answer.
- London is important to the country, but it is not the whole country. Making policies that benefit only those in the South East only serves to alienate northerners instead of engaging them.
- Blanket statements like “all Leave voters are racists,” or “all Remain voters are elitist snobs,” or “immigrants are all workshy scroungers” are untrue and unfair, and it doesn’t achieve anything but more division.
That’s it, I’m really done now.