On Friday when the financial markets were in turmoil, the PM had announced that he was to resign, and a palace coup was being orchestrated against the Leader of the Opposition, I was in Ringwood unveiling a plaque at a residential care home in recognition of the its outstanding quality of care. The residents of that home are unaffected by these great national dramas: Of much greater importance to them are small acts of kindness, the gentleness with which they are treated, the respect and dignity afforded to them. Actually, if you think about it, the same is true for us all.
After the referendum I would have thought that people would have had quite enough of it. As I write however, apparently two and a half million citizens have signed a petition demanding that it be repeated. Rather more inconveniently they have been filling my email inbox with this demand. One fellow even complained to me that he only voted ‘Leave’ because he expected ‘Remain’ to win. Well, after years of tramping doorsteps and feeling the full range of voter caprice, I’ve heard any number of extra-ordinary explanations for reaching a decision on how to vote, but voting for A because you expect B to win, has got to be the daftest.
Others complain that the margin of victory was too narrow and that such a momentous decision needed a more decisive mandate. It is a fair point, but you can’t change the rules after the decision has been made. It would indeed have been possible to have written such conditions into the referendum legislation beforehand but it is too late now. I would have cautioned against such provisions, after all, we tried it once before: In the first Scotland devolution referendum in 1979 the legislation required that, for an Edinburgh parliament to be implemented, the ‘yes’ campaign had not only to win, but also to secure a ‘Yes’ vote equal to not less than 40% of the registered voters on the electoral roll. Well they won, but they failed to make the 40% rule, so they didn’t get their parliament, and I remember the deep sense of unfairness and bitterness ae a consequence. The people have voted, and however we may, or may not like the result, it is done. As the Rubaiyat says “ the moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel but half a Line, nor all your tears wash out one word of it.”