Yesterday afternoon, I was somewhat nervous to receive notification that Tim Farron was going to make a “major speech”. Straight after an election, when you are still suffering from advanced post-election bone tiredness, is no time to be suddenly deciding to make a “major speech”.
But it was a good speech and I applaud Tim’s display of righteous anger on behalf of the young and those who are boiling with rage – those who are now shouting: “we are better than this”.
Also yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the party calling the referendum campaign “unbearable and unacceptable”.
Now hold on a minute.
Can we have a little more reverence for the decision of the British people? We had a very long referendum campaign with an extremely thorough thrashing out of every conceivable angle of debate. It was on the telly, radio and social media at breakfast, lunch and supper time for months. Everybody had a chance to have their say. The turnout was massive. The result was clear. We are a union – the United Kingdom – so the majority prevails. End of. The people have spoken. Trust the people.
We have years of wrangling ahead of us, as we shape our post-EU future. But at least we can be assured that people have seen a democratic decision taking place. The will of people has clearly prevailed. So it is reasonable to expect people getting behind that decision to make it work.
And to say there is “wiggle room” within the referendum decision is the under-statement of the century. I don’t think the associate membership being mooted is viable because the referendum said “no” to ‘membership’. But membership of the EEA and/or EFTA is up for grabs. There was no clarity in the plebiscite for ruling out continued membership of the single market. (The Norway solution was never clearly ruled out by the leave campaigns – indeed many leave speakers cited it as a shining example). So, based on a future decision of our parliament, it is up for grabs. We can salvage quite a lot from this decision, once the dust and rubble has settled.
While acknowledging that the people have spoken, one adds that what they have said, beyond the simple “no” to the question on the ballot paper, is not clear. If you prick up your ears to hear what they said, all you will hear is gobbledegook or “gkabdkdithekenidbdunfkfnrjn”.
It is up to parliament to make sense of the decision and move it forward in a reasonable way. And that is where we can influence a reasonable and progressive solution for the future. I believe we can make it a solution which all those young people, who voted “remain” in their droves yesterday, can be proud of.