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It seems to me that it would be totally unreasonable – and, in fact, totally undemocratic for there not to be a 2nd ballot. There can surely be no disagreement that though the 1st Brexit referendum called for a vote to leave the EU in principle, it did not validate an exit under any terms.

Since June 2016 it has become crystal clear, putting aside the issue of government competence (surely that should be ‘incompetence’ – Ed), that the matter of negotiating an actual disengagement is a Gordian Knot of incalculable proportions. Indeed, in a previous blog piece (see: here) I expressed the sentiment that the whole process seems now to have been a 21st-century version of national St. Vitus’s Dance. Many commentators, including Robert Peston in his excellent book WTF, have analyzed the vote for Brexit as a ‘Perfect Storm’ of issues that reflect the underlying socio-economic conditions of the UK in the early 21st century rather than a majority vote of a specific nature. To which must be added the inconvenient truth that the unwritten UK constitution became a democratically flawed instrument once Maggie Thatcher trampled all over it.

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In the 1960’s, at the birth of my political consciousness, I became attracted me to the Young Liberals who espoused a middle-ground, social democratic, political position that I have held through to this day via my support of The Liberals, the SDP and the Liberal Democrats. Since the 2016 Election, I have bemoaned the fact that I no longer have a party to vote for. My ears thus pricked up earlier this week listening to an interview, on Radio 4’s morning news programme, with Philip Collins who was arguing for the vital need for a new social-democratic party to develop in the UK. As a result, I started to read his book, Start Again: How We Can Fix Our Broken Politics, which was published on Thursday. In the opening chapter, he observes that:

  • “the Conservative party has dragged the nation into its own private feud,
  • the Labour party has fallen victim to a juvenile anti-capitalism
  • while the brand of the Liberal Democrats is fatally tarnished”

leading to a fundamental break in the ‘unconscious contract’ (i.e. The Unwritten Constitution) between the political classes and the public it serves. He goes on to argue that, given the current social bankruptcy of our main political parties, this rift will lead to even more undesired consequences unless a new party evolves that provides answers to the following 10 issues of our times:

  1. How does Britain make a living?
  2. How do we reduce inequalities of income & wealth?
  3. How do we provide a home for all?
  4. How do we make technology work for us?
  5. How can we improve life chances?
  6. How do we ensure justice between the generations?
  7. How do we restore faith in politics?
  8. Where should power lie?
  9. How do we create an Open Society?
  10. What is Britain’s place in the world?

Tick, tick, ten times over. I agree wholeheartedly with Philip Collins’s view that the two current main political parties can, and will, not address these issues and that the evolution of an impactful party that does so is sorely required. However, I am the strongest believer that the strength of a country’s social & democratic values is reflected in the institutions that serve it. That is exactly why the centre-piece of my national political credo has always been electoral reform and why the Liberal Democrats weak-wristed pursuit of change via the 2011 Alternative Vote Referendum broke my political heart. A strong social democratic political party is certainly what the UK needs to lead the country forward, but true long-term change can only come via electoral reform that ushers in a constitution that enables positive voting and provides legal & political checks-and-balances.

If Collin’s analysis and conclusions are to bear fruit, it will require politicians with the courage to abandon short-term vote-getting in favour of longer-term interests. This will require a change of direction of individual voter attention away from self-interest towards the needs of the nation as a whole – in other words, that society that Margaret Thatcher claimed no longer to exist. There is a solid truth in the ironic notion that a country gets the government it deserves. Which brings us back to the notion of a 2nd Brexit referendum. If this ever takes place and the result is seen by the victors as a vilification that they were right, and that those that didn’t originally vote like them were wrong, it will achieve nothing of any long-term consequence. Our politicians have not served us well, of late, but we haven’t helped ourselves either. We need to learn, and quickly, the import of JFK’s most famous imploration:

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