Majority back holding a referendum on terms of Brexit deal

The Liberal Democrat policy of holding a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal which gets negotiated did not work out as planned in the general election. An important lesson for the party to pick over what to learn from. Was the problem some mix of circumstance and execution which means the policy could be a much more successful part of a future, possibly pretty imminent, further general election? Or was there an inherent problem with the policy in the first place?

That is a question I will be returning to over the summer as more evidence about how people voted and why comes out. The initial signs suggest it was more the former, including the latest polling from Survation (who have the distinction of their final election poll giving the Conservatives only a 1 point lead, making it the most accurate):

It is also worth noting that there is a 25% hard core who is answer to one question picked the option to stop Brexit talks completely and work to remain in the EU. This reinforces my provisional view that, contrary to some media coverage during the general election, the problem for the Lib Dem European policy wasn’t that there wasn’t a big enough pool of people to appeal to with the party’s pro-Europeanism, but rather that the party failed to appeal to that pool effectively.

10 responses to “Majority back holding a referendum on terms of Brexit deal”

  1. The problem with the opinion poll questions is that they ask things from people that they had never considered before. How many people know what the Customs Union is? Were they asked? My admittedly very subjective opinion from pro-Remain Hackney was that just before the general election was called we were getting a lot of support and looked set to get into second place. But when the Labour manifesto was published a lot of pro Remain supporters decided that other issues were more important. If we correctly exclude the Labour party from being a pro-Remain party, then the pro-Remain parties did badly, not just the Lib Dems losing 0.5% from a low level, but also the Greens and very noticeably the SNP. We need to find the opinion poll questions that get to the heart of why this happened. If Brexit is not a vote winner for us, for the sake of argument, we need to find other issues where we are both distinctive and popular otherwise the party itself is in deep trouble.

  2. I don’t think it’s the idea of holding the government to account for any deals done, it’s the word ‘referendum’ that people don’t like.
    Walk into a crowd and say “Referendum” out loud. You will suddenly have a huge empty circle around you.
    After you say that one word people stop listening. Even if you are giving away gold sovereigns, people won’t hear you.

    The people vote for and elect governments so they can let the elected members get on with it.
    What ever you do, don’t mention “referendum”.
    Resist the urge. Just say “Elect me and I personally will make your life better”
    Graphs and stastistics can be manipulated anyway you like. Especially ones like those above.

  3. I believe that many people voted for the party most likely to defeat the tories. This, I believe, included many Remainers who voted Labour, rather than Lib Dem because they did not believe the Lib Dems had a chance of winning but were hoping for a Tory defeat. If people in this country would only vote for what they believe in, rather than who they think is likely to win or who is the “least worst” option we may have a chance of getting the Government ( probably a coalition in the style of other European countries) that we deserve. The major problem in this country is two party politics…
    The European countries that tend to have coalitions made up from 3 or more parties tend to work together for the common good and exclude the extremes of both left and right.

    • But until we get electoral reform voting for what you believe in is often a losing strategy. Without the recent tactical voting, much of it by Lib Dem supporters voting Labour, we would almost certainly now have a Conservative government with a clear majority.

  4. The majority of the hard-line remainers didn’t vote for us here in Hornsey and Wood Green, not even the ones who had always previously voted Lib Dems.
    When phoning our known supporters for stakeboards/posters/donations, I found half of them were going to vote Labour (and they did). Why? Here is what could be extrapolated from their answers:
    (1) Incumbent Lab MP had voted against Article 50, plus Labour had a greater chance of stopping Tories’ hard Brexit.
    (2) Labour could be trusted not to go into a coalition with the Tories under any circumstances and were therefore a better bet to at least stop hard Brexit.
    (3) Labour promised to scrap tuition fees – a big issue with North London middle class voters.
    (5) They liked the local Lab MP Catherine West and the Lab mayor Sadiq Khan and even Jeremy Corbyn (this was equally true of the young and the old). Even those who did not care for Corbyn’s politics had a sympathetic view of him and were unhappy about our literature being very critical and dismissive of “this decent, nice man…”
    (6) Another refrendum would likely just confirm the result of the first one, possibly with increased majority, so better avoided.

    So, part of the defeat here was due to the squeeze, but part was self-inflicted. Negative campaigning seems to have had its day. Our criticism of Labour was too close to the Tories’ and our manifesto was too thin on outlandish promises and emotive messaging currently in vogue. We woluld have done better if we simply said we would work to stop Brexit through Parliament, working with otherswho opposed it.

  5. Distinctive principles linked to Distinctive Policies would help us put across what the Party stands for. The Individual Freedom and Support for the E.U. parts are assumed here, though I am an “In it to influence it” person regarding the European Union! For example:-
    Health and Housing for All Our People – Ip on Income Tax for Health/Social Care
    Opportunities for All via an Education/Training Credit
    Participatory Democracy (Localism) – Reform of Council Tax with Higher Bands
    Environmental Protection – Sustainable, Safe and Affordable Housing

  6. It also looks like many former Lib Dem supporters voted Tory to stop Labour winning in constituencies where Labout couldn’t win anyway. They also were fed up with arguments over Brexit and just wanted to get on with it.

  7. Doorstep experience indicated to me that voters were less concerned about Brexit than about the prospect either of Corbyn or of May getting in, and voted tactically accordingly. Even some long-standing Liberal voters.

  8. I voted Lib-Dem in Kensington, partly just because I wanted Annabel Mullin to succeed, but equally (this time) to get rid of the pro-Brexit Tory incumbent and on the supposition that Remain Tories (Kensington had a 68.7% remain vote in the referendum) would mostly vote Lib-Dem rather than for the Labour candidate and Corbyn. I was wrong and they didn’t, but at least the Labour candidate squeaked in by 20 votes after numerous recounts.

    Kensington should have been a Lib-Dem gain (absolutely no criticism of Annabel Mullin here), though admittedly the poor Lib-Dem showing in 2015 made Labour the prima facie choice of the tactically voting websites. In my view, the Lib-Dems failed to realise their potential by falling into line with the other parties, saying that they “accepted” the referendum result, and merely proposing a second referendum at the very end of the Brexit process (a good idea, but far from sufficient). In fact, just about every objective person knew that preparations for the referendum were wholly inadequate, that a great many (at least enough to eliminate the Leavers’ winning margin) voted against Cameron and austerity, not wishing to leave but assuming Remain would win anyway, and that there was virtually no reliable information on the potential economic impacts of the various forms of Brexit, and on whom the adverse impacts would fall.

    The Lib-Dems should have shown they were clearly different by saying that, while the voting figures were of course as reported: (1) the Leave campaign itself had offered a wide variety of different Brexit options, so no-one can properly maintain that the country had voted for any one Brexit option, (2) nobody, including the UK Government itself, had any reliable figures on what the economic cost of the various options were, but they would all undoubtedly be adverse, so we cannot know how the vote would have gone if that information had been available last year, (3) no rational country would make any massive constitutional change on the strength of such a tiny winning margin of votes, (4) the referendum was in any event purely advisory, and it has to be for Parliament, after due deliberation and with full knowledge of the vital facts that are (still!) missing, to decide what if anything should be done in response to the referendum, having particular regard to the possible consequences for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, and, finally, (5) any response should, so far as possible, be a compromise that is mutually acceptable to the bulk of both Leavers and Remainers, given that their numbers are substantially equal.

    Having set themselves up as champions of Parliamentary democracy over mob rule, the Lib-Dems could have come out with a clear proposal either to stay in the EU (a brave and probably high risk option) or to seek a single market solution in the EEA and EFTA, which is in effect exactly the arrangement the UK originally set up to avoid the problems associated with membership of the EEC/EU. I, and I believe many others, would be content with the latter, which does indeed have some real benefits, even though I am a fervent Remainer.

  9. we changed the tone and direction of the debate about Brexit and though punished for that once again acted in the national interest; something we can be proud of.

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