Posts Tagged ‘brexit’


Something else tomorrow.

Housekeeping: OK, so I’ve now been back in London for two weeks, and while I’m pretty much physically recovered from my stay in hospital in Edinburgh (50 plus 05: er… e.r.? Eh? No, A&E.) and a couple of visits to GP and hospital since I returned to London, I’m still utterly shattered most of the time, and any stamina I got back seems to have deserted me the past couple of days. I really don’t want to bother my GP again, but if I’m still feeling like this tomorrow or Tuesday, yeah another visit beckons.

OK, so one other thing about Edinburgh I hadn’t mentioned this time around, because I hadn’t quite realised how unusual it was, and it’s only been sinking in slowly since I returned. (Look, I’ve been ill, and you have to remember that, even in good times, I am exceedingly stupid on occasion.)

In fact this thing has only occurred on one previous visit: 2014’s. I doubt that my earlier than usual visit is the reason. (I usually get up there after my birthday, but in both 2014 and 2019, I celebrated my birthday up there.)

In 2014, I attended the Edinburgh Fringe a few weeks before Scotland’s Independence Referendum. It was only my second visit to Edinburgh, so I didn’t have much to compare it to, but I’d already discovered how much I enjoyed sitting in the main food court area outside the Gilded Balloon of an evening, having a drink, doing some writing and watching… watching performers promoting their shows, watching people enjoy themselves, watching people chat away.

But as I say it was my second visit, so I had no idea whether the seemingly ever present politics chats among other groups were common or unusual, whether how everyone seemed to at some point or another express an opinion on the politics of the day, and seek another’s opinion, was usual or uncommon.

Future years showed me just how uncommon, how unusual, it was, by the way. Most years, it’s shows they’ve seen that people are chatting about, shows they’re about to see that they’re animated by. And the telling of gags they’ve heard. Seriously, you hear some cracking gags, and delightfully, all credited to the right comedian for once.

But in 2014, the referendum chat was everywhere. Not only in the food court chats, but almost every political show covered it, everyone’s topical material had ‘a bit’ on it. And rarely, very rarely, it got angry. Occasionally, but only that. Even many of the political comedians got angry, very angry, then punctured it with a joke that returned everyone to enjoyment.

And in the food court, usually, it was informed, sensible, rational debates, addressing the arguments in a way that I wished politicians would follow. I even saw people make a point, get called on its potential unreliability, or flat out falsity, and then one or other of them would look it up on their phone or tablet… and then both would agree whether or not the point was valid. (Small caveat for the potential post-independence Scotland’s finances; only occasional agreement on that, but on everything else to do with the Referendum? Lots of agreement.)

I got asked my opinion loads by strangers at the same table while up there, and despite my always saying ‘well, not really my place to say is it, I’m not Scottish‘, I was courteously encouraged to give a view, and where I said something the other person disagreed with, there was a genuine attempt to change my mind, not an insult to my intelligence, or honesty, or parentage. (The less pleasant exchanges I had were all online in 2014.)

Well, 2019’s Fringe was similar and dissimilar. Sure, yes, the politics chat was back in full force, moreso than in previous years, and yes, plenty of heated chats, but what was missing was the ‘huh, yeah, you have a good point there, my friend, but what about…?’ That wasn’t merely less, but was entirely absent, as was the implication of good faith on the others’ part.

Anyone who was still pro-Brexit (an important caveat; people seemed to have far less of an issue with people who’d voted Brexit three years ago, mainly because it was three years ago), and there were a few I heard, well, their views were treated not with contempt but flat disbelief.

And the anti-Brexit positions weren’t merely “anti No Deal”, they were flat out anti-Brexit.

I’ve said before that one of the things I like about The Fringe is that I’ve rarely seen angry drunks up there. Plenty of drunks, sure, but few who were angry. And those few either calmed down or were escorted off the premises by very big security people.

This year, it wasn’t anger, but heated frustration that I saw a lot of: a complete lack of ability, not mere refusal, but an inability, to see, or even attempt to see, the other person’s point of view.

That scares me, genuinely.

Because I’ve seen more of it the past two weeks since I’ve returned. I see it in politicians, I see it online, I see it with some friends. And no matter what happens in the next few weeks, I suspect it’s going to get worse.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about why I’m dreading the next election. What I was foolish enough not to realise when I wrote it was… we’re already in the election campaign, whether the election comes in a few weeks or a couple of months. And the battle lines are already being drawn.

This will be an election of double standards, of fervently supporting your ‘own side’s’ actions and behaviour while vehemently decrying and condemning the same actions and behaviours of your political opponents. And both sides, all sides, will hold themselves out as the morally superior, the only honest one, the only rational one.

And that scares me as well.

Here’s just one example. Amber Rudd, until today Secretary of State for the Department of Works and Pensions, quit and said it was because she was no longer convinced the government wants a deal to leave the EU and is in fact going for a No Deal Brexit. She was previously very anti- that, seemed to swallow the possibility when she joined Johnson’s cabinet but now has quit.

And the responses to her resigning have been many, but one notable one is “well, I’ll take her support, sure, but dont forget she did this and that and this and that, so it’s two cheers at best; she’s no hero”.

And I get that as a reaction, I honestly do.

In fact, it’s the same response I have to people leaving the Labour Party, or at least trashing the current leadership, from people for whom antisemitism in Labour wasn’t a deal breaker but apparently Brexit is.

Again, I’ll take any anti-Corbyn support I can get, but I’m not going to celebrate someone discovering a backbone but for whom antisemitism was – if not fine and dandy – at least not something ‘up with which they would not put.’

And yet, when I express this view, I’m told, ‘but no, you must welcome them warmly and fully, embrace them.”

Well, I won’t. I’ll give them the same two cheers. And sadly, but invariably, wonder, at what point, if Labour changes their Brexit policy to something they can live with, the antisemitism will once again be something they can similarly live with.

Something else tomorrow, I think.

Quick short one today. And something unrelated to politics.

I mean, I was planning on writing something on the shitshow currently occupying our ‘leaders’ in Parliament but as I talked about on Twitter, I’m not going to.

Definitely not.

I’m unsure, to be honest, whether that’s merely because no-one knows what the hell is going on, and what’s likely to happen. No-one does know, by the way, and the more honest of the pundits will at least admit that.

Or whether I’m just too bloody tired right now, too exhausted by the whole thing to write about it.

And by ‘the whole thing’, I don’t just mean Brexit, but British politics as a whole. The past four years have wiped me out. And that scares me a bit. Why does it scare me?

My honest fear is that, at some point, that exhaustion is going to turn into ‘resigned acceptance’ of whatever fresh hell is current happening; friends of mine in the US tell me the same fear surrounds them as well.

In their case, they’re well used to politics never stopping, never calming down. The US, of course, has elections for their equivalent of MPs every two years. The entire House of Representatives is elected, or re-elected in most cases, every other year, whenever the year is an even one. Which makes sense, I guess. If they limited it ‘odd’ years, you’d have elections every bloody year.

But it means they’re – well everyone is – only just over a year until the next set of national US elections. Not only the US presidential elections – can you believe Trump’s election was almost three year ago?! – but 435 US members of Congress. (And just over 30 Senators, since a third of them are elected for six year terms.)

But in the UK?

No, I’m not going to write about UK politics.

I’ll stop.

In a minute.

Because it’s likely that by the end of this week, we’ll know that an election is on the way. Not definitely – see that comment about nobody knowing right now – but as mentioned fairly recently, until 2011, general elections were held… pretty much whenever a Prime Minister wanted one. OK, if an election hadn’t been held in five years, you had to have one. That’s why we had elections in 1992, and in 1997, and again in 2010. Because ‘time had run out’ for the PM. In the past 100 years, we’ve had 26 general elections in the UK. So the average length of a parliament was between just under four years, around three years ten months.

(Which is in part why, despite my naively supporting the introduction of The Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2011, I always thought the term of government, the time between elections, should have been set at four years, not five.)

A parliamentary ‘session‘, by the way, is a different, technical, thing, usually lasting roughly a year. It’s been longer on occasion, and we’re currently in the longest one n history.

But no, let’s not talk about that.

Let’s talk about something else.

Did you watch telly last night?

I didn’t, because I was at a comedy night, by which I mean that I was attending a regular monthly thing at which professional comedians made me laugh. As opposed to the unprofessional, entirely amateur, bastards currently making speeches in the Palace of Westminster, speaking untruths and self-serving nonsense, showing less concern for the ‘good of the country’ and more for their own careers and the good of their own parties.

But, today, I did watch the latest incarnation of that now ludicrous thing entitled Prime Minister’s Questions.

It was Boris Johnson’s first as Prime Minister, and Jeremy Corbyn’s… oh, I dunno how many he’s done in four years, well over a hundred, though. Usually he comes off badly in them. He gets six questions, and it’s rare that he – against Cameron or May – is judged to have ‘won’ the clash. Occasionally, surely, and it’s unquestionable that he’s far, far better at them now than he used to be.

Anyways, today’s was Johnson’s first and he started his PMQs not quite ‘as he meant to go on’ but how he’s spent his entire political career this far: bullshitting, dodging questions, insulting other people and blaming anyone else for the mess in which he finds himself.

Corbyn didn’t do badly per se, but he hardly did well. And when Ian Blackford asked a couple of questions, again, he didn’t do badly, but he hardly distinguished himself.

Odd thing is, though, that all three would have finished their ‘bit’ pleased with their performance, convinced they bested their opponent… and I’ve no doubt whatever that partisan supporters of each of the three would and will confirm that impression.

No, no, no, I want to talk about something else.

In a second.

Because I’d be remiss, now that I have mentioned PMQs not to highlight the question from Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi:

Johnson was rattled after it, and deservedly so.

( I saw Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson praise the question, decry Johnson’s response and also demand that the Prime Minister shouldbe “more careful” in the use of his language. I doubt I was the only person watching who thought Johnson being careful at all would be a good start.)

Erm… er… something else. I was going to talk about something else, wasn’t I?

Comics. Not comedians, but comic books. I’ve been rereading Freakangels the past week, the fantastic series – originally done as a webcomic – by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield.

Basically, the set up is ‘what if the Midwich Cuckoos grew up?’ A bit more than that, obviously but set in a flooded London.

The blurb says:

Twenty-three years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment. Six years later, the world ended. This is what happened next.

Every page sparkles with class, and the story about what happens when you have power but are too immature to know how to use it properly and…

…oh, ok, I’m angry again about what’s going on in Parliament.

Fuck it.

Something else tomorrow.

Housekeeping note: I was planning on completing Part the Fourth today – after parts the first, second and third – of the series on antisemitic imagery but a confluence of events got in the way.

So, yes, it’s coming, but I don’t know when. Can only offer my apologies, once again. It’s proved tougher to complete this one than I anticipated. Partly because the imagery is so upsetting, partly because its too easy – I’ll acknowledge – to see image after image and then mistakenly include one that’s not antisemitic, assuming that it draws on the same imagery. I want to be accurate, and if that means taking a bit longer, then so be it.

Besides, something occured in British politics today which genuinely interested me, and I’ve been reading up on it a bit. So I figured I’d write something on it today, and save Part The Fourth for sometime later.

I doubt I have to explain to anyone reading this either what Brexit is or why it’s been a complete clusterfuck from start to finish. As mentioned previously, to deliver what was promised by the Leave campaign, and by those who pledged to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum would be impossible.

Not a rhetorical conceit, a flat statement of fact: it’s impossible to do so.

In part because to deliver what was promised, all that was promised… what was pledged, all that was pledged… would be self-contradictory. And everyone, well, pretty much everyone, acknowledges that.

The British public was promised a golden age, with dozens of trade deals signed, with no deleterious consequences, [nearly] all the benefits of membership, an extra £350m a week for the NHS, tariff free access to the Single European market, no huge job losses, massive investment into the UK… the list goes on and on. Basically only Good Things, and No Bad Things.

Take tariff free access to the single market. We were promised that tariff free access, while reducing immigration from the EU, even though the EU maintained that ‘the four freedoms’ – including free movement of labour – were inseparable; you want one, you get the other three as well.

There are umpteen videos of leading Brexiteers assuring that no one wants to leave The Single Market.

Here’s just one.

But what do we have? A statement from the Brexit Secretary that “There should be adequate food“. And assurances, based on nothing but a hope and a prayer – oh, and £25m – that medications will continue to be available in the event that the UK leave the EU without ‘a deal’.

Of course, what “a deal” means has changed somewhat since 2016 and 2017, when the Article 50 notification – the official start of ‘we’re leaving’ – was delivered to the EU. Back then, it meant that by the time the negotiation period ended in March 2019, both the UK and the EU would know under what terms we were leaving the EU, and under what terms our relationship with the EU would continue.

Now? Over two years later? It means the former, with a possible transition period during which the EU and UK would continue to negotiate the future relationship.

So even had the Withdrawal Agreement (and associated Political Declaration) passed in parliament, the UK – and the public – would still not know what the future relationship would be. I mean, we’d know what both sides wanted it to be… but we absolutely would not know, nor would anyone, what any final relationship would be.

And that’s not the only phrase that has changed meaning since 2016/2017.

At the time, no one talked about “No Deal”. It was… well, not inconceivable, but unthinkable to many. Even those who kind of advocated it didn’t call it that. They called it a “Hard Brexit”.

Now you can argue back and forth whether they meant a No Deal, or merely a more favourable-to-UK deal than was ever truly possible, but either way, no one was pushing a complete cessation of every clause in every relationship we have had thus far.

Without going through how we ended up here, where are we?

We’re just eleven weeks, seventy-seven days, from leaving with No Deal. It continues to amaze me just how many people continue to believe that it’ll never happen “because there’s no majority in parliament for the UK leaving with No Deal.”

Whoever’s in government – and I’ll come on to that in a moment – they don’t need a majority favouring a No Deal Brexit for a No Deal Brexit to occur.

The current law mandates – subject to something else happening – that the UK leaves the EU on 31st October 2019 without a deal. The phrase you need to remember is “by automatic operation of law”.

It’s kind of like me jumping out of an aeroplane without a parachute. Now, there are plenty of things that could prevent me, after a short period of time, going splat. Someone could jump after me and hand me a parachute which I successfully use. Someone could jump after me and grab hold of me, and we both use the same parachute. Spock and McCoy could pilot their ship and save me just in time from being sucked out into space. No, wait, different situation.

Anyway, you get the point. Unless something occurs to save me… I go splat.

And unless something occurs to stop No Deal Brexit… No Deal Brexit is what happens. By that automatic operation of law I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.

Doesn’t matter how often people protest, doesn’t matter how many symbolic votes take place in Parliament, doesn’t even matter if everyone knows there is a majority for something else, unless a binding vote takes place in parliament, mandating the government to do something else, which will involve legislation passing through both Houses of Parliament…

Now that something else could be A Withdrawal Agreement, though it’s not looking likely, with the current government shitting on the current agreement from a huge height, and the oposition parties not liking it either, for their own party or policy specific reasons.

That something else could be a general election; the EU has indicated that they’d be ok with another delay to the process, another postponement of the leaving date, if a general election was called.

That something else could be the government revoking Article 50 and abandoning Brexit in its entirety, though that’s about as likely as Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson campaigning for George Galloway.

(My personal preferences – though they’ll never happen – would be for either Article 50 to be revoked and that’s an end of it, or at the least, revocation followed by a public inquiry and another referendum in, say, three years… using that three years to agree a future relationship and if no agreement, no official agreed position, then put it to bed. But if wishes were horses, eh?)

Or the ‘something else’ that could change matters could be the government changing and doing… something else that gets the majority of the House of Commons going along with them.

And that’s what people are talking about this morning.

Because Jeremy Corbyn has sent a letter to other opposition party leaders and it’s got people talking about a GNU, a Government of National Unity.

Not the first time the idea’s come up, and not the first time enthusiasm for it has overwhelmed people’s natural scepticism at politicians professing insistently that they’re ‘doing the right thing for the country’ when it personally benefits them.

Even ignoring, temporarily, my own views on Jeremy Corbyn’s personal complicity over antisemitism inside Labour, basically, what the letter asks, what his supporters demand, is that we trust Jeremy Corbyn.

And there’s a problem with that.

Not merely over antisemitism, not merely over his numerous other faults as a politician, as a party leader, as a person, but over his position on Brexit.

Corbyn has spent much, maybe all, of his political life as what was – for a couple of decades – usually described in the Tory Party as a “Eurosceptic”. He’s never liked the European Economic Community, which became the European Community, which became the European Union. He’s wanted the UK to leave for decades, and said so, repeatedly. Pretty much every step he’s taken, with the occasional blip, as party leader has been to reinforce that position and that impression.

He’s promised one thing, then not delivered. He’s promised that the party membership is supreme, then ignored their wishes. He’s tried every trick in the books, and created a few, to avoid his party membership cottoning on to the simple truth that:

Jeremy Corbyn wants, has always wanted, the UK to leave the European Union… and if that’s without a deal, then ok, that’s just fine and dandy by him.

Now some have argued, with some justification, that there’s another reason for his wanting to leave, beyond pure ideology; it’s the ‘let the Tories fuck everything up and then people will flood to the Labour Party begging ‘please save us’ and we will save them.’ I say ‘justifiably’ because that’s been a Labour position over many elections. Not every election; occasionally there’s a campaign that says ‘come to Labour because we can make life better for you’, but the ‘The Tories made things worse, fucked everything up… but we will fix it’ has been the usual message.

And of course, that plays well with a chunk of the membership and country unaware of Corbyn’s actual views and policies.

So, whatever your views on the concept of a government of national unity, yes, it’s a minor point, but what struck me forcefully was the implicit (and sometimes explicit) suggestion that those of us who loathe & detest Corbyn, and regard him as fundamentally untrustworthy should, on this occasion, on something he’s been previously proven to be untrustworthy… trust him.

And I don’t. At all.

I don’t believe he voted Remain in the EU Referendum. I don’t believe his claims that he worked hard for Remain. I don’t believe him, nor trust him. At all. About anything.

And it’s not – as others have suggested – because of the suggestion that he wouldn’t leave as Prime Minister once in. There’ll be a majority of the House of Commons that would undoubtedly bring his caretaker tenure to an end at some point, leading to a general election.

My lack of trust has to do with what he’d do while Prime Minister. For he doesn’t have ‘to do anything’ to get the brexit he’s wanted for decades. In fact, he has to do precisely… nothing. If he got the job in late September, say, it wouldn’t be difficult to stall for a few weeks… claiming he’s negotiating in good faith and then not doing so.

And then, come October ‘gosh wasn’t it a pity?’ the Corbyn acolytes will cry, as the UK leaves without a deal by the aforementioned ‘automatic operation of law’.

But does a lack of Corbyn in Number Ten prevent the idea of a Government of National Unity, stop it in its tracks?

Well, I have to say, sadly, yes, I think it does. As others have observed, he is – like it or not – leader of the opposition. You’re not going to get Labour MPs openly suggesting, publicly stating, that they don’t trust their leader to be PM. It’ll kill them before and during any general election campaign. The Tories would replay videos of Labour MPs saying ‘don’t make Jeremy PM’ for weeks. And it’d certainly trigger deselection campaigns for any Labour MP. The only way out would be for them to follow Berger and Leslie, etc., and leave the party.

And to be blunt, if they’ve not left the Labour Party yet, they’re unlikely to now, over this.

But could Kenneth Clarke or Harriet Harman do the job? Sure, but they’re not going to get the job, for the reasons immediately above.

What about Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s call for a GNU?

Well, it’s great, but it’s what third parties do, and though I’ve been very impressed by her leadership of the party thus far, the call was far more for the impression it gives than in the hope that it’d achieve anything.

So we’re in a situation where the people who first called for a GNU can’t form one. The person who now wants a GNU can’t even unify his own party, and the people who don’t want a GNU have no other solutions.

Oh. Joy.

Oh, and the calls for and against have more to do attacking the people who disagree than the idea itself.

Which brings me to the final part of this post.

Some have been a bit upset at the Lib Dems calling for a government of national unity, but not one headed by Corbyn, the official leader of the opposition, and indeed her previous statements that she’d never go into coalition to form a Corbyn-led labour government. And others have been upset at the Labour response of reminding voters that the Lib Dems – and Swinson herself – were in government with the hated Tories from 2010 to 2015.

Me? I genuinely don’t have a problem with either party making those attacks on the other.

Any more than – apart from the hypocrisy – the Conservatives having a pop at Labour antisemitism, Labour over the past 40 years exploring Tory divisions over Europe, the Tories back in the 1970s and 1980s seeking to damage Labour over trade unions’ behaviour, or any party ‘weaponising’ – a horrible word – a weakness in the other party.

Well, a perceived weakness, at least, whether or not the weaknesses actually exist. (Always amuses me and irritates me, in equal measure, that political adverts in this country are specifically excluded from the truth and fairness rules in advertising.)

Exploiting perceived weaknesses in another party’s policies, positions, or people are what political parties do.

To complain that a party you don’t support is doing it to one that you do, while supporting your party doing it to them is hypocritical. But again that’s what party supporters do.

If your only objection to a Government of National Unity is that Corbyn would be PM, then you care far more about Corbyn not being Prime Minister than about any GNU to solve the Brexit clusterfuck. And if you’re only interested in a Government of National Unity if Corbyn’s in Number Ten, then you’re similarly more interested in Corbyn being PM than in anything a GNU could [try to] do to stop a No Deal Brexit.

Be honest about that, at least?

I have no issues with a GNU; I just don’t think one’s achievable without Corbyn. And I don’t trust that any GNU under Corbyn could – or would – do anything to stop Brexit, with or without a deal’.

As a coda: I was reminded when I saw the acronym GNU – Government of National Unity – appear today, that British politics does like its animal acronyms. After GOAT [Government of All the Talents] and the COBRA Committee [named after Cabinet Office Briefing Room A], we now have GNU. I wonder what else we’ll get in the weeks ahead.


Something else tomorrow, the final post in this run… some reflections on blogging, and possibly something on Edinburgh, which I’m travelling to, overnight.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve been fascinated by the early briefings about the EU referendum due by the end of 2017, as promised in the Conservative Party manifesto for the 2015 general election.

I was interested to learn there’s been research done on the question to be asked. Well, not on the specific question, but on questions asked in referenda. It’s no surprise that crafting a question for a referendum is as much art as science, but recently the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 had a feature that indicated that the length of the question played a larger role than I had previously thought. For every additional word (beyond six words, I believe) there’s a small but measurable effect: it increases the chances of a no vote. Only by one or two percentage points, but in a close result, that could be all that’s needed. There’s also been research done on whether the yes or the no option should be the ‘default’ case, i.e. the ‘no change required’. In other words, should the question be something like:

Should the UK remain in the European Union?


Should the UK leave the European Union?

I’m unsure what the question should be, but my gut suggests that the ‘change’ option should always be the yes option, as it was in the Scottish Independence Referendum, where the question was, as you’ll recall:

Should Scotland be an independent country?

It may – or may not – be a coincidence that the question was exactly six words long. By the foregoing, you’d conclude that I think the question should be the latter of the two options, i.e. should the UK leave the European Union? And you’d be right. But the question and what it should be, and what it turns out to be, are matters for another day. However, if you’ll forgive me, since we don’t yet know the slant of the question, I’ll use in and out as the options going forward, ok? 

 As I say, the question itself isn’t even on the agenda yet. What is on the agenda, however, is the electorate, or rather what should comprise the electorate. But before I get to that in detail, one other macro-matter regarding electorates has been brought up; it was nothing but expected, and I don’t, can’t, believe it’s been brought up for any reason other than mischief-making. So let’s dispose of it quickly and move on. The Scottish National Party have said that they want the referendum, when it’s held, to have four electorates: the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And that each of the four countries would have to vote to leave the European Union before the UK could leave.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. And what’s more, the SNP know it’s nonsense. It’s trite to say that the people of Scotland had their opportunity to vote for independence eight months ago, and they comprehensively rejected it… Trite, but true. It would be absurd for something of this magnitude to be decided on a country-by-country basis. The only even slightly sensible part of this would be if the SNP were laying groundwork for another referendum, which would hardly be in the spirit of the comments made since September 2014, when the SNP said the matter was now settled for a generation. 

If, however, the SNP intend another manifesto, then this is how I think they’d do it. They’d enter the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections with a manifesto promising another referendum in 2017, daring Westminster to say no, with 56 of the 59 Scottish MPs being SNP and another SNP Scottish government.  Their raising of the ‘four nations, four votes’ issue now can therefore be seen as a way of preparing their arguments to the European Union that if the UK leave the EU, then Scotland should be allowed to take the UK’s place.

But as I say, it’s a ludicrous position. Unless, of course, the SNP have lied to the public, lied to the voters and lied time and time again on camera about their ambitions. Now, what are the chances of that…?

Anyway, back to the electorate the government want; David Cameron has let it be known that the government will propose that the electorate should be the same as that for a general election:

  • British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens over 18 who are resident in the UK will be eligible to vote.
  • So too will UK nationals who have lived overseas for less than 15 years.

However, the government is not intending to extend the franchise to include include 16 and 17-year-olds, unlike the Scottish independence referendum. However, for some strange reason, members of the House of Lords and Commonwealth citizens in Gibraltar will also be allowed to vote, although they cannot participate in general elections. This last puzzles me, but I’m sure there’ll be a reason for it; a lousy one, but a reason nonetheless.

It’s easy to understand why Cameron is now floating the idea of the franchise excluding under-18s and also EU citizens living in Britain; it increases the chances of an out vote. Taking the second first, I don’t think anyone would seriously suggest that EU citizens should be able to vote. British nationals haven’t been abole to vote overseas EU referenda, and it’s sensible that they are excluded here. I’m far more interested, however, in the exclusion of 16 and 17 year olds.

I don’t think it’s news, nor a coincidence, that the average UKIP supporter tends to have been born, as Emo Philips puts it, ‘at a more comfortable distance from the apocalypse’. And, similarly, opinion polls have shown that the 16-18 year old age group is, on the whole, more supportive of remaining in the EU than those nearing retirement age, say. One might think from this that Cameron wants to stack teh deck to decrease an in vote. I’m not sure. Not yet, anyway. 

See, I don’t think Cameron wants to leave the EU. In fact, I think he desperately wants the UK to remain inside the EU, reformed or otherwise. However, to bolster a fairly weak negotiating position – and to describe it as fairly weak is to greatly overestimate its strength, in my opinion – he needs to show the EU that he’s prepared to let the franchise be as anti-EU as he can. At the moment, anyway. It would not surprise me if, closer to the referendum, 16 and 17 year olds were included, much as Labour have indicated that they would attempt to amend the Referendum Bill to include them. They’re likely to fail in this attempt… in 2015. But it would not surprise me if the government respond to, say a Private Members’ Bill in early 2017 to lower the age allowed to vote in the referendum, by bringing such a measure onboard as a government Bill and taking it forward. The strongest argument, I think, for allowing this is that if there’s any age group that will be affected in the longer term, it’s the almost-adult.

So, the question needs to be sorted out, the franchise needs to be sorted out, and what the government offer to the people will do also. It’s tempting to regard what will be on offer as a straight in or out deal. But of course it won’t be. Or at least it won’t be just that. It’s like suggesting that running across a busy motorway with your eyes closed only involves whether or not you’ll make it to the other side unharmed. I genuinely don’t know the answers to the questions that have already been asked about the consequences of us leaving the EU. I don’t even know half the questions that should be asked. Thing is, I don’t think anyone else knows them right now either. And that’s even assuming that the government could get the bill through parliament unamended, no guarantee with a majority so thin, a dose of flu doing the rounds would annihilate it.

Fasten your seatbelts, people. This is going to be a bumpy ride.