A second referendum would be an affront to our democracy, pure and simple

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Surprise, surprise, the People’s Vote campaign is funded and supported by organisations who are actively campaigning for Britain to stay in the European Union. Who is shocked? No one should be. Recent Sunday Telegraph analysis has shown that eight out of nine ‘constituent groups’ who are backing the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ (second referendum) campaign also support remaining in the EU.

This includes constituent organisations such as ‘For Our Future’s Sake’ and European Movement UK. The former group’s byline is in fact ‘a group of students and young people across the UK, working together to Stop Brexit.’ There is very little ambiguity surrounding what these people want. Some even, like ‘Scientists for the EU,’ were set up during the 2016 referendum campaign with the sole purpose of campaigning for a Remain outcome. Hardly representative of the views of the British people. Nor something which should influence the policy of political parties which claim to represent a vast proportion of the British population.

From the Labour Party’s perspective, which throughout history has been a stalwart for the principles of democracy and equality, a second referendum promoted almost exclusively by those who support Remain, would be an affront to our history and our democracy. Jeremy Corbyn, who has long resisted the calls within the party for a second referendum, must not merely act passively.

The leadership must avoid being defensive against another vote, and put forward a positive vision of why a Brexit in the interests of workers, equality and nationalised industry could be transformative for the country. Why view Brexit as a necessary evil, when it could be an opportunity to enact all which the Labour Party represents? So how can a ‘People’s Vote’ be seen as a genuine desire for more democracy in the UK, when those supporting it are openly supportive of undermining the last vote?

The People’s Vote campaign is transparent in its desire to undermine the democratic vote of 2016, and yet there seems to be ambiguity in the way it is portrayed. Why is the organisation being shown to be neutral in its desire for a re-run of the 2016 vote, when those who support it solely support one side: Remain. Arguably this is less of a passive misinterpretation of the aims of the People’s Vote campaign by the media, but an active misinterpretation. There is a desire by those in the political elite to thwart the 2016 referendum, and a second referendum would do just that. If the People’s Vote campaign were proposing a second referendum with a range of Brexit ‘styles’ for which to vote, that would be a less objectionable position.

But to have a referendum with the option to Remain on the ballot paper, which is proposed, would wholly undermine the faith of the British people in their political system. That decision has been made, remaining in the EU was rejected, it was a ‘once in a generation’ vote – and before any different question could be asked, the will of the people should be enacted.

Let us not forget that it is not like the EU has remained stagnant since the 2016 referendum. We would not be remaining in an institution identical to that of two and a half years ago. Significant, ominous changes have occurred. One only needs to look towards the rising far-right sentiment in Italy, Hungary and France. The gilets jaunes protests in France are a sore sight in the history of the continent – with images of tanks facing down the protests, with the EU flag plastered across them. The friendly face of the EU, which has so readily been portrayed to us, is slowing peeling away.

Dark, anti-democratic forces are working beneath our eyes, and we should not continue in our complacency. Sugar-coated images and descriptions are seeping into the public and media discourse of a second referendum, and we cannot allow this to happen. Images of champagne socialist, hemp-wearing, parent-funded students standing with placards saying: ‘Old people stole my future’ should not sway us from the illegitimate notion of a ‘People’s Vote’. A second referendum would be an affront to our democracy, and that should be central to all discussion on the matter.

 

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