Wednesday 31 May 2017

Corbyn and May v Paxman

The pundits and spin-doctors seem to have decided on a "no-score draw" for the Corbyn and May interviews with Jeremy Paxman and a studio audience.  Neither party leader suffered a gaffe, and neither produced a triumph.

Although a dedicated Liberal Democrat I cannot claim to be an impartial observer as  my sympathies are much more with the principled Jeremy Corbyn than the vacillating and opportunistic Theresa May. In my opinion Jeremy Paxman’s Rottweiler approach, his sneers and constant interruptions when interviewing Mr Corbyn were  a  stark contrast the almost jocular interrogation of Mrs May. 

Yes, he probed Mrs May repeatedly on her change of heart from Remain to harsh Brexit, but allowed her, again and again, to get away with the facile response that she was loyally responding to “the will of the British people.”   

This is obvious nonsense. It cannot be said too often, but mainstream media hardly say it at all, that of the people entitled to vote, 27% didn’t bother, 37% voted to Leave, 34% to Remain, and 16 and 17-year-olds, thought to be overwhelmingly for Remain, were not allowed to vote. Taking account of those not on the register, only about 25% of the adult population voted Leave.

 The obvious questions would have been:

  1.  why she, as a member of the responsible government, allowed into law such a shoddy referendum bill, with no super-majority such as is normally required for even a modest constitutional change in a golf club. 
  2.   and why she is determined to pursue a policy which in the view of the overwhelming majority of “experts,” whom we deride at our peril, will make us economically poorer, politically culturally and scientifically less significant, and socially less secure.   
Maybe Paxman failed  to pose these killer questions because, as he confessed on his retirement from Newsnight, he is himself  a Tory


  1. Taking account of those not on the register, only about 25% of the adult population voted Leave.

    Yes, but — and here's the point — even fewer voted Remain.

    1. Yes, but the leave vote is hardly a mandate for self-harm. In the first Scottish referendum at least 40% of eligible voters had to be in favour for a "leave the UK" vote to be valid. A much higher, and sensible, bar for such a serious step.

    2. Well, it was 37.4% of eligible voters, so not actually far off 40%.

      So if we'd had a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, as we were supposed to have, given one had been promised on the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty is agreed by everyone to be functionally the same as the Constitution, would you have demanded a super-majority in favour of that for it to be ratified?

      Should there have been a super-majority specified in the referendums called for by the European Union Act 2011? Presumably, yes?

      [In which case the UK would be pretty much guaranteed to leave the EU next time there was a treaty change, because there's no way it would be ratified with such a hurdle (even on a 50/50 margin it's unlikely, but with additional hurdles, no way) and the other countries wouldn't let our refusal to ratify interfere with their closer union, so we'd find ourselves ejected at that point — all the vote last year has done is change the timing of the UK's leaving the EU, not the fact of something that was inevitably going to happen sooner or later.]

    3. I think your hypothetical scenario demostrates how foolish it was to introduce referendums into the British political system. We've been making treaties with foreign powers and signing up to international organisations for centuries without them. We are a parliamentary democracy. The reform that needs to be made is to make parliament more representative and responsive by introducing proportional representation by STV in multi-member constituencies.

    4. Well, when your favourite tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  2. The problem with politicians is .. They actually don't believe the 'hype'