Friday 10 August 2018

George Cunningham showed the way

The  former labour MP. George Cunningham, who died last month,  is the one who who moved an amendment to the first Scottish Devolution Bill in 1979 to say that a referendum in favour would only be valid if at least 40% of those entitled to vote (my emphasis) were in favour.

In the event the referendum on Scottish devolution was "won"  by 51.6% to 48.4% (very familiar figures) but that 51.6% was only 32.9% of the registered Scottish electorate.  So the referendum result was "inoperative."

Had Cunningham's logic been applied to the EU Referendum  it would have suffered the same fate. In round figures, 52% voted in favour of leaving the EU and 48% voted against. Since the turnout was 73% that 52% for "Leave" represents only 37% of the registered electorate.  So the option to leave  would have failed the Scottish test.

And not only that, but the registered electorate excluded three groups most affected by the result:  citizens of other EU  countries working in the UK;  British citizens working in other parts of the EU; and the UK's 16 and 17 year-olds.

So the desperate trumpeting of the leading Leavers that "The British people have decided."" We must implement the will of the people," "We cannot ignore this democratic decision," etc. is simply ill-considered hot air.

The truth is that just over a third of the restricted franchise voted to leave, another slightly less more than a third voted to remain, and well over a quarter didn't express their opinion.

According to the Guardian's obituary: "[Cunningam's] lifelong  belief was that MPs should act according to their consistence and use their judgment in the interest of constituents."


We should follow Cunningham, take off the Whips,  give MPs a free vote in parliament, then we can get on with tackling the real problems facing the country - and the world.

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