Cameron, May, Johnson: Where they went wrong

Jon Danzig |

The three Tory Prime Ministers of this millennium – David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson – could have been the solvers of Brexit if only they had been wiser, magnanimous and acted in the national interest.

▪ WISER – by realising that an advisory referendum, with such a narrow win for Leave, did not mean having to cause damage to the country. The referendum did not dictate what kind of Brexit Britain should have.

All three Prime Ministers know in their hearts – and heads – that all versions of Brexit will damage Britain. Wisdom would have dictated different courses of action to the ones they took.

▪ MAGNANIMOUS – The country was literally split in two by the EU referendum. The margin win for Leave was wafer thin, and only 37% of registered voters voted for it.

Most voters either voted for Remain or didn’t vote – but the three Prime Ministers acted as if Leave had won 100%. They forgot the Remain voters, and those who didn’t or couldn’t vote.

The three should have shown more magnanimity towards the majority who didn’t vote for Brexit, and those greatly affected by Brexit but who were denied a vote.

▪ ACTING IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST – none of the three Tory Prime Ministers have acted in the national interest. They put themselves and their party first, above all other considerations.

All three at one time or another – and more times than another – clearly stated that leaving the EU is not in our nation’s interests and will not solve our problems.

On the contrary, all three have said that Brexit will cause harm to Britain.

Prime Ministers are not supposed to be puppets. They are supposed to be leaders.

Yes, the referendum was a so-called “democratic decision”, albeit only won by a wafer-thin margin, by a minority of the country, and by the use of lies and illegalities on a significant scale.

That certainly didn’t mean having to go ahead and do damage to Britain that all three Prime Ministers had previously warned that Brexit would do.

They could have argued the case for a re-think, especially as no particular version of Brexit was decided by the referendum, which was an advisory poll only. There was no mandate on the way Britain should leave the EU.

▪ YES, as I have written previously, it was bloody stupid of David Cameron to have promised an EU referendum in the first place.

Especially one in which Leave was never defined.

(That’s why we have spent over three years arguing about what kind of Brexit we should have – as this simply wasn’t even discussed, let alone agreed, in the referendum).

In the UK, we have a system of representative Parliamentary democracy that has served the country quite well for hundreds of years.

In Parliament, decisions usually involve many debates and votes, often over several months, with updated information provided throughout the process, and during which the ‘decision’ can be amended or abandoned at any time.

Compare that to the referendum where we, ‘the people’, only had one vote, on one day, on the choice of just two words, without sufficient information (on the contrary, a lot of misinformation) and without any opportunity to amend or reconsider the ‘decision’ in the light of updated information.

If he had been wiser, Mr Cameron should have understood that the way we do ‘advisory’ referendums in the UK had the potential, especially on the topic of the EU, to undermine the sovereignty of our Parliament and severely damage our established system of democracy.

Pitching ‘the people’ against Parliament with an advisory referendum on such a complicated issue was asking for trouble, and Mr Cameron should have known that.

It was also disingenuous of Mr Cameron to tell the nation that this was a ‘once in a generation’ vote. That’s not how democracy works.

In a democracy, any vote can be undone by a new vote, at any time.

After all, the decisions of any democratically elected government can be reversed by the decisions of a new democratically elected government.

Mr Cameron knew that, but he wasn’t honest about it.

He also didn’t explain to the nation that the referendum was an advisory poll only and that, in the end, it was for Parliament to decide.

In addition, his conceit, and arrogant certainty, that Remain would win led to a lacklustre and ineffective Remain campaign.

Mr Cameron and the official ‘Stronger In’ campaign were entirely unprepared for the scintillating and charismatic campaign launched by Leave – albeit founded on lies and misinformation.

It was also stupid of Mr Cameron – and of Parliament – to agree to a referendum in which a minority of voters, by such a slim margin, could be allowed to impose on the majority a permanent change to the country; a change that has still not been defined or agreed to this day.

▪ BUT even after such grotesque stupidity resulting in an entirely flawed referendum, Mr Cameron could have redeemed himself if only he had acted with more wisdom after 23 June 2016.

He should NOT have resigned.

Instead of retiring to his garden shed, on 24 June 2016 he could have stepped outside 10 Downing Street and said to the nation:

“The country has voted for Leave by a very slim margin, but we have not actually defined what Leave means, or what kind of Brexit may be in the country’s best interests.

“So, I am now going to instigate a Royal Commission to investigate and report on the different versions of Brexit that may be available to the country.

“Our Parliament will then debate and vote on these options.

“I then propose that we will have a new referendum in due course based this time on a choice between a fully defined version of Brexit, or remaining in the EU on our current terms.

“In a democracy, taking several careful steps before reaching a final decision is not unusual. We even do it in our own lives when making big decisions.”

Mr Cameron didn’t do that.

But the next Prime Minister, Theresa May, could have done.

She didn’t. Instead, she tried to define Brexit in her own strict and restricted terms and could not get agreement. She made things worse, and widened the divisions in the country.

The next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, could have done what Mr Cameron should have done. But he didn’t either.

He is making things much worse, by insisting we have to go ahead with Brexit, with or without a deal – come what may, do or die – by 31 October, without going back to ‘the people’ in a new referendum, to specifically agree on what kind of Brexit, if any, the country now wants.

▪ ANY of the three Tory Prime Ministers of this millennium could have become among our best Prime Ministers if only they had acted with magnanimity, and most of all wisdom, in the national interest.

We can’t, or rather shouldn’t, go ahead with Brexit until the country has had an opportunity to democratically agree exactly what Brexit is, and then to decide whether that’s what we really want, or to remain in the EU after all.

▪ THERE is also a strong argument for annulling the referendum altogether, as it was only won, and executed, by serious illegalities and irregularities on a significant scale. As I have written many times, this will have to be the subject of a major public inquiry – the sooner, the better.



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