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Many thanks for this exchange of views, which I find fascinating even if I slightly disagree with you. The problem with not having a written Constitution is that it all depends, a bit, on the author's viewpoint. For all its claims of ancient tradition, the UK "constitution" is very crude and basic at best.

In reality the UK is a Parliamentary democracy where Parliament is effectively Sovereign. Referenda have only been used, rarely and relatively recently, to decide on EU membership issues and some electoral system and "regional" devolution issues, where Parliament found the issue too difficult or too regional to resolve.

While the formal position was always that EU related referenda were advisory, it would be a brave parliamentarian/party which would go "against the voice of the people". Nevertheless it was always a political rather than a legally binding decision to accept the result.

Personally I think referenda are generally a good thing and fill a massive void in a simplistic and crude first past the post single seat constituency system where there is little point in voting in most constituencies which are deemed "safe" for any party.

I suspect the high turn out in the last referendum was a huge sigh of relief that your vote in many "safe" constituencies actually mattered and would actually count towards the final result. Much of the vote was actually a protest vote against the system, austerity, and the Government, but c'est la Vie. Democracy doesn't always work in the way intended.

We in Ireland can act all smug in that we have had many referenda and know how they should actually work: They are for inserting very specific provisions in a written constitution with very specific effects so there is the least possible uncertainty as to what the real issue is all about.  A referendum on May's (or any other deal) would have the merit of being quite specific and unambiguous in its effects.

Obviously a government with a working majority can do a lot to impose its will on Parliament, on the order of business and what issues are put to a vote and which are not. The Fixed Term Act actually makes it very difficult to force a Prime Minister out mid-term - unless disowned by her own party. The DUP have said they will support te Conservatives on confidence issues even though they will render it paralysed on much else.

So we could be left with a lame duck Prime Minister leading a lame duck government drifting helplessly onto the "no-deal" rocks. The only alternative is for May to do a deal with Corbyn on a general election or a second referendum. To his credit, Corbyn has been quite clear: he wants a general election. The question is whether even a third of the Conservatives would be prepared to follow May down that route at the present time, as the Fixed Term Act requires a two thirds majority of Parliament to pass.

I suspect she could get that number - many are in safe seats - but they could be risking condemning the Conservative Party to Opposition for a generation, and even its displacement by the Lib Dems in the duopoly of power in Westminster. Perhaps the Remainers and Leavers in the Conservative Party hate each other enough to risk that outcome.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 29th, 2018 at 03:01:51 PM EST
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