The will of (some of) the people…

FACEBOOK can be a congregation of the like-minded when it comes to passing on political stories. Friendship clusters make it likely that the people you know approach the world from a similar angle.

Recently, Facebook friends have been sharing something that appeared in the now online-only Independent. This is a pie-chart showing how people voted in the EU referendum, and breaking the vote down into numbers – information I sought and couldn’t find the last time this troublesome topic arose.

The headline was: “Show this chart to anyone who says Brexit is the ‘will of the British people’.” The slice of the pie voting Leave is shown as 17,410, 472, while the Remain vote is put at 16,141,241 – a figure which captures the closeness of the vote. The other quarters of this pie are “did not vote” at 12,948,018 and “not registered to vote” at 18,099,999.

There is a caution to this chart in that the “not registered” figure is a calculation reached by subtracting the size of the electorate as of June 22 from the OS records of total UK population published in February this year. “A person may not be on the register by their own choice, or due to ineligibility such as not yet being old enough, being in prison, or not possessing UK citizenship,” the Independent points out.

The report notes that the electoral commission reported that the electorate on referendum day was put at 46,500,001 – 72.1 per cent of whom turned out to vote.

None of this changes anything, but in the wake of the intense rancour and generally nastiness in certain newspapers following the High Court decision last week, it does offer a useful corrective.

Describing the vote as the “will of the people” always was a stretch – and one that snaps when you see those figures. The effort now should be to get everybody on board; whether they wanted to leave the EU or not. Instead what we are seeing is a government of the right, noisily supported by newspapers of the right, decrying anyone who dares to express doubts about this huge step we are about to take.

Last week three High Court judges decreed that Parliament should have a vote on whether we leave Europe, rather than letting the prime minister decide for herself. You may recall that the Daily Mail called the judges “Enemies of the people”, while the Daily Express hit the mad-old-aunt button and decreed this to be a more calamitous turn of events than the Second World War. (“Where’s my hard hat, Ethel?”)

Today’s front page sees the Express in less barmy mood, although the topic remains the same: “100,000 to march for EU exit.” This refers to acting UKIP leader Nigel Farage – perhaps that should be ‘acting-up leader’ – saying that he plans to lead a 100,000-strong march to the Supreme Court on the day the government appeals the ruling on MPs’ involvement in Brexit negotiations.

Farage warned at the weekend that there would be “disturbances on the streets” if Britain did not leave the EU – and now he is stirring up just such a disturbance. But if 100,000 people join Farage, I’ll be amazed, as well as profoundly depressed.

I’d love to know what the placards will say. How about: “How dare British MPs have a say on Britain’s future”? This Brexit business becomes more bonkers by the minute.


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