Referenda or How To Lose Friends.

I was reading that Nigel Farage agreed with Gina Miller the EU Referendum was only advisory and felt that as a consequence the law should be changed to make them binding.

I think that’s a terrible idea  to see why click here or here.

By and large people who vote in referenda are not qualified to vote.  The issues that come to referendum are horrendously complex.  Take the EU – people make their entire careers understanding one small part.  Yet people come home from work, read what Mr Murdoch or whoever wants them to think and then go, “got it, 10 minutes well spent;  I now know all the issues and how to vote”.  It’s NUTS.

Fundamentally the problem is ego.  We might be willing to accept that the other guy is an idiot who doesn’t know all the issues, but not me – hey I know what it’s about.  The very epitome of head up the arse syndrome.  If we assume that everyone is capable of understanding the issues that STILL doesn’t make people qualified to vote.  A genius who doesn’t take the time to look at the data behind the headlines is no more qualified than anyone else.

Of course even suggesting that maybe people are not informed enough is a great way to lose friends.  People hear “you calling me stupid?” rather than thinking “are all my opinions from newspapers or have I checked the real story?”.    The standard reply is:

“Don’t you believe in democracy?”

To which my answer is:- imagine you are a passenger on a plane with 300 passengers and the pilot has a heart attack and dies.  Do you ask everyone on the plane which button to press, take a vote and go with it…..or do you try to contact an expert on the ground and get them to advise you and then follow their advice?

If you think that no you do not call the expert and listen to them then yes you believe in referenda……but if you would prefer not to die in a fiery (metaphorical) plane crash then maybe you will agree with me that having them legally binding is not the best idea?


A very short note on confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is part of the human condition.  It means that when presented with an argument we are inclined to give greater weight and credence to those parts we already agree with.


So for example if someone is anti immigration and  hears “we are going to stop the immigrants” they probably won’t pay attention to, “but actually freedom of movement is likely to be part of any eu agreement.”


If someone hears and believes “the EU is undemocratic – give us our sovereignty back”  They won’t pay much attention to


“The first is the myth of sovereignty, there is no doubt whatsoever that the United Kingdom is a sovereign state under international law. There is no doubt whatsoever that the parliament in Westminster is the supreme law making authority in this country.


Conversely there is no doubt whatsoever that the EU is not a sovereign entity, far from being a sovereign state, it is not even a sovereign entity, it has only those powers which has been given under the EU treaties. If the UK courts sometimes give priority to EU law in the event of a conflict with domestic law, it is purely because our parliament has expressly instructed them to do so in our own legislation.


So it the UK a sovereign state? Yes.


Is parliament our supreme legislative authority? Yes.


So why do we keep hearing about sovereignty in this debate. The fact is that sovereignty is not really an issue in the debate, it is about power and influence and sovereignty is being used as a shorthand to talk about power and influence”.


And if as a remain voter you are now feeling a little smug it is worth pointing out that the converse is equally true.  As human beings we are all victims to confirmation bias – and FaceBook /Twitter which feeds us the views of those we agree with in preference to other people’s exacerbates the problem.


The thing therefore is to be aware of this and to try to guard against it and where possible look for neutral factually based commentary.