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There's Nothing Else for It - We Need a Second Referendum

27/06/2016 15:39 | Updated 27 June 2016

When I walked out of the polling station last week, I was beaming. The polls were close but promising, the sun was shining, #dogsatpollingstations was trending... It all seemed like a good day for democracy, and I was optimistic for a remain vote.

By 2am, any optimism had been replaced by fear. By 4am, I was holding back tears. And by 7am I was anxiously wondering if there was any way of avoiding the result.

And then a petition, to hold a second referendum campaign, took off. Already it has surpassed the number of signatures needed to be debated in parliament, and been accessed so many times that petitions.gov has crashed. Is this the ray of hope I was looking for?

This isn't how democracy should work. We shouldn't need a do-over. But it's pretty evident to me that we do.

Throughout the campaign, it was neck and neck. But I'm not sure anyone really believed we would leave. Voting leave was not really a vote for out, it was a vote against a system. This weekend plenty of people have come forward, wishing they could re-do their vote.

One woman said she wished she could "go back to the polling station and vote to stay." Another said: "I didn't think it would matter much, because I thought we were just going to remain."

In the long run, we need complete, massive electoral reform. Mandatory voting with a 'none of the above' option is only the first step to fixing our broken relationship with the polling station. Perhaps if those who voted leave to stick two fingers up at Britain wouldn't have had to, if they could have voted for another 'none' option.

Lowering the voting age to 16 would also make the result fairer, allowing young people to vote on their future, rather than having it decided by their grandparents. We have to learn from this referendum, and change the way we treat young people.

But for now we need to fix this vote, before it destroys anything else.

We can vote in as many times as we like. We can hold endless referendums until we get a solid mandate either way. We can take our time, hold honest campaigns, be better at this democracy lark, and it will be ok.

We can only vote out once.

And if we're voting out in such a way that even out voters are disappointed, we're not doing it right.

Then there's the issue of majority. A decision of this magnitude needs more than a 4% gap. 52-48 is not a mandate by any stretch of the imagination. Even Nigel Farage admitted this, saying that if we voted 52-48 to remain then he would be seeking a second referendum. I would never normally say this, but listen to Nigel.

The campaign was driven by lies, too. Within hours, Nigel Farage had recounted one of his key campaign pledges - that we would be able to give £350m a week more to the NHS. Having admitted
that it was wrong so fast, how can we trust his campaign?

The bones of it is this: people have voted incredibly narrowly for an outcome they didn't want after being driven by lies.

And that's not democracy. We've failed at implementing a fair vote, but this doesn't have to be the end. Let's try again.

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