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Brexit Means Brexit - But Did We Know What We Were Doing?

27/07/2016 12:46 | Updated 27 July 2016

They say practise makes perfect.

Certainly, I find the more I practise the piano, the better I get (albeit painstakingly slowly). And I have found watching re-runs of Game of Thrones has helped me understand the myriad of plot lines with just that little more clarity each time. And I'm sure any football player or musician or public speaker or heart surgeon or mechanic - or indeed pretty much anyone who has persevered and perspired to achieve what they aimed to achieve - would suggest that any means of repetition and rehearsal will produce an optimal outcome. That's the point of the phrase practise makes perfect. Doing something only once does not yield as good a result as something that has been practised and refined.

Am I angling for a second referendum? Possibly. Certainly, there is a degree of irrationality in accepting, as the best possible outcome for the UK (and my children's future), the result of something that we, the voting public, are not entirely rehearsed at. After all, how many times have we ever had a referendum? Three. And one of those was back in 1975 (before a great many of the now voting public were even born), and the other was back in 2014 (when 90% of the British population wasn't even allowed to vote). Three tries. Two times, for many. And only one time, for some. That's it. Hardly enough to ensure that we are well-practised, highly-refined referendumers. And now, a month on - after we have witnessed the Pound almost free fall into oblivion, and after house prices threaten to plummet, and after it is fairly well-understood that we can't spend the now infamous £350 million a week on the NHS, and after... well, so many things... it seems that we need more practise. If the knee surgeon had only had three tries before my wife's operation, I wouldn't exactly be confident of the best outcome. Practice and experience helps. This is unquestionable.

And so it seems fair to ask whether or not we, as voters, are practised enough at national referenda to make the right decisions? Are we familiar enough with referenda to fully understand their consequences? Are we controlled and measured enough to engage in referenda for the right reasons? No, I am not suggesting here that the government were negligent in offering such a gargantuan issue to an unpractised public. On the contrary, I am wondering if there is a case to undergo more national referenda more often. To give us the time to develop our referenda experience. To build confidence that our voices and concerns will be heard. To practise applying our political knowledge. To engage with the bigger issues. Perhaps this will help us become more discerning about what we say and when we say it. Perhaps we will learn with more refinement when is best to protest or not? If we know we will be listened to, maybe will we be more considered in our judgements? Perhaps this is how a progressive parliamentary democracy moves forward - by asking the people more often what they actually think? Surely that's an app for that...

Did I vote to remain? Yes. Am I sore loser? Perhaps. That doesn't mean I didn't have my doubts about the EU - I understood people's fears of immigration; and I get that Britain can develop other trade deals outside the EU; and certainly I am not enthralled with unelected representation nor impressed with the EU's wasteful spending, not least the travelling circus that is the monthly decamp from Brussels to Strasbourg at a reported cost of £130 million a month to the tax payer. I am aware of all these things. But, for me, on balance, being in the club is probably better than being out of it. Ask any teenager in the school playground and I am sure, more often than not, they will agree that being part of the group is more preferable. Of course, there is the possibility that the UK will end up pioneering a future with a newly redesigned European Union... but that's a story for another day.

Either way, a friend of mine recently asked me if I would have written this if my side had won the referendum. It's true, I can't say I would have thought to. But I would like to think someone else would. Because regardless of who won or lost, the point remains: we all need to buy in. We all need to feel like we are being heard, regularly. And only through being heard, only by engaging, and creating what Rousseau calls a general will between us all, can we progress and move forward as engaged and advanced political citizens, making laws of the people, for the people, by the people. Perhaps it is time for us to have our say more often.

ID cards anyone?

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