Friday, June 24, 2016

Referendum, part II

What a surprise I had, turning on the radio this morning, to hear a member of the 'Remain' campaign being asked why he was feeling 'dejected'.  For the result of yesterday's referendum — a result I had thought wouldn't actually happen — is that the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union.

It's an exciting result, but is it a good result?  That depends, as I said yesterday, on my countrymen's motivations and inward thoughts.  We have proved to ourselves that our democracy works, and that a cross on a ballot paper can actually do something, but have we remembered what our democracy is for? I hope it isn't simply a strop or 'a vote of no confidence by the British in what their country has become', as a Radio 4 commentator has just suggested; I hope the votes have been cast in favour of something good rather than against something bad.  This is bound to be the case in some quarters, but surely not (I have enough faith to believe) in 51% of quarters.  I hope it has been a principled vote.  Otherwise it is a hollow result indeed.

Of course, the result is not quite as simple as I said: in saying that the United Kingdom has voted to leave, some strain is placed on its 'United' aspect.  London, the deafening cauldron of mostly sound and fury, has proven itself to be almost its own country.  More seriously still, 63% of votes cast in Scotland have been to Remain.  I am saddened that this result, compared with last year's independence referendum, suggests a greater attachment in Scotland to the European Union than to 'our' Union (though the turnout there was much lower this time; I don't know how numbers of votes actually compare).  The Union is precious to me and I fear this result might endanger it.

Another interesting statistic is that 75% of 18-24 year-olds voted to Remain (compared to 39% of voters aged 65 and older).  If the referendum had been of people aged 56 and below, the outcome would have been the opposite.

Well, that is that, for now at least.  Mr. Cameron has announced his resignation: an honourable thing for which he deserves credit, I think.  Let us forge our untrodden path with wisdom and understanding, retaining friendly relations with our European neighbours (especially France and Germany, of which I am especially fond), strengthening the circle of friendship that we have in the Commonwealth and keeping our eye on the common good, not only for ourselves but for the whole world.

I just wish I knew what the Queen thinks about it all!

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