The centrist MPs obsessing about a further referendum arrogantly call their plan a “people’s vote” – apparently, no people voted in the first Brexit referendum.
But rather than empowering the people – or even the section that voted remain in 2016 – they have managed to hand Theresa May an escape hatch from the consequences of her own incompetence.
The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) lays out, among other things, the way in which any new referendum would be structured or called – and it puts all the cards in Theresa May’s grasping hand, because she and her party would decide the wording.
PPERA makes it perfectly clear that any referendum requires an Act of Parliament to bring it – and that the government specifies the wording of the question:
The government has to give the wording to the Electoral Commission – but the only power the Commission has is to decide whether the question is ‘intelligible’.
As long as the question is intelligible, it passes.
The Blairites and others pushing for a new referendum, for whatever agenda, have handed May a way out of the cleft stick her own incompetence and the Tories’ untrustworthiness have put her in:
- a new referendum buys her time as it takes minimum 3 months to hold
- she controls wording of question
- she would control timing
- she can exclude other options
- she can legally spend millions of pounds of public money selling her deal to voters
And as May controls the question, if she calls a new referendum it will offer voters the choice between the terms of her dismal deal – or leaving with no deal at all. ‘Remain’ will certainly not feature.
The “people’s vote” has handed May the unthinkable – a ‘get out of jail’ card from the mess she has made. The only question is the precise blend of idiocy, naivety and the desperate desire to undermine Jeremy Corbyn at any costs that has motivated them to do it.
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