Doubts over suitability of electorate are groundless

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I refer to a letter from a John Munro, in the matter of the referendum on membership of the EU (letters, July 7).

I was reminded of the Langton cartoon in an old copy of “Punch” wherein a United States Army General says to President Nixon, “Gee – that was a great thing you said – about the popular will threatening the democratic process”.

It is pretty much routine that when a preferred position is not achieved, the calibre of the electorate is called into question.

We are considered incapable of matching the intellectual skills of those who we select, propose and elect as MPs and yet our suitability as voters to put them into Parliament is – hypocritically – not held in doubt.

It was a Prime Minister (of the majority party) who put forward the referendum and placed it before his colleagues on both sides for information. It was also made known to the EU before the vote. There were also interjections from people and governments who had no vote in the matter.

Mr Munro’s three “moral duty” points deserve a look as he has put them forward:

1, “A referendum is not usually mandatory, but only advisory”. It reflects the terms under which it is promulgated, in this case very clearly in or out. There were no exclusions or options.

2. “It usually requires a majority of at least 60 or 65 per cent”. Where did this come from? Perhaps references might be provided by the claimant. The Welsh referendum on the devolution of powers to a Welsh Assembly had – not only a lower turnout at 50.1 per cent – but also a lower majority of 50.3 per cent for and 49.7 per cent against than either of those in the EU referendum. There is a Welsh Assembly now functioning – no repeat performance at the ballot box.

3. “It has to be ratified by Parliament”. As above, Parliament was aware of the Prime Minister’s terms, but I remain confused as to the origin of Mr Munro’s claim. The continuation comment by your correspondent is nonsense, I’m afraid. He states that there is no “unity among the people” but in the general experience it is those with the higher outcome who are deferred to by those with the lower. It is far too early to evaluate the “chaos”, which in any case would not be/have been caused by the ‘in’ group or the ‘out’ group but by those who agreed to, and put up, the referendum itself.

But it has happened, and it is up to all to make it work. This is still a great country and we can (and have a civic duty to) prove it, whichever our referendum preference, without wasting valuable time bickering.

Michael Appleton

Mendip Road

Worthing

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