EU Referendum: A look back to 1975, the AV Referendum and what will happen next?
The big political story that seems to completely dominate the news cycle now is the EU Referendum (in which Wirral Council are running the election here on the Wirral).
I was present six years ago at the count in Wallasey Town Hall for the AV Referendum (you can see below the photos I took) and it was obvious before the result was declared which way people felt on that issue.
However in around a fortnight we’ll know the outcome of the EU Referendum and I’ve seriously (although I’ve made my mind up which way I’m voting) no idea which way it’ll go.
The opinion polls are so close that the difference between remain and leave is within the margin of error of the poll. Essentially what this means is that the EU Referendum will be decided by people who haven’t made their mind up yet.
I am also sensing a generational divide in how people talk about the EU Referendum. My generation was born in a UK that was part of the EU. We have no personal experience of what it was like before the UK joined. We’ve never been asked to vote on it. We also never lived through a European war (apart from the Yugoslav wars).
The older generation (who are more likely to vote and pensioners also have the time to be politically active) still remember the horrors of World War II. Some of them lived through it. It was something that deeply affected them and their families.
Yet it was out of people who had known the horrors of war that the European dream was created. So what did the dreamers of the European dream want?
They wanted countries to work together for the common good, to respect human rights so the horrors that happened during two world wars wouldn’t happen again (or at least if any tried something similar they’d be punished), for European people to respect the rule of law, for there to be democracy, justice, free trade, to eradicate poverty* and to promote peace.
*No James, they didn’t want Wirral Council to bungle the handling of European money for economic regeneration.
Fine ideals in principle that not many would argue are a “bad idea”.
However either it hasn’t worked out quite how the idealists planned it to and/or Europe just gets a bad press in this country?
People in this country (including myself) campaigned against going into Iraq again in 2003 (yes I had a political past as an activist). I’m still not holding my breath over the publication of the Chilcot report, however I did at the time when I read the "dodgy dossier" describe it as propaganda, but as the cliché goes lessons need to be learnt (albeit 13 years after it happened). However that is besides the point.
The outcome of the AV Referendum on Wirral five years ago was very clear-cut.
No – 73,120 (71.9%)
It was a vote for keeping things the same, for the status quo. Lots of people had voted using first past the post for generations and even those pressing for voting reform really wanted STV (Single Transferable Vote) not AV (which was seen as a compromise).
However, back to the EU Referendum. Personally I don’t know what will happen next if a majority vote to leave. If truth be told, nobody really does. Predictions seem to be the verbal equivalent of crystal ball gazing dressed up in soundbites designed to arouse an emotional response from voters and attract press coverage.
For my generation a vote for the status quo, therefore the situation they’ve known all their lives is a vote to remain. For others who have known more of their life in the UK outside the EU the status quo is different.
So what was the result in 1975?
This was what was asked then (seems very similar to what’s been asked now really).
Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?
The Tory infighting over this issue has however damaged them as a political party. To be fair though, they’re not the only political party that has been split on the European issue.
On the 23rd of this month when people will be voting in the polling stations I hope they will think through their decision.
Although I have made up which way I am voting, the choice is down to you (or at least the readers of this who have a vote or some influence in it). Think through what will happen next after the votes are counted.
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