An overwhelming mandate?

In the House of Commons on Thursday December 8th David Lidington, the Deputy Leader of the House, made an interesting claim; “40% of the population of Scotland voted to leave” the EU in the June referendum. Actually, and I hope I’m not being pedantic here, the figure was 19% of the people living in Scotland. Nearly 1.4 million people in Scotland were not allowed to vote, mainly because they were foreign nationals or too young. Lidington clearly meant 40% of those who voted. 40%? Yes, it’s accurate more or less. The exact percentage was 38%, but I don’t have a problem with him rounding it like that.

The problem for the bold Brexiteers is that they have been insisting that they have
“a clear, overwhelming and unarguable mandate”. Now if it is reasonable to round up from 38% to 40% isn’t it equally reasonable to round the UK’s remain vote from 48.1% to 50%? Suddenly that overwhelming mandate in an advisory referendum looks awfully like a verdict that the electorate was split down the middle. Sure, 51.9% is more than 48.1% but given the flaws in the referendum, the overwhelming preference of younger voters to stay in the EU, the inability of those most directly affected (i.e. British expats in the EU, and EU expats in the UK) to vote, is that really a convincing justification for the disruption of Brexit?

As David Lidington would undoubtedly say if he were being consistent, “we must not forget that, throughout the UK, 50% of the voters chose to remain”.


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