A rigid approach, adopted by government, is usually a sign it is failing. This can be seen with Britain’s Conservative government, led by Theresa May, with regard to Brexit. In recent weeks, polls suggest the government is stuck on a trajectory that’s at odds with changing public opinion. And that arrogant inflexibility may signal her government’s death knell.
A December 2017 poll found that:
NEW: @Independent poll > 51% now back remaining in the union, while 41% want Brexit – not surprised by this 10 point lead given Brexit as it was promised (£350m per week extra for the NHS?) is proving impossible https://t.co/9iyVcKVUMp
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) December 17, 2017
And now a new YouGov poll reveals that
Also, a Twitter poll of a massive 180,480 votes showed that 67% of participants want a second referendum on EU membership. Twitter polls are not an accurate reflection of public opinion. But, perhaps embarrassingly for the government, on this occasion it was organised by Lord Ashcroft, who is associated with the hard right of the Conservative Party and is a staunch Brexiteer:
And there we have it…
One of the largest ever Twitter polls conducted on #Brexit
180k votes, 20k RT's and from a public figure, not some bot buried deep in some echo chamber.
— Simon K 🇪🇺 (@simonk135) December 30, 2017
‘Voice of UKIP’
Then, just after Christmas, Labour peer Lord Adonis dropped a bombshell when he resigned as infrastructure tsar. In his resignation letter to May, he let rip, telling her that her party’s management of Brexit equated to:
a dangerous populist and nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump.
And he scathingly added that Theresa May had:
become the voice of Ukip and the extreme nationalist rightwing [of her party].
He also added that:
If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.
Meanwhile, it would seem that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is yet to reveal all his cards when it comes to Brexit. Indeed, Jonathan Lis, the deputy director of pro-European thinktank British Influence, argues that if the public becomes even more cynical about Brexit, the government could be forced into an early general election:
The demand for a second referendum could prove irresistible – and if the government dares to attempt a no-deal Brexit, a general election and Corbyn government would swiftly follow.
However, a December poll cautioned that if Labour sticks with Brexit, a quarter of Labour’s voters could switch their support to another party. And a majority of Labour voters polled want to halt Brexit:
% of Labour voters who'd be "delighted or pleased" if the Labour Party said it would…
Stop Brexit: 63%
Proceed with Brexit: 22%
via @YouGov, 17 – 19 Dec
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) December 27, 2017
On the other hand, many voters in Labour heartlands voted emphatically for Brexit.
This is all food for thought for Corbyn, of course.
such is the dynamic of Brexit that he [Corbyn] is now seen as a potential prime minister,
Will of the people
Those vocal in the Brexit debate often quote the phrase ‘the will of the people’. But the problem with the people’s will is that it is notoriously subject to manipulation by politicians, special interest groups, the media and big business. Which is why referendums – particularly those based on the ‘first past the post’ principle – can be so unreliable.
And the people’s will, of course, can change. Sometimes dramatically.
So what does the government do, if at some point polls consistently show that the populace is, say, two-thirds opposed to Brexit? Should it adapt to changing opinion, or should it doggedly continue with its present course?
May’s government has already given its answer:
There must be no attempts to remain inside the European Union, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum.
– Read more from The Canary on Brexit.
Featured image via David Mirzoeff
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