Long range predictions are meaningless

Date: Monday 12th March 2018

Sir, The column by Brian Nicholls and the letter from J. Rowe (Herald, 24th February) both illustrate some of the basic imperfections of democratic decision-making.

When, for instance, should a decision be finally made? Is it when absolutely all the facts are known and there can be no room for doubt of any kind?

But whose “facts” ought we to listen to, and if certainty is essential how could we ever decide anything in a changing world? What of honest disagreement, where I put more weight on one side of an argument than you do? How often and by what criteria should we be able to change our minds about a decision we have taken?

The point is that all democratic processes are imperfect, and they exist only because we argumentative, hairless apes can never agree about anything for long. So vote we do, and every single time we do similar criticisms can be made of the result.

Mr Nicholls is right to say that we live in a representative democracy, but on this occasion our representatives very definitely promised us that they would honour the result of the referendum. Some of them appear to be consumed with remorse over that promise, taken by an overwhelming vote of those representatives, so now we have the endless redefining of what Brexit should or should not mean, and constant attempts to undermine the Government’s negotiating position.

Project Fear is still running full steam ahead, and has obviously influenced Mr Nicholls to change his mind, but to call his previous position “idiocy” is a denial of the nature of that choice.

There is no right and wrong here, and nobody knows and nobody can predict what the future will hold. The referendum was a choice about which direction to take, and for anyone, especially economists who cannot predict what they are going to have for breakfast, to behave as if they know what is coming 15 years down the line, is absurd. Long range predictions are meaningless except as a means to manipulate the electorate’s emotions.

Mr Rowe is right to observe that the majority of voters in the referendum are actually a minority of the electorate, as is the case in every election of recent times, and it is also true that Parliament has decided to vote on the final deal the Government negotiates with the EU. The statement that “… we should be given the chance to have our say when we have been properly and truthfully informed” does seem somewhat idealistic, however, as there are no impartial opinions to be had on this issue, and yet again the promise of a potential reversal plays into the hands of the EU and would inevitably alter its stance in the negotiations.

A large part of the problem that Brexit presents us with is down to the fundamentally antidemocratic nature of the EU project. There has been no opportunity to vote specifically on anything to do with it since we decided to stay in the Common Market in 1975.

Every development has been made without the electorate having any meaningful say. Our representatives in Parliament have taken our consent for granted, and with all the major parties in agreement there has been no opportunity for dissenting voices to have any effect through normal elections.

The warning signs of unhappiness with the project were plain to see with the rise of Ukip, but still they were largely ignored or derided. And now we are heading for what I would term a Remainer’s or Pig’s Ear Brexit, and even that will be better than remaining in the EU, because in the long term the people of this country will get to vote on their own future. And that is democracy. Yours etc,


Nateby Road,

Kirkby Stephen.