Referendums are great: Just ask David Cameron or Carles Puigdemont.
But they can be “dangerous,” as one senior British politician warned back in 2002.
“There is a proper role for referendums in constitutional change, but only if done properly. If it is not done properly, it can be a dangerous tool,” he said, going on to quote ex-Prime Minister Clement Attlee by saying the referendum is the “device of demagogues and dictators.”
“Referendums should be held when the electorate are in the best possible position to make a judgment,” the Tory politician added. “They should be held when people can view all the arguments for and against and when those arguments have been rigorously tested. In short, referendums should be held when people know exactly what they are getting.
“We should not ask people to vote on a blank sheet of paper and tell them to trust us to fill in the details afterwards.”
Those wise words were spoken by … David Davis, the Brexit secretary.
The EU is a particular fan of letting the people have their say in a referendum — witness the glorious French and Dutch votes on an EU constitution — and likes them so much that it let the Irish have another go when they voted the “wrong” way on the Nice treaty.
The Swiss, meanwhile, have referendums for everything. You can’t even have a fondue in Zurich without asking your neighbors.
So what better way to spice up 2018 than by having more referendums (and we’d prefer you said referendums and not referenda). Here are some ideas:
UK to stay in the EU
Let’s start with an obvious one. Brexit has been a resounding success — for lawyers, lobbyists, journalists, Nigel Farage and the Eurostar. But those pesky Remainers have still been calling for another trip to the ballot box. Where they’ve gone wrong is by calling for a vote on the final Brexit deal that Theresa May — only joking, that whoever replaces Theresa May as prime minister — strikes with Brussels. What they should be calling for is a complete rerun of the first referendum, because 17.4 million people can be wrong.
Proposed by: Theresa “Dear lord, make it stop” May
Chance of success: 48 percent
* * *
Catalonia to apologize for all that independence hoo-hah
Well that was a bit of a shambles. Catalans thought they were closing in on their dream of a separate state by voting overwhelmingly (which is an old Catalan word meaning “in an illegal vote with no oversight and ballot boxes smuggled into polling stations by grannies”) for independence. Then Madrid sent in the stormtroopers to beat up the grannies and locked up the ringleaders, apart from Carles Puigdemont and a few allies who ran into the welcoming arms of the Flemish nationalists. Wouldn’t it be best for everyone if the entire thing was forgotten about? To appease Madrid, they could even hold another referendum giving Catalans the chance to apologize for causing such a fuss.*
Proposed by: Carles “Can I come home? It’s cold in this Belgian forest” Puigdemont
Chance of success: 25 percent (Catalan figure), 100 percent (Spanish figure)
*A separate referendum is planned for 2019 in which Galicia will seek to become part of Portugal.
* * *
Smoking pot in the EMA
European Medicines Agency staffers are still rejoicing after Amsterdam won the right to be their home once they have to leave London (many had thought they faced a move to Bratislava, which was on a par with Pyongyang in the popularity stakes). So get ready for an early, pre-Netherlands referendum on the smoking of weed while at work.
Proposed by: New EMA head Snoop Dogg
Chance of success: 100 percent (if snacks are left next to ballot box)
* * *
Jean-Claude Juncker kissing/hugging exclusion zone
The European Commission chief likes physical contact with politicians almost as much as he likes a nice bottle of merlot. And while it can be amusing for those watching — him greeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with a hug and “hello dictator” being a particular highlight — those on the sharp, or rather wet, end are almost certainly less keen on it. Still, could be worse — could be Trump and his tiny hand(s)shake.
Proposed by: Viktor Orbán, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Donald Tusk …
Chance of success: 100 percent
* * *
East and West coasts to cede from Donald Trump’s America
This would be a short-term measure to last until Donald Trump gets impeached/shot/bored/replaced by someone more qualified for high office (Spongebob Squarepants, say). But it would allow the liberal-backing snowflakes of the U.S. coastal regions (Florida doesn’t count because it’s weird) to put some distance between themselves and their batshit-crazy leader.
Proposed by: Barack Obama
Chance of success: 100 percent