Ignorance and belief are invariably fellow travellers as Islamic terrorism amply demonstrates but it is a wide spread phenomenon that occurs in every aspect of our society; as any marketeer will tell you belief in the brand is their holy grail and they create desire by exploiting our gullibility. One of the most dispiriting aspects of the EU Referendum was that it further exposed our political system as one where leaders manipulate the ignorance of the populace at large using over simplified messages that turn speculation into fact and fact into justification for policy commitment.
The protagonists in the EU Referendum exploited this ignorance of the electorate at large by feeding them with half-truths and even lies that were so easy to believe because they simply reinforced existing prejudices and beliefs. Neither side (but particularly #Brexit) made any attempt to explain the complexities of the issues or concede their opponents point of view. #Brexit assured us that the 27 remaining EU states would accede to our every demand and the negative economic consequences that we are now experiencing would not occur and the #Remain side would never accept that immigration in the tens of thousands was totally impossible while we are still members of the EU.
The issue of sovereignty played strongly in the Leave campaign and relied upon the nostalgia of older voters who sought to put the “Great” back into Britain. This and a sense of powerlessness in the wake of globalisation produced the slogan “We want our Country back” but these were really proxies for the fact since (and even before) the economic crash of 2008, many at the bottom of the social pile had felt disenfranchised and excluded from any economic revival and ignored by those in power. And ironically those who derided the lack of democratic accountability in the EU (despite having elected MEPs) happily ignored our own unelected House of Lords that is stuffed with political placemen, bishops and even some hereditaries.
Referenda are a crude tool by which to frame decision making, their binary nature doesn’t allow for shades of grey and the nuances that should be part of any serious determination of policy. We live in a representative democracy and although those representatives, our MPs, are elected on a personal and political party platform they aren’t mandated to simply follow the instructions of those who elected them. This is the paradox of our democracy but up until now no one has come up with a better system, however it relies upon a respect for and trust in the political class and that has been diminishing for many years. Our leaders cannot simply “dismiss the people and appoint a new one”, for democracy to fulfil our expectations we need a better educated and informed electorate.