Today there is a referendum on whether or not Britain remains part of the European Union. Today we as a nation decide whether to Brexit or not to Brexit. I wrote about it back in February. Back then it seemed like the distant future, but lo and behold, we’re here in the future.
In February I suggested that the build up to the referendum would be entertaining. I was wrong. It has been predictable and disappointing.
I did make another prediction though and I’m going to directly quote myself now:
How we vote will instead be decided on how afraid we are of the alternative. Some of us will vote to stay in Europe because we’re afraid of significant change and others of us will vote to leave Europe because we’re afraid of Europe telling us what to do and disproportionately afraid of mass immigration. None of those fears will be particularly informed by facts.”
I think I got that bit entirely correct. Fear and not facts have been the driving forces of both campaigns and thus a woefully misinformed public is going to the polls today to vote on an issue that they don’t really understand.
It reminds me of a time, around the age of fourteen, when something happened to me in a maths lesson. I was (and flatter myself still am) pretty good at maths. I was in the top set in my year group. It was quite a competitive class and we all wanted to outdo each other.
One afternoon I got into a dispute with my friend over the solution to a problem. I thought I was correct and he thought that he was correct. In order to prove his point he asked the boys on the table behind us and they duly agreed with him. I stuck to my guns however and so he solicited more opinions.
Several more tables came to his aid and I, as yet, had no-one on my side. Still I would not be moved. I was adamant that I was correct. This steadfast refusal to yield to the popular vote annoyed one girl to the extent that I was subject to a tirade of abuse. How could I be so arrogant to believe that I was right in the face of so much opposition.
The answer was simple.
I was actually right.
I had done the maths better than the rest of them. I wasn’t standing up for what I believed in. It wasn’t a crusade of personal faith. My calculations were just better, as the class teacher eventually proved to the rest of them when going through the problem on the board.
Part of the reason for my telling of this tale is that, even more than two decades on, it fills me with a sense of warmth and satisfaction. But the more relevant point, I think, is that maths problems are never solved by a popular vote.
And the EU vote is about the economy more than it is about anything else. And the British public should absolutely not be trusted with a vote which could have such a significant impact on the economy because, frankly, most of us don’t really understand how the economy works.
Surely the point of democracy is that we vote for people who pretend to understand the economy to make such decisions for us. If we then have to make these decisions for ourselves, what is the purpose of politicians?
Still we are where we are and we must, I suppose, vote the way our heart tells us.
I’m voting to stay in the EU because the short term prognosis is that we’ll get a better exchange rate on the pound if we stay and I want to go on holiday this summer.
It seems as a good a reason as any the politicians have come up with.