Referendums 

 

When it comes to issues of national importance the use of referendums is a handy mechanism for change, or, as the case may be, ratification of the status quo.   Either way …

They should be used with a degree of care and reluctance, because once utilised the future can be reset.  In other words, we really need to know what it is we are voting for; otherwise we won’t really know what we are voting for (or against).    

Therein lies the problem.  Precisely because the issues are often so complex and usually so pivotal.

One thing is certain.  If the vote is close resentment will dog the community, as a technical majority is another term for divisiveness.  A close call is a bad result for a referendum. 

One way to obviate this is to insist on a higher margin for real victory.  If the split is 51/49 the mandate for change seems slim, if not non-existent.   If a vote of 60/40 were obtained it appears a real majority are in favour of the referendum (or opposed to it).  70/30 would be optimal.  But less than 60/40 will see the same issues the ‘Brexit’ vote has foisted upon the UK in relation to community cohesion.  The government is virtually hamstrung because no real mandate exists, much less any will.

If it were argued that 60/40 is unlikely to be the outcome then change is not worth the consideration.  There is no overwhelming community will for change if there is no clear majority.