Barlow's Beef: The problem with democracy

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Unlike public 'consultations' where the end result is decided before the process begins. The problem with true democracy for politicians is it states clearly what the majority of the public actually want and cannot be manipulated to give the answer they want.

At no time in the past 41 years did our government give the public any opportunity to express their views on our relationship with the European Union. 
Had they done so AND listened I suspect we would still be part of a more democratic and less arrogant EU.

When asked in 1975 if voter supported our continued membership of the Common Market 67 per cent said yes. Not a surprising result considering it offered an increased opportunity to sell our goods and services to a larger market. So far... so good.

Whether that was the sole intention or not is unclear but its influence spread inexorably into areas of our lives that were deeply resented. Our politicians showed little or no regard for public concern claiming it to be EU procedure.

Any dissent of EU immigration policy was likely to brand concerned communities Xenophobic by our political leaders who simply left them to deal with the consequences.

Perversely, as interference in UK law became increasingly resented by the British public EU lawmakers grew ever more meddlesome.

The micro management of British life from light bulbs to the weight of potatoes was an irritant foisted upon an increasingly aggrieved public for which bureaucrats in Brussels showed little or no regard.

Far worse was the dismissive attitude of British politicians who ploughed ahead regardless of growing public resentment.

A little more listening and a lot less arrogance would have gone a long way towards winning the hearts and minds of voters.

When finally our Prime Minister was forced into a referendum 43-years of EU membership failed to convince the electorate and the majority voted to leave the Union.

So here we are back paddling our own canoe. Our chastened politicians no longer have any excuse for ignoring the aspirations and concerns of the people they represent.

But this is no time for bitterness or gloating we have much to do. Freed from external interference and bureaucracy we can be nimble and fast on our feet. We must exploit the opportunities it presents.

I wish everyone, of all political persuasions, success in our new joint venture... together.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Photo: By Quartier_européen_Bruxelles_2011-06.JPG: Zinnekederivative work: Ssolbergj (talk) - CC BY-SA 3.0.

Barlow's Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Peter Evans
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 9:17 am
As Little England (a more realistic name for us now) embarks on the post trauma period of the messy divorce after we decided upon after a bad night in the pub, we are left to consider the implications that are akin to leaving your partner of 42 years because they hang the loo roll the wrong way round (controls over the size of potatoes or curvature of cucumbers... so mission critical for goodness sake??) and a lot of half truths and now apparent complete untruths. We made a decision that is now proving to be less attractive than we thought it would - after we argued about the loo roll after three too many G&Ts, woke up and as the hangover wore off we realised we were sleeping on an old mates floor: all those who I have talked to since who voted to leave are completely unable to explain why the voted to leave. We decided to go for divorce and are now a tad surprised that our partner is saying "okay, if you want to, just do it quickly, and don't think you're having the stereo, or the car, or the holiday we just booked, or access to the dog". We do have to look forward positively now and search for the new opportunities we have - but we will be playing catch up and it will take years to get back to where we would have been - just ask anyone who has been through a real divorce. And the ones who are likely to suffer the most, as ever, will be the children. What have we done...
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 11:09 am
It is remarkable how many people claim to know so many others who regret their decision to vote leave, when, as I understand it the only research suggests that 1% of leavers regret their vote, as compared with 3% of remainers who do the same.

Using your analogy, some of us, who actually thought rather hard about our decision, perceive the situation rather as an abusive relationship in which one party has bullied the other for a lengthy period violating every principle upon which their initial attraction (indeed, their prenuptial agreement) was based. When we began to cohabit with Europe we did not know that it intended to take ownership of a substantial proportion of our assets, nor that it intended to have all its family come to live with us, or that it would invite vast numbers of strangers from across the globe to do the same, notwithstanding the agreement we made that evening in Dublin.

My only feeling at present is one of freedom at being so close to the door, combined with apprehension that you might yet succeed in locking us in.
Jerry Stone
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 12:31 pm
Well said Jackie.
Simon Worthington
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 1:32 pm
Great response Jackie. The problem with the remainers is they couldn't find any advantage in staying in the abusive relationship but still couldn't leave. I suspect various announcements from the EU over the next few months which were deliberately delayed until we had voted will surprise a few remainers. The response of the kids (majority borrowing taxpayers funds and 40% will never repay a penny - along with all the EU students who won't repay a cent either) is very sad. Their views will change as they mature and see the slice out of their income each month wasted by our leaders who at least we will elect now.
Richard Stain
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 2:26 pm
I am amazed at the reaction of the disappointed "remain" voters, many claiming the "leave" voters were isolationist or anti Europe or worse. The truth is that many of us were simply tired of the excesses of the European Commission, just overpaid civil servants in truth, and we wanted our democracy back. My dad served in submarines in the last war and I don't think he was really fighting the Germans, he was fighting to save democracy. And now, whatever happens, I'm so glad we didn't just let democracy slip through our fingers. Well done Britain.
Jon Armstrong
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 2:33 pm
I think the "kids" are quite justifiably aghast that the generation who have reaped huge benefits from the EU during their working lives and all the free market and freedom of movement that goes with it have voted to deny their children and grandchildren the same benefits they have enjoyed. And now, if they get their way, in a country with a declining birth rate and an aging population, they have voted to increase the burden of the cost of that old age on the "kids".

The "kids" are generally far less threatened than their elders by people talking in funny languages or with different coloured skin, more likely to have some grasp of a foreign language, much more internationalist in their ambitions for work or travel, far more likely to work for foreign companies, and if they think about light bulb legislation at all, are more likely to think that ones which use less energy is a good thing for the environment.

I'm sure someone will be along to contradict me, but I know barely anyone under the age of about 45 who wanted to leave.
Barry Stafford
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 2:51 pm
Well said Jackie. Leave was our first time in 40+ years to make our views known.Over the years everyone you spoke to,contacts,friends, .The Media,the press. all have complained about the way our lives,our democracy,our laws,our views.Have been overtaken,ignored.The EU sytem became bloated,corrupt,eg. Lord Hall who has just resigned from the EU. salary £200, expenses. been there 2 years and will walk away with £250,000 WHAT!!!!.The Kinnocks husband and wife.Left the gravy train with a reported £10million.I would suggest you watch a brilliant video on 'You tube' 'EU referendum..The real face of the European union' by Philip Day. You will even see a young Nigel Farage, Its a brilliant video,the real truth of where its heading,run by Germany and France. Note its 40mins long. Baz
Steve 'Buck' Taylor
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 3:28 pm
A very close result never the less a result this is true democracy in action, what we need now is the most able and experienced negotiators to do the business in our favour and ensure that the EU are not ripping us off like they have been doing for the last 43 years. As for the young vote and their futures 'now in jeopardy' I have read that of those 18-24year old eligible to vote only 34% bothered! I rest my case in that area. Let us not allow this opportunity to be wasted, the more that we procrastinate the more it will be costing us as we we are still paying into the EU 'gravy train'.
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 3:58 pm
Jon - you are right I shall want to contradict you. For a start there was no exit poll on the day of the referendum so that the only data which is being used is from polls prior to the event and these are the very polls which got the outcome incorrect. What we do know is that turnout in the lowest age group 18 - 25 was low. This is the very same age group now complaining that, "they was robbed" and accusing their granny of effectively knifing them in the back. I very much doubt that some of the outstanding young people whose achievements are showcased on this website on a weekly basis would dream of casting such aspersions.

The fact is the result was decisive. The turnout was higher than at any general election since 1992. The result for exit (52%) is higher than any British Government has won in a general election since 1931.
Anthony Evans
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 6:50 pm
Last time I looked 54% of Cheshire East voted remain whilst 46% voted to leave. The vote was hardly decisive in Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Knutsford, in fact quite the opposite.
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 8:40 pm

You state ... The problem with true democracy for politicians is it states clearly what the majority of the public actually want and cannot be manipulated to give the answer they want.

My opinion. Sorry this is not factually correct. It was only 46,500,001 people who had the right to cast a vote on 23rd June not "the public". Of these only 17,410,742 voted to leave the European Union which is approximately 37.44%. How is that a majority? Figures sourced from

You state... When finally our Prime Minister was forced into a referendum 43-years of EU membership failed to convince the electorate and the majority voted to leave the Union.

My opinion: Sorry again. This not factually correct. It was only 17,410,742 of the electorate that voted to leave the European Union. The majority of the electorate (approximately 62.56%) did not vote to leave. Figures sourced from

You state... So here we are back paddling our own canoe

My opinion: And again sorry. This not factually correct. We have not left the European Union. Article 50 has not been invoked yet, and when it has been we have up to 2 years to negotiate the exit.

I appreciate you are only writing a column and that our opinions differ. I'm perfectly happy with that. The problem is that it's not only politicians who can be factually inaccurate but other sources too.

And neither do I agree with the interpretation of Jackie. No offence meant
for taken.
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 8:52 pm
Richard Stain

You wrote..Well done Britain.

I assume you actually meant "Well done UK."

Britain is just England and Wales. The name Britain goes back to Roman times when they called England and Wales "Britannia" (or "Britannia Major", to distinguished from "Britannia Minor", ie Brittany in France). The Roman province of Britannia only covered the areas of modern England and Wales. The area of modern Scotland was never finally conquered.

Or were you you deliberately ignoring the electorates of Scotland, Northern Island and the other crown dependencies such as Gibraltar who had a vote in the referendum?
Stuart Redgard
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 9:01 pm
Jackie Pass, Jerry Stone, Simon Worthington.

no offence has been taken but I just want to say I disagree with you. No offence meant either. It's just my opinion. That's all
Peter Evans
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 10:11 pm
'The only quoted stats I managed to find say 1.13m people (or 7%) say they regret voting leave, admittedly 0.7m (maybe about 3%) also say they wish they had voted leave. So please be consistent, and better still name your sources. The data I just used comes from several of the weekend papers (Independent and Mail included). Also, note that my statement was not about regret but about admitting they could not articulate why they had wanted to leave, suggesting a slightly random choice.

Jackie and co, I respect your decision to vote leave and for your reasons why. I simply don't agree with you. The decision is a balance of the good and the bad. The reasons you provided are basically all xenophobic. You ignore that most people coming into the country provide a net benefit and we rely \non them to keep vital services running. Not perfect, but net positive in my view - hence its about balance. I do not feel that we have given away all control or the country's assets to the EU, would be interested to understand on what you base this view - and I would point out all the benefits felt in Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, Liverpool to EU funding that our Govts have not provided.

What we have seen since we left is the level of concern felt by major companies and the govt of other countries - and of 75% of the younger generation (pity more of them did actually vote to get their generations views fully counted). Simon, I find you views about our young people pretty distasteful, the ones I know are not hangers on as you seem to suggest - but hard working and aspirational. They will not grow older to realise that they were wrong to vote to remain as they and we will never know what that alternative reality would have been like - though as my daughter points out, they will be alive to have to live through whatever we have committed them to.
Peter Evans
Wednesday 29th June 2016 at 10:28 pm
Important typo in my comment above, should read: "pity more of them did not actually vote to get their generations views fully counted.

Stuart - love your stats, very useful

Barry - so the fact that a few people get paid more then you think they are worth (and I would tend to agree with you) justifies seriously damaging our economy and future jobs??? Love to know what you think of footballers (and I guess you would ban it on that basis?). Really?!?
Richard Stain
Thursday 30th June 2016 at 7:55 am
My mistake Stuart , I meant the UK, of course. The United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Simon Worthington
Thursday 30th June 2016 at 11:00 am
Britain would obviously refer to the whole island as it has since 1707 or thereabouts. The UK includes NI and all the other islands.
My "disparaging views" on the youngsters?? It is a fact that a large percentage of those moaning that the "wrinklies" have undermined their future (especially the 18-22 group) are in receipt of large loans (which fund underqualified lecturers to teach courses of little value and are the result of Blair concocting a way to keep them of the unemployment figures, and also fund the rip off of student living accommodation which big business has jumped on) and 40% will never pay them back. As someone who has worked hard for 40 years I am reluctant to listen to them especially as their turn out was so low. They do remind me of the very keen who ran around my university flogging the Morning Star and Socialist Worker before moving into highly paid employment and voting conservative!
Jon Armstrong
Thursday 30th June 2016 at 12:30 pm
Simon - people going to university now mostly weren't even born when Tony Blair was elected, let alone in 1992 when the university system was massively expanded and the polys became universities. You want to blame them for the system put in place by governments previous generations voted for? You may as well blame them for the repeal of the Corn Laws. Remind me how many of the people who went to university 40 years ago paid anything back...

You wonder why they are "moaning the wrinklies have undermined their future"? A generation who enjoyed free education, freedom of movement and a period of tremendous prosperity wants to deny them those opportunities, seems to blame the youngsters for the systems their own generation put in place, and in your case clearly has considerable contempt for their views.

Barry - if you have some rational and sensible reason why people who incur business expenses on behalf of their employer shouldn't be able to reclaim them I would love to hear it. If not, then please stop the tabloid practice of talking about expenses as though they are some huge perk or something vaguely grubby.
Oliver Romain
Friday 1st July 2016 at 8:18 pm
Voting leave is a betrayal of the young. They want job prospects and are not concerned about exagerated views about red tape. The rules will still be there post brexit. To leave is an utterly nacasistic act of folly.
Jon Williams
Saturday 2nd July 2016 at 10:58 am
Oliver: you say "Voting leave is a betrayal of the young"
Well, as a parent I voted Leave for my son's, and grandchildren so I don't think THAT is betrayal - you talk utter rubbish !
Stuart Redgard
Saturday 2nd July 2016 at 2:25 pm
Simon Worthington

You wrote .... Britain would obviously refer to the whole island as it has since 1707.....

My opinion .... It's not obvious to me nor do I consider it to be factually correct. As my Scottish friends often remind me, the term Great Britain was created by combining the "names" of Britain and Scotland the Great in about 1707.

You wrote .... My "disparaging views" on the youngsters? It is a fact ....

My opinion .... If it's a fact then it can be backed up by data to ratify it. I am unable to find any. Please post a link to the corresponding data source.

You wrote .... (which fund under-qualified lecturers to teach courses of little value ......

My opinion .... I wonder what qualifications and competences you have to lend credence to this opinion.

You wrote .... and 40% will never pay them back.

My opinion .... If this is factually correct then it can be backed up by data to ratify it. I am unable to find any. Please post a link to the corresponding data source.

You wrote .... They do remind me of the very keen who ran around my university flogging the Morning Star and Socialist Worker before moving into highly paid employment and voting conservative!

My opinion .... Everybody can change their mind. People do so because of all sorts of reasons. I was also wondering how many of these you actually knew in person and are still in contact with. Maybe we could ask them why? Or, is what you say just an opinion that's unable to be verified by actual evidence.

As I have consistently said. It's fine by me for you to have any opinion you want and I don't take offence at that. All I want to know is what is factually correct and can be backed up by supporting evidence, or what is just an opinion.
Stuart Redgard
Saturday 2nd July 2016 at 2:32 pm
Jon Williams:

I just want to share my my opinion on your last post.

This is that I believe you too can often talk utter rubbish. It is, however, based on not having met you. Just from reading some of the comments on website posted under the same name.

This is just my opinion. It's not a fact!
Sunday 3rd July 2016 at 12:46 pm
Stuart - you seem to be arguing that there was no majority because of the proportion of people who chose not to vote. It is a majority of those who chose to vote. The same principle applies, for example, in parliament where abstentions are permitted and do not count. Those who chose not to vote must be presumed indifferent to the outcome - Les absents ont toujours tort. It is noteworthy than in the 1975 Referendum the turnout was only 64% with 67.2% of the turnout voting to stay in the EU. This was regarded as a clear majority, despite the fact that, on your desired way of calculation, this would not come in as a majority either at circa 43% of the electorate. You might be interested to read the House of Lords Select Committee Report on Referenda.

Peter, “the reasons you provide are basically all xenophobic”. Definition -” Xenophobia - dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries”. You seem to be arguing that it is somehow “xenophobic” not to give unrestricted access to those from the European Union. I would argue, that access is to anyone from whatever country if they have the skills required. In my view only open borders Libertarians can claim exemption from charges of xenophobia of the kind you make. Are you one of those? Witness, for example, the doctors from the Indian sub -continent who work in the NHS, and the people from the Phillipines who work in the Care sector. Their entry to the U.K is regulated, European citizens are not.

As to “assets”. The financial argument is a circular one. Where do you think that the EU gets its money from?

The UK has far greater “assets” than monetary ones, namely the asset of “sovereignty”. It is this asset which has been consistently eroded. Yet it is sovereignty that allows a nation to be nimble in its responses to a rapidly changing world. As a sovereign nation you can respond to the innumerable small, yet significant, developments that characterise globalisation, before the behemoth EU can get its boots on.

The future is bleak only for those determined to make it so. A number of countries are already looking to fill the gap when we leave.
Our exports have been pitiful to date and there is now a real opportunity for these to expand. The North West has a history of enterprise and innovation as the home of the Industrial Revolution. It is time to make it so again.
Stuart Redgard
Tuesday 5th July 2016 at 2:12 am
Jackie: Thank you for your response. You seem to have interpreted my comments as an argument. They were not an argument for, or against anything, nor were they ever intended to be so. Just my opinions, and I am happy for anyone to disagree with them if they can demonstrate that I have been factually inaccurate when expressing them. That's why I commented, as in my opinion parts of Vic's original article were factually inaccurate and I provided the information to demonstrate why I believed so.

I know that one of my characteristics is being too "detail" focused and not "seeing the bigger picture". But that's just the way I am. If I see or hear something that I believe is factually inaccurate them I point it out once I have researched the evidence available. It has led to some quite interesting and heated discussions at family gatherings!!!

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding there might have been.

Keep posting. It's good to talk and share opinions.