To say that I donâ€™t often agree with what one former political opponent (and now MP for Carmarthen West) has to say would be something of an understatement. But there is an exception to every rule, and when Simon Hart describes his fellow Tory MPs as devious, self-indulgent and incompetent â€“ well, who am I to argue with that assessment? I suppose there is room for a slight disagreement about whether heâ€™s right to exclude himself from an otherwise entirely sensible generic description, but letâ€™s not quibble about minor details.
He also managed an effective demolition job on the idea that all 17.2 million who voted to leave supported identical outcomes, saying â€œâ€¦ voters I know opted to leave for a range of reasons and with different levels of indignation. â€¦ the referendum followed the pattern of almost every election that comes our way, and so anybody claiming to speak for 17.2million is more likely speaking for their small circle of friends and a bloke they heard in the pub.â€� That goes to the heart of the problem with the referendum â€“ in his utterly mistaken belief that the result was a foregone conclusion, a â€˜devious, self-indulgent, and incompetentâ€™ prime minister asked only one simple yes/no question to what was always a complex series of related issues. The answer, when it came, was not unlike the â€˜42â€™ in Hitchhikerâ€™s Guide, telling us only that we really need to give a lot more thought to what the question is.
I found it interesting that, in his first response to the Chequers non-agreement, Rees-Mogg said that he couldnâ€™t give a definitive response until heâ€™d seen the detail. Yet the same man argues that the result of a referendum where none of those voting knew in any detail what â€˜leaveâ€™ meant, and where there were a whole variety of different reasons for supporting that option, is not only inviolable, it is also open to only one interpretation â€“ his own. He needs the detail to decide; the electorate donâ€™t.
Iâ€™m currently not at all sure that a new vote â€“ even a so-called â€˜peopleâ€™s voteâ€™ on the final terms â€“ would produce a radically different result; the underlying problem of people viewing the issue from completely divergent paradigms hasnâ€™t gone away. But there is surely an increasingly good case for listening to the wise words of Douglas Adamsâ€™ â€˜Deep Thoughtâ€™: â€œI think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question wasâ€�. Proceeding on the basis of trying to implement the answer ’42’ could only happen in a fictitious universe, couldnâ€™t it?