Brexit means Brexit.
The mantra of Theresa May post-referendum, when everyone was wondering what exactly Brexit was.
The campaign to leave the EU and to remain inside, both made promises of what life would look like if a leave vote succeeded, but the only thing both sides knew for a fact would happen if a leave vote was successful was that we’d be leaving the EU! Nothing else was/is certain, and that remains the case almost to this day.
It’s a perfect example of the risks a binary selection carries when it comes to referenda. Unless the question is absolutely explicit, then it leaves room for ambiguity.
So it’s perfectly understandable the States Assembly and Constitution Committee is providing five separate options:
- Option one is full island wide voting, you get 38 votes and can vote for any candidate.
- Option two, you get 12 or 13 votes, deputies serve for 6 years and are voted in a third at a time meaning an election every other year.
- Option three, we get 10 votes each, there are two mega-districts, deputies serve for four years with half the house voted in every other year.
- Option four sees four electoral districts, 10 votes per voter and the election is held as it is now, every four year.
- Option five is keeping the status quo.
If that seems complicated enough, the referendum won't just be a case of choosing a favourite - you’ll rank the five options by preference.
Critics have labelled this a ‘wreckerendum’ believing it will divide those who wish for some form of island wide voting, meaning the status quo comes out on top. They argue that we should simply have a binary yes/no question at the referendum next year, asking do you want island wide voting in its purest form ie. Option one.
The counter argument to that is that if you get a yes vote, there may be some who wished for a form of island wide voting more similar to two, three, or four, or perhaps another altogether hybrid system. Whilst a no vote would mean whilst the public did not support THIS form of island wide voting, it doesn’t mean they don’t want one at all.
I asked States Members where they stood, ahead of the June debate.
25 agreed with a referendum, with four deputies - including one senior committee president -suggesting they thought it was an unnecessary expense.
14 politicians said they wanted the referendum to be legally binding, but this was a minority view – as many people believed there either needed to be a turnout threshold for this to happen, or simply that the States should have the final say.
As Deputy Richard Graham of the Castel told me:
And as I’ve headlined in my report on ITV this evening, half of the island’s politicians want to see a binary yes/no question on island wide voting.
And because of that I’ve no doubt the subject of whether a binary question on island wide voting should be asked will be the subject of an amendment in the near future. In fact I can almost envisage Deputy Mary Lowe behind a plinth stating clearly, ‘Island wide voting means island wide voting.’
You can bet your bottom dollar the mother of the house will be quick on Deputy Matt Fallaize’s coat-tails with a proposition to scupper his so-called wreckerendum.
But will a binary question bring results for those who support island wide voting, or will the saboteurs become the sabotaged as their plot to extend the ballot paper is stopped at the polls?