Tom Richmond: Would a second EU vote clear up David Cameron’s mess?

As a new academic - and political - year begins, what's the future of Theresa May and Brexit? This is Graeme Bandeira's 'back to school' cartoon.
As a new academic - and political - year begins, what's the future of Theresa May and Brexit? This is Graeme Bandeira's 'back to school' cartoon.
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THE growing political pressure for a second referendum on Brexit, this time on any deal that Theresa May manages to secure with the EU and her warring party, can be traced back to her predecessor David Cameron’s complacency.

Having survived the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence which could have broken up the United Kingdom, and then won an unexpected majority in the 2015 general election, he clearly believed he was impregnable.

Suddenly forced to honour a referendum promise that he did not expect to fulfil because he believed that the Tories would, once again, be in coalition with the Lib Dems, the consequence was a campaign dominated by the exaggerated claims of both Remain and Leave supporters because there were so few rules in place to govern its conduct. Unlike Harold Wilson in 1975, even Mr Cameron joined the fray.

And now, two years after a Brexit vote which was supposed to reconcile Britain’s relations with the European Union for a generation, there’s a fear history could repeat itself unless safeguards are put in place to protect the integrity of the country’s democracy.

It’s why any legislation paving the way for a second public vote needs to be far more specific on how the campaign will be run, how each side will be funded so not to breach electoral law – and how the veracity of claims and counter-claims can be ascertained.

Dare I say, should the winner be the side which wins the most votes – or should the onus be on participants to secure the support of at least two-thirds of people who choose to vote?

These, and other issues, are all questions that the People’s Vote – and other referendum campaigners – need to answer to ensure the outcome of any future ballot carries absolute legitimacy.

And, given that Mr Cameron and the rest of Whitehall were clearly not prepared for Britain backing Brexit in 2016, hence the turmoil which continues to bedevil Mrs May as she tries to lead a divided country, and a deeply split Tory party, the Civil Service needs to start formulating a plan.

For, if Jeremy Corbyn is pressurised into performing a volte-face and commits Labour to a second referendum, as appears possible, Mrs May will find it difficult to resist such calls after losing her overall majority in last year’s election.

Irrespective of how the views of the politicians and the public are reconciled if and when the Prime Minister reaches a Brexit agreement with Brussels, guarantees are required that the outcome of any future referendum is fair – and not called into question by the losing side. That’s the test.

THE Yorkshire Post’s Editorial last Saturday, which challenged North Yorkshire’s Tory MPs do more for the county, touched a raw nerve with Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake.

Citing a recent £100bn funding bid to transform transport here, he described the call-to-arms as ‘sloppy journalism’ on Twitter before being more emollient when a father highlighted how unreliable rail services were affecting his son’s education.

To his credit, Mr Hollinrake promised to take the issue up with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling when Parliament resumes next week.

Yet services were deteriorating here before May’s timetable change – just one in five TransPennine Express trains serving Mr Hollinrake’s constituency are now on time – and this unreliability will not help school pupils, college students, apprentices and university undergraduates preparing for the new academic year.

If the region’s Tory MPs believe that they have been unfairly maligned, let’s see the minutes of meetings they’ve held with Ministers – and the correspondence they’ve had with Mr Grayling – on your behalf.

YOU might have expected Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry to acknowledge the state of the railways in his 1,425 word column about his recent tour of the region.

Yet he failed to do so. Why not? Because he clearly didn’t trust Grayling’s Railways.

“I hit the road, Top Gear-style in my Volvo estate, for a 739-mile tour of the North,” he wrote.

Yes, Mr Berry made valid points about skills and vocational training, but this is no consolation to all those who find themselves at the mercy of the region’s failed rail franchises because they don’t have access to a car.

Minister, do such people not matter?

THREE weeks on – and TransPennine Express managing director Leo Goodwin has still to travel to Marsden and Slaithwaite where hundreds of his trains have been delayed or cancelled. He must be busy spending his bonus.

Perhaps TPE needs a new public relations team. Oh, I forgot. They hired Havas PR UK in February 2017 because, according to Sarah Ford, head of the TPE communications team, the “start of the new franchise marks the beginning of an exciting future for everyone at TransPennine Express”.

If only.

AN early clue that Bodyguard, the new BBC drama featuring a Home Secretary and her personal protection officer, bears no resemblance to reality – the train which featured in the opening sequence was on time.

WHY the furore that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had some biographies on the window sill of his home while he did a TV interview? Given that he’s a senior politician, and lawyer by trade, I’d have been disappointed if he did not, at a time when we have a generation of leaders who don’t appear to be that well-read.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk