ELECTION LETTERS: It was actually the will of 37.5% of the people

It's the General Election this Thursday
It's the General Election this Thursday

I’ve a lot of respect for John Hayes’ record as our constituency MP. I wish I could say the same for his election leaflet.

He writes: “I believe in positive politics,” and declares his readiness to “work in partnership with representatives of other political persuasions.” Admirable sentiments both.

But open it up and there, highlighted in red, is a nasty little personal attack, completely unsubstantiated: ‘frightening prospect...weak...shambolic...bitterly divided...unstable...chaos...propped up...belligerent’. Not exactly positive politics, that. Nor does it look a very promising approach to forging working relationships with anyone of a different political persuasion.

The passage has all the marks of having been written by Conservative Party Central Office. As does the leaflet’s misleading picture of the EU Referendum.

17.4 million people, we’re told, voted to leave – an ‘emphatic verdict’. But we’re not told that 16.1 million voted to remain, 52 per cent leave, 48 per cent remain – in other words, it was just over a half who opted to leave. Not such an emphatic verdict after all.

But that’s not the end of it. It wasn’t 52 per cent of the total electorate (ie ‘the people’), but 52 per cent of those who turned out to vote. A little over half of the turn-out (72 per cent) gives us 37.5 per cent. So, it was a mere 37.5 per cent of the adult population who actively voted to leave.

How on earth have the anti-EU views of a mere 37.5 per cent come to be inflated into ‘the will of the people’? Yet there it is in the leaflet, and repeated by the Leavers day in day out, from Theresa May downwards.

It is shaming that any candidate should be expected (or maybe required?) to put his or her name to such stuff – let alone a decent man at heart such as I believe John Hayes to be.

Yes, I’m aware of how the voting system works, and aware that the Leavers narrowly ‘won’. The point is the deliberate misuse of the phrase ‘will of the people’. As if the 48 per cent who voted to remain didn’t exist. Are they non-persons? Are the remain majorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, London and other large cities not people? Or the young, 75 per cent of whom voted to remain?

I call on Leavers to drop this fundamentally dishonest use of ‘the will of the people’, and to start talking more accurately about ‘the will of the 37.5 per cent’. But I’m not putting money on it.