Under Labour, children will be offered three mummies…
Give six-year-old children the vote. That’s the suggestion from no less a figure than Professor David Runciman, the head of politics at Cambridge University. And you know what? I agree. Forget for a moment that he was being deliberately provocative in order to attract the attention of newspapers and thus gain a wider audience for the point he was really making, ie, that Britain’s population has aged to such an extent that we’re at risk of becoming a gerontocracy, where politicians are so fixated on winning the votes of the elderly that they ignore the interests of the young.
As I say: set that aside. Because I genuinely would love to see six-yearolds get the vote. It would be brilliant. Parties would have no choice but to tailor their campaigning to small children. Manifestos, billboards, TV debates on Cbeebies. You name it.
The door-knocking at election time would be wonderful.
“Good evening, sir. Is your little girl at home?”
(Sigh.) “Yes. Poppy! There’s a man at the door for you!”
“Hello, Poppy! I’m from the Labour Party. May we count on your vote?”
“Go away. It’s past my bedtime.”
“Ah, but under Labour, it wouldn’t be! Jeremy Corbyn has made a cast-iron pledge that bedtime will be delayed by up to two hours! He is sickened by the way this heartless Tory government forces ordinary hard-working children to be in bed by seven o’clock!”
“I don’t like you. I want my mummy.”
“Your mummy? Under Labour, you’d have as many mummies as you wanted!
Three mummies! Potentially four! Jeremy knows just how much little girls like you love mummies, and that’s why he’s committed to introducing extra mummies to every family in Britain, all funded by a tax on the scary monsters that live under your bed!”
Lovely. It’s amazing no one thought of it sooner.
We’ve already heard plenty of reasons why we should not hold another referendum, but there’s one reason that has been totally overlooked.
Namely: it would all get so confusing.
Imagine if we had a second referendum and Remain won. You know what that would mean. The people would have defied the will of the people. Picture the riots, with the people accusing the people of being enemies of the people. God knows what would happen to those who had changed their minds between the two referendums. They would literally have thwarted their own democratic decision. There’d be former Leave voters in the streets, beating themselves up, setting light to their own cars and angrily calling themselves traitors. Chaos. And it wouldn’t end there. Because next, Leave campaigners would demand a third referendum, on the grounds that the public didn’t understand what staying in the EU really meant – only for Remain campaigners to shout: “You lost, get over it! You can’t just ask people to keep on voting because you didn’t like the result!” Worst of all: just imagine the documentaries. Ever since 2016, TV crews have been churning out endless clichéd reports about Leave voters, invariably opening with a desolate shot of some grey, boarded-up provincial high street. Now they’d be churning out endless clichéd reports about Remain voters instead. Opening shot: an upmarket coffee shop in Notting Hill. Two Remain voters sit sipping short macchiatos.
Remain voter 1: “Communities like ours had simply been forgotten by Westminster. Our voices were ignored for years.”
Remain voter 2: “Two years.” Remain voter 1: “Getting on for three.” Remain voter 2: “The Brexit elite just grew completely out of touch with ordinary Guardian columnists. Quite frankly, it’s time Leavers got out of their bubble and started listening to the metropolitan liberal majority.” Remain voter 1: “They never, ever listened to our concerns about immigration.”
Remain voter 2: “Yes, we were concerned it was going to be too low.” Remain voter 1: “Far too low. But the moment you dare to suggest that EU freedom of movement is actually a good thing, you get shouted down. You can’t say anything nowadays.” Remain voter 2: “It’s political incorrectness gone mad.” Remain voter 1: “But now at last we’ve got our country back.” Remain voter 2: “Yes. And it is very much ours.”
The BBC is about to make a mistake. Next week, to mark David Dimbleby’s retirement as host of Question Time, it’s repeating a classic edition of the programme from the Nineties. The BBC had better hope people don’t watch it, because it only highlights how good the programme used to be, and how awful it is now.
Honestly. I’ve just watched the repeat – featuring Ted Heath and Tony Benn – and it’s barely recognisable. It’s serious, intelligent and – apart from Ted Heath barking “Absolute nonsense!” every three minutes or so – respectful. In short, it’s a proper, grown-up political discussion. Even the theme tune is calmer.
Now think of today’s show, with its garish sets, bilious studio audiences and panellists playing the pantomime villain for the sake of cheap publicity. It’s the TV equivalent of clickbait. A middleclass version of Jeremy Kyle.
Then again, some things haven’t changed. Much of the debate on the Nineties repeat is about the EU. At one point, a young man in the audience offers his view on the possibility of a referendum.
“The issues are so complex and far-reaching, I don’t fully understand them myself,” he admits. “I just wonder if it’s a good idea to leave it to a referendum to decide. People may just vote purely on jingoistic terms.”
I wonder where that young man is today. I’d love to hear what he thinks about how things have turned out.
Absolute nonsense! Ted Heath was capable of grown-up politics