Un­der Labour, chil­dren will be of­fered three mum­mies…

The Daily Telegraph - - Comment - fol­low Michael Dea­con on Twit­ter @Michaelpdea­con; read more at tele­graph.co.uk/opin­ion

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

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