Herald letter: Brexit – A Way Forward.

“YOU can’t always get what you want” was an unlikely campign anthem for Donald Trump but it should be the motto of every practical politician, a Rolling Stones verson of JK Galbraith’s famous advice to JFK that “… politics is not the art of the possible. It is frequently the choice between the unpalatable and the disastrous”.

There can be few better examples of this than the mess over Brexit. However, there is way out of potential disaster which might be the least unpalatable choice for a majority of the people.

This would be for Parliament to define the choices available and then to vote on these in an exhaustive ballot until two options only were left. These would then be voted on by the public in a referendum, which could be held on the same day as the European elections. (If the result was to leave, the votes in that election would be counted and successful parties and candidates could decide whether to take their seats until such time that withdrawal was complete.)

This procedure is the same as that followed by the Tory Party in choosing its leader, so Conservatives should be happy. Those in favour of a People’s Vote should be happy. Those of us who believe that, in a representative democracy Parliament should be in charge of the process, should be happy. And as the song says “if you try some time, you just might find you get what you need.”

Peter A. Russell

Herald letter: referendums. In which I am reasonable and even-handed.

YOUR correspondents are absolutely correct in their assessment of the inadequacies of referendums as a means of taking decisions in a parliamentary democracy (Letters, March 18). Personally, I regard them as being a bit like root canal surgery – I would like never to have to experience one ever again.

However, if there is a need for further referendums in the future, the time has surely come to regulate them much more stringently.

What we need is a new Act of Parliament which sets out a limited range of subjects on which a referendum may be called (so as to avoid referendums being called for spurious or party reasons); a requirement for a minimum number of MPs voting for a referendum (possibly the same as to dissolve Parliament under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act); and strict rules on majorities required.

These same requirements would of course apply to proposals for future Scottish independence referendums as well as all-UK plebiscites. To not learn the lessons of Brexit would be negligent in the extreme.

Peter A Russell