Friday 9 December 2016

Governing is for grown-ups, democracy is for kids

Ordinary voters cannot be expected to understand economic and political issues, so referendums don't work, writes Eoin O'Malley

Eoin O'Malley

Published 03/07/2016 | 02:30

‘Voters remain abysmally ignorant of basic facts and many of them behave like children.’ Getty Images
‘Voters remain abysmally ignorant of basic facts and many of them behave like children.’ Getty Images

Last February, Boris Johnson published a column in the Daily Telegraph that outlined a series of apparently ridiculous European Union bureaucratic excesses. He claimed that the EU banned children under eight from blowing up balloons; that the EU stipulated only certain-sized coffins were allowed. One of his best was the assertion that the EU had imposed a ban on people reusing tea bags.

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It was all great fun. Of course, it was also all rubbish, but the claims were distantly related to some facts. For instance, the EU does stipulate that a warning should be displayed on balloons below a certain quality, a bit like the warning we are used to seeing that some products are a choking hazard for children under three.

But the facts were disposed of and replaced with claims that, if not true, seemed as if they could be true. When, in a House of Commons committee they were exposed as rubbish, Boris laughed it off. He acknowledged that it wasn't quite the truth, but the job had been done.

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