THE “dire” quality of the EU referendum debate led to “glaring democratic deficiencies” that must never be repeated, according to research published today. The Electoral Reform Society report blasts both the main Leave and Remain sides for running negative campaigns that were based on personalities rather than substantial political debate.
The relatively short campaign period — which ex-PM David Cameron hoped would benefit Remain — and misleading claims such as Vote Leave’s promise to spend £350 million a week more on the NHS also contributed to many voters feeling ill-informed on polling day, it says.
The society’s chief executive Kate Ghose said: “It offered a stark contrast to the vibrant, well-informed, grassroots conversation of the Scottish independence vote.”
She said a “root and branch” review of the role and conduct of referendums in Britain was needed.
The society is calling for a minimum six-month regulated campaigning period to ensure time for a proper public discussion and an official body to be set up to intervene when misleading claims are made by the campaigns.
The report comes a day after PM Theresa May convened the Cabinet to “brainstorm” what Brexit should look like — although she would only repeat again that “Brexit means Brexit.”
SNP MP Stephen Gethins said she was showing “breathtaking complacency” and accused the government of “making it up as they go along.”
“It is over two months since the result of the Brexit referendum and ministers are only now being asked to come up with their ideas about how it might work at a ‘country house away-day’,” he stormed.