Referendum, departmental results

Le Monde has an interesting map of the referendum results département-by-département. I don’t know enough about French political geography to understand all the permutations, but there’s no surprise in seeing leftish areas like Nord-Pas de Calais voting strongly non.

More surprising, for a British observer, is that Brittany voted yes, given the ferocious anti-EU sentiment found in the west of England. Strongest Yes from central Paris, unsurprisingly.

Link (and discussion) at MetaFilter.

What kind of Europe?

Crooked Timber has an interesting discussion, kicked off by Henry Farrell, on the meaning of the EU referendum vote. All the points he makes are well made, but I think he misses one important shift in the way that the EU is used.

One of the principal reasons that the EU has been an elite project, at least until now, is that Governments have used it as an external force majeure – we have to {privatise our electricity, open our borders, cut working hours} because Europe says so. This is a very useful tool for Governments who want to do right-but-unpopular things.

The constitution debate, for all its fudges and follies, has shown one thing – that Europe is becoming more of a direct concern for the people of its member states. The issues that are debated – working time, euro economics, etc – are seeping down the political ladder and becoming the popular debate of people in the street.

Euro-idealists like me may not like the outcome, and in some countries (UK) the European link may not be preservable, but progress towards making the EU a common possession rather than an external force must surely be worthwhile.

Referendum exit polls

A detailed breakdown (en français) here. Interestingly, 72% of voters (and more than half of No voters) want the process of European construction to continue. More than half of No voters said they voted no because of “Dissatisfaction with the current economical and social situation in France”. The most popular reason for voting yes was “This constitution gives more weight to Europe vis-a-vis the USA and China”. Link via MeFi.


David, at A Fistful of Euros, comments on referendums:

“I’m quite fond of representative democracy, and don’t think replicating the Swiss or Californian system would be a particularly good idea. I do however think that referendums are an occasionally vital and necessary part of democracy[…].”

While I agree with David that one of the problems with referendums is the desire of the people to give the Government a bloody nose, I don’t agree that referendums should therefore be infrequent. Quite the reverse – the key benefit of the Swiss, and to a lesser extent the Californian, systems is that they have referendums so frequently that no vote can be considered to be giving the Government a bloody nose, or retaliating for decisions taken 5 years ago.

Take Britain. If a referendum were held on the EU constitution were held tomorrow, it would probably be lost. Would that be because the British didn’t like Maastricht, or Amsterdam, or Nice? Or being members of the EU at all? Or Tony Blair? Or the Iraq War? Who could tell?

Now, in a country where at least most of the EU treaties had been put to a vote – say, Ireland – if the EU constitution were rejected, we would know it was the constitutional treaty that was being rejected, not some treaty from ten years back.

Dorset names

I’ve just posted this map of Dorset to a very puerile thread on MetaFilter.

Looking at it, it reminded me just how odd Dorset placenames are. I mean, aside from Piddletrenthide and Affpuddle, a good 50% of the names sound like romantic novel heroes (“Winterbourne Clenston held her in his strong arms…”. “‘Lord Glanvilles Wooton”, announced the butler’). And what’s with the two places about a mile apart, one called Melcombe Bingham and the other Bingham’s Melcombe? Do people there ever get the right letters?

Flying still bad: Independent

The Independent, the campaigning tabloid it’s OK to like, has a very interesting and true story this morning about the greenhouse gas cost of rising cheap flights.

The article’s most spot-on point is the UK Government’s confusion on the issue of air travel. On the one hand, you have the 21st century attitude that climate change is the top priority and needs to be taken very seriously indeed (copyright DEFRA). On the other hand, you have the 1950’s attitude (in at least part of DfT, and probably the Treasury too) that air travel is Modern and Good and must be provided for through tons and tons of new runways. Just the other day I was reading a breathlessly excited news article about internal flights into Newquay starting up from Birmingham and Newcastle – and my inner voice was yelling ‘get the bloody train. It might be slow, but at least it’s not crapping the environment up’.

Things are really not moving in the right direction. Time to buy sea-front properties in Peterborough, my friends.

Not-yet useful resource: Greenhouse Gas calculator (pretty thoroughly broken on Safari).

We are all guilty

It was hypocrisy galore down at the courts today, as the protesters who stormed the Commons chamber to protest at the hunting ban were convicted of breaching public order.

One, Luke Tomlinson – often mentioned as a friend of one of those Princes – said:

“I have never committed a criminal offence in my life and to be forced by the government to do something like that is a sorry thing.”

Well, absolutely, Mr Tomlinson. And I’m sure that when the next car thief or vandal blames society for his crime, the hunting fraternity will be among the first to write anguished letters to the Guardian.