Democracy is a precious thing. In 2014, we saw a referendum in Scotland as to whether the Scottish people wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom.
The question put before the Scottish people ignited strong emotions on both sides of the argument. Democracy in action is a beautiful thing, but thus far we have yet to see that same vigour and level of engagement UK-wide in relation to the European referendum.
In that referendum the turnout in Scotland was 84.5%, reach over 90% in some areas. Although, it is clear that the Scottish referendum was to do with identity in a way that most British people would not identify the EU referendum.
Yet this vote is equally if not more important. It is about our identity. It is about our place in an increasingly challenging and fractured world. It is about sovereignty; it is about jobs; it is about our economy; it is about security.
And these things all matter to each and everyone of us in Plymouth. We want a safe City, with a healthy economy and jobs market, with free speech encouraged and opportunities for young people. At the same time we want a good deal from the European Union, one that clearly benefits us and doesn’t cost us more than we think it is worth.
So a referendum is a vital tool of democracy; it allows decision-making to be taken straight to the people. However, despite this unique opportunity, we are still seeing reasonably low levels of engagement.
I want to change that.
As you have mentioned to me almost every day I am out in Plymouth, I have yet to declare my intent! This has been a careful calculation.
If I was declared one way or the other, then my opponents could say I gave them the facts, but influenced by my personal persuasion. I want to facilitate informed, full debate so that come June 24th, each side can feel they have had a fair vote, respect the democratic outcome and be content to move on towards the bright future we all have in Plymouth.
There has already been no shortage of words in this debate. There are emotions on each side. I hear as many people say they want to remain in, as want to leave. But one message they push out is consistent. What people keep telling me is that they want clear, unbiased facts upon which to base their decision.
So that is what I am going to do. I get one vote in this referendum – exactly the same as each of you. And I will vote one way or the other. And for those asking for my leadership on the issue I will make my view clear just before the referendum too.
But in the meantime I am going to facilitate that debate – something I see as important in my role as your representative in Westminster.
So what do you need to know? On my website, I have put together a list of sources; some neutral and some on differing sides of the argument to help you make a more informed decision. I have tried to collate a number of sources that come from across the spectrum portraying a range of views and assessing different points of the question.
This referendum is about what every single eligible and registered voter thinks, not me.
It is so important to vote – even if you struggle to make up your mind. A lot of people from Plymouth lost their lives fighting for the freedom and democracy that we now enjoy. If you do not cast your vote on June 23rd, you will not have a say in one of the biggest decisions facing this country in the last 40 years, and you can’t really grumble at the outcome!
I will also be holding a ballot across the Constituency in the usual way – through voting slips in the Plymouth Herald, and online on my website. This should give us a good idea as to where the vote is going, and will help me form my view too. Get involved and cast your vote. I will release the results periodically before June 23rd.
For those wanting to cast their vote; find more information; or find out how to register to vote please visit my website: johnnyforplymouth.co.uk/europe
Democracy is a great thing. Get involved and vote in my poll!