Well, I never saw that one coming
There are some things in life that you never see coming: Ed Balls hanging on in Strictly; the Conservatives winning the last election; Brexit; and Donald Trump winning in the US. Every American I spoke to, while agreeing that these were probably the worst two candidates they’d ever had to choose between, was utterly convinced that Hilary Clinton would win, and that she was the only rational choice. Funnily enough, one of those Americans, CarGurus founder Langley Steinert, was in the UK on 23 June, and told me he hadn’t seen Brexit coming either. So how have all of these monumental events come to pass?
The US election polls gave Hilary Clinton a solid lead right up until the point when the results started rolling in. The polls had said it would be close in a number of states, but were predicting a comfortable Clinton win when all was said and done. If we look at turnout at the voting boots over the previous few elections, however, there is an interesting picture of Republican turnout remaining fairly steady, while Democrat turnout has shown an ongoing decline. Had complacency come into play among Democrat voters? And if that is the case, did the polls actually play a part in deciding the result. If too many Democrat voters, apathetic about voting at the best of times, were utterly convinced their candidate was going to win whether or not they put on their hats and coats and voted, then you could justifiably argue that the polls have played a crucial role in the election of the leader of free world.
Perhaps we could same the same about the last general election in this country. The nation went to bed fully expecting to see Prime Minister Ed Milliband addressing the nation the next morning, only to wake up to Prime Minister David Cameron basking in an overall Conservative majority. The polls again got it wrong, but in being so wrong did they influence the result?
In the US, in his election campaign, Trump promised pretty much anything he felt he needed to promise in order to win. Many of those promises were pretty scary for the rest of the world, and were a big part of reason we believed he’d never get elected. And funnily enough, nobody seemed more surprised than Trump to discover he’d won. He’s subsequently back-peddled on a number of those more controversial campaign commitments and hopefully more back-peddling will follow.
Will the same be true on some of the more ludicrous claims and counter-claims about Brexit? Will we, indeed, have a Brexit at all, or will the now obligatory vote in the House of Commons overrule the will of the people? What would happen if we had the second referendum that some commentators are call for, and the result is to stay in? Will that be final or will we go for best of three? To my mind, these are starting to look like dark days for democracy, with the world caught between the will of the people and the power of the polls.
Mark Simms Editor