The three referenda will be conducted by postal vote but the proposed timing is critical. It will be deferred to the time of the next general election in 2020 and this date sets the cat among the pigeons. Why?
By the time the referendum comes around, MPs will already have voted at the second and possibly at the third readings of the End of Life Choice Bill. So the referendum will merely be an exercise in confirming public opinion for their decision after they have made it.
Up until now, parliamentarians have been able to obfuscate and prevaricate when questioned on their stance: “undecided”, “will consult my electorate” etc.
But deep down they know that the legalisation of assisted dying is popular with the electorate and for good reason: too many deathbed horror stories.
This knowledge is a blessing for those MPs who support assisted dying anyway as they will be able to vote at one with the majority viewpoint. But it poses a real conundrum for those opposed.
How to get oneself elected or re-elected to the next government without saying the “NO” word to questioners at the pre-election Meet the Candidates meetings?
Because questions there will be and they will start in January 2020 when campaigning starts, whereas the general election will be held much later in the year; probably around September. Nine months, then, of deflecting questions such as: “Why did you vote NO to assisted dying?”
A politician must find a way to please. The job depends on it. Whether on grounds of intelligence, experience or simple human values he or she must be noteworthy in the mind of the electorate. More noteworthy than the opponent at least.
MPs will certainly hear plenty from their respective electorates in the coming quarter, as the second reading is scheduled for April 2019.
This is a time to make your voice heard. Write, email, request a personal appointment. Let your MP know what’s important to you.
Just once in every three years, your Member of Parliament is receptive to you. Don’t throw away your chance to guide your lawmaker’s decisions. Your MP might just be glad you encouraged him/her to be popular.