Bizarre: Owen Paterson claims EU referendum is “the biggest majority in history”

owenpatersonOn BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour (Sunday 3 July 2016), Owen Paterson MP claimed that the EU referendum was “the biggest majority in history”, therefore “over-riding pretty much everything” in terms of parliamentary process.  You can hear him doing it by going to the link above, and listening at 34:05.

Even in an era of post-truth politics, this claim is embarrassingly easy to debunk.  The UK doesn’t have many referendums – three national votes so far.  (The Scottish independence referendum was not, of course, UK-wide.)  These were the original EEC referendum in 1975, the AV voting referendum of 2011 and the EU referendum of 2016.  And here are the results:

1975 EEC referendum

  • Yes: 17,378,581
  • No:  8,470,073
  • Majority: 8,908,508

2011 AV voting referendum

  • Yes: 6,152,607
  • No: 13,013,123
  • Majority: 6,860,516

2016 EU referendum

  • Remain: 16,141,241
  • Leave: 17,410,742
  • Majority: 1,269,501

Far from being the ‘biggest majority in history’, the recent EU referendum is definitely ‘the smallest majority in history’ (assuming that history is of UK referendums).  It’s a majority, no doubt about that.  We’ll come back to the fact that this smallest majority in history was built on deception and misinformation by a small group of press barons and careerist politicians another time.

I suppose that Paterson might be claiming that the Leave vote was the biggest vote in UK referendum history. As you can see from the figures above, it’s true that the number of votes for Leave is the biggest in the table – some 17,410,000 compared to 1975’s Yes total of around 17,378,000.  However, the electorate is bigger now (around 46,500,000) than it was at the time of the 1975 EEC referendum (just over 40,000,000), so one could argue that the Leave campaign gained less support than the Yes campaign in 1975.

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