In whatever line of business you work, you find yourself accountable. Perhaps you are accountable to clients and customers – for the service they receive. Some of us are accountable to shareholders – for profitability. Many of us are accountable to staff – for their job satisfaction and their pay at the end of the month.
Yet sometimes, it feels as if politicians are very far removed from the real world in which we work. They do not understand this need to be accountable. Sometimes this accountability seems limited to the moment we step into the polling booth at a general election.
Now that 6 out of 10 of the electorate want an referendum on Europe, surely they are accountable to ensure that this happens? If 60% of my customers asked for a service, I can guarantee it would be delivered. If 60% of shareholders voted for a strategic change, you can be certain that this would be put in place. If 60% of staff were unhappy, things would need to change.
And yet when it comes to a referendum that 60% of us want, we are still not given a voice. We work hard, pay our taxes, abide by the laws of the country, and fulfil our obligations as voters. Yet, we still have not earned the right to a say. Despite this a group of foreign states has a very loud voice in our affairs, and has the right to veto a range of UK laws and regulations.
This cannot be right.
Making difficult decisions is not easy. And providing leadership to take these difficult decisions is even harder. At Sandhurst – through my year of gruelling officer training – they called it moral courage. Having the moral courage to make the difficult decisions and lead people through them for a better outcome.
As business leaders we make these difficult decisions on a daily basis. Not all of them are popular, but we take them to try to achieve a better outcomes for the business as a whole and for the people the we work with. Sometimes tough questions have to be asked. I often hear: ‘I didn’t ask because I was frightened I might not like the answer’. I think this is true for the referendum on Europe.
I believe that our government is frightened of asking the question about whether we want to be in or out of Europe, because they are frightened that they will not like the answer. Six out of ten want to be asked the question. Six out of ten want a referendum. And six out of ten feel strongly enough about this to demand a voice.
We demand a referendum and it is time to let the people decide.