A poll in The Examiner today seems to indicate that there is clear majority in favour of a children’s rights referendum. It shows that 62 percent of respondents would vote in favour of a referendum with 37 percent undecided and only one percent against.
In fact, the poll shows how soft and uncertain the support is for such a referendum. The poll was commissioned by a new umbrella organisation called ‘Saving Childhood’, which includes bodies like Barnardos and the ISPCC.
It put a series of statements to respondents – nothing wrong in that, here at Iona we sometimes do the same thing – and the statements obviously favoured the Saving Childhood position.
For example, respondents were asked whether they believed that a better balance should be struck in the Constitution between the rights of children and the rights of parents and eighty-one percent said it should.
But if they were asked whether a better or a different balance should be struck between parents and the State, I’m sure they would have got an entirely different answer.
In fact, I know they would have because last year Red C put a statement along these lines to the public on our behalf.
The statement said: “Except in cases of abuse or neglect, parents should decide what is best for their children rather than an outside organisation, such as the State.”
Seventy-two percent of respondents said they agreed with this statement.
Usually in order to win a referendum liberals need an enormous lead to begin with because once the public begins to hear the other side of the argument that lead usually narrows substantially.
Once the public hears that this referendum may give the State too much power, that children who are abused or neglected can already be taken into care, and that several constitutional experts doubt the need for a referendum, it could easily be beaten, especially if it is badly worded and especially with people in their current anti-government, indeed anti-politics, mood.