Though he supported Brexit, Dalrymple warns against referenda as means of deciding political questions, going through the four British exercises in direct democracy since the mid-20th Century, ending of course in the recent Brexit vote:
So far, these attempts at direct democracy, alien to British tradition, cannot be said to have brought much in the way of wisdom and enlightenment, let alone happiness.
The referendum of remaining or leaving the European Union was, in the words of the Duke of Wellington about the Battle of Waterloo, a damned close run thing. It could have gone either way. It gave a result that was clear without being overwhelming. It exposed social and geographic divisions that were probably better-hidden. And it exposed those with only a skin-deep commitment to majority rule, for those who lost soon claimed that those who voted the other way were uneducated, ignorant, xenophobic and racist, whose votes therefore did not really count. Moreover, just 37.5 per cent of the eligible population (a slightly higher proportion than that which voted for the Scots nationalists in the general election) voted for so a momentous decision. But to object to the results of a referendum only after the results are known, and not to the referendum as a method of deciding a question, is to show utter contempt for those who voted the other way. There a[re] few better methods of sowing social discord – which we may yet reap.