05 September 2007

I don't want a referendum

Whilst the tube strike seems like the obvious subject for blogging tonight, there is nothing I can say which hasn't been muttered under the breath of millions of commuters tonight - such as why the hell does it take all day to get the District line working properly? Or why hasn't the RMT been banned? Thus, in a reactionary mood, I should be ripe for recruitment by anyone of the burgeoning number of campaigns to hold a referendum on the latest EU treaty, which everyone, except Gordon Brown, Mrs Brown and all the little Brownies, accepts is a lazy rehash of the old defunct constitution.

However, getting back to first principles I am quite a fan of the current British electoral system of first past the post, winner takes all, ner ner ner ner etc etc. It makes for strong government and allows the country to take a clear direction, albeit, occassionally the wrong one. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, it is the best of a bad lot and is a whole lot better than constantly having the Libdems in government.

I do not believe that referendums (or -a, if you are being correct) play any part in this process as they undermine the supremacy of Parliament and therefore the will of the people as expressed in a general election.

Added to this overarching point are the smaller but important issues, such as the home advantage given to the question setter on the basis that people prefer to be pro rather than anti something - viz pro-choice and pro-life in the US abortion debate - the difficulty of encapsulating a difficult issue in one question - which results in a blanket "yes" or "no" - particularly unsuitable for a massive document rather than a clear expression of principle.

I am also irritated by the lack of sincerity amongst those calling for a referendum on the EU treaty - they don't want a vote so it can be approved, they want it, so that the treaty can be scuppered. I do not understand why that is not the policy of the Eurosceptics. It is a bit like Labour giving its MP a "free vote" on hunting as they were too cowardly to come out and say they wanted to ban it, they just did everything possible to get a vote passed and allowed 6 billion hours of Parliamentary time.

It is for this reason I despised Goldsmith's Referendum Party (great political antennae in that family for sure) and I laugh at the idea of UKIP being behind a referendum now.

It is time to stand up and be counted on the issue itself -- not a ridiculous diversion. It would be widely popular for the Conservatives to declare that if elected they would withdraw from the treaty and start reviewing all damaging legislation emanating from the EU. Sure, we need to do business with Europe and we need to meet European standards, but the reverse is also true for them, and we manage perfectly well to trade with the US and the rest of the world without being part of a trade block. I do not advocate complete withdrawal but Britain needs to make up its own mind how far it goes.

So forget a referendum, let's just work on getting a government which will protect British interests in Europe.

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