Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The EU Referendum

EU Referendum rightly points out how quiet the media and the blogosphere alike have gone on the government's breaking of its promise to hold a referendum on the EU Treaty/Constitution. They are right. It has all gone eerily silent.

That said, it is easy enough to understand why. It is not as though there has not been quite a lot else to divert us lately. Confronted with cock-ups on the scale of HM Revenue and Custom's losing the details of 25 million people, Northern Rock and the 5,000 (or should that be 10,000?) illegal immigrants working with government approval as security guards to say nothing of yet another case of bird flu, the EU Treaty, arcane to many at the best of times, necessarily seems of much less immediate importance.

But silence precisely plays into the Bottler's hands. It has been obvious for a long time that he hoped a) that we would all forget about the Treaty anyway; and b) that continuing to focus on it would only highlight potential Tory divisions.

There is a serious risk that he may be right on both fronts.

Yet for all that, the Treaty's long-term implications are hard to overstate. Plus there is the small matter of the government's lying. In short, this is a matter that must still be pursued.

But the obvious question is how can Cameron best frame an attack? Given that the Bottler is obviously determined to ram the Treaty through Parliament, once enshrined in law it will be exceptionally difficult, if not actually impossible, to overturn. Hence the Tories' recent obvious equivocation.

But there is still an answer. The political climate has undergone what amounts to an earthquake over the autumn. Nobody saw it coming but its effects have been astounding. It is not just the government as a whole that is in trouble but the Bottler in particular, his credibility vanishing by the day and his authority with it. The prospect of a Conservative government is more real now than it has been since at least 1992.

One obvious consequence is that the prospect of power is very obviously already concentrating Tory minds in ways that naturally restore party discipline. That's what pragmatism does. Another of course is there are also a lot of increasingly nervous Labour MPs in marginal seats.

The question is whether there are enough of them of the Gisela Stuart tendency who are prepared to defy the party line on the basis that there is no point supporting a defunct government on a matter of such fundamental principle when there is such obvious and widespread popular opposition to it.

My honest answer is that I don't know, though I don't doubt there are parliamentary insiders even now eagerly adding up the numbers.

But what I do know is that the Tories must attack on as many fronts as possible. Self-evidently, this is one of them. The government lied and is continuing to lie over a matter of fundamental importance.

Granted, if the Bottler does succeed in bullying the Treaty through, there may well be little the Tories, in government or not, can do to overturn it later.

But that hardly sounds like a reason for not trying.


Anonymous said...

Don't be shy, even if you are right. Vote Yes to Free Europe Constitution at!

The Creator said...

No thanks. Or at least not unless you can explain what you mean by saying: 'Europe is a geographical concept.'

I'd say it was anything but. No one has ever agreed what, geographically, Europe consists of – or even if it can properly be considered a separate continent at all.

What is your view?

Always keen on clear definitions.