Monday, March 03, 2008

The People Have Spoken: We Want a Referendum

Labour Ministers will do their best to deride the nine referendums held last week as 'stunts' but the people have spoken. Turnout was an astonishing 36.2 per cent, which is higher than many local elections. Ninety per cent of those voting said they wanted a referendum on the EU Treaty. What a fantastic initiative by the I WANT A REFERENDUM campaign. On Wednesday MPs get to vote on whether to hold a referendum or not. Around 30 Labour MPs ar expected to defy their party whip, but as usual on these issues the government will be saved by the Liberal Democrats. However, they are also split on this and Nick Clegg is going to be put in a tricky position by several of his own front bench, who will repudiate their new leader's position. If he doesn't sack them he will have demonstrated the weakness of his 51-49 winning leadership vote.

UPDATE: Full results HERE.


Daily Referendum said...

Tough choice isn't it? Defy the whip or represent your constituents. If Labour and Lib Dem MPs had any honour, or respect for the position they hold, the choice would be simple.

Younghusband said...

Can someone please email me at and let me and other colleagues know how, as expats, we can vote Labour out through proxy and send them the only message they bother listening to once and for all? I've been away for about a decade but if Glenda Jackson can canvas expats who've lived most of their lives in South Africa, I should at least have that ability here in fascist China.

Newmania said...

Iain there are two subjects about which you have been noticeably slow and I probably only see it because I am very close to you in political terms ( notwithstanding voyages into the declamatory fun and games ).
1 Boris Johnson - It took you ages to start getting behind the the leonine hero of Conservatism and now he is 5% ahead...tsk tsk

2 Europe - You have been conspicuously slow in reporting the activities of 'I want a referendum' and in general luke-warm about the whole nationalist movement to distance ourselves from Europe and stick it to the lying political elite.

I think you may be a Euro enthusiast hiding in the closet .
What is your view of Europe exactly ?
1 In or out
2 Lisbon ratified to jettisoned

PS . I see you are against having a third of women in the Conservative Cabinet. .I thinks that’s a mistake personally although an understandable reaction ( DT)

PPS Did I see well known friend of Dorothy and purveyor of socialist fantasies David Boothroyd in the letters page of the Telegraph. An antiquarian tit bit about the last witch in the country and Winston Churchill. Not sure how he has the time with all his important work as a Political Consultant for developers seeking planning permission from Councils . Salt of the earth that boy.

quote unquote said...

Err - if you look at the results more closely it seems that two thirds are not bovvered and/or don't want a referendum.

And what use would a single question referendum be? How would our negotiators know which reforms in the treaty are acceptable and which not if people voted "no"? Or would a no vote indicate that people think the EU is just perfect the way it is and needs no reform at all?

Perhaps if they'd asked "do you want our government to waste millions of pounds on a referendum?" they might have got a different answer. As Terry Wogan used to say "the clue is always in the question"...

Anonymous said...

I think the Labour/LibDem choice is submit to the whips or represent your constituents (oh - and honour your manifesto commitment might just figure too...).

Marquee Mark

Anonymous said...

the full list of voting is on the politics show website, any chance of a link for all to view?

Anonymous said...

bit like tory mps on the civil partnership legislation, hey daily referendum!

Anonymous said...

FYI my calculations on the referendum thing means that 10 Labour and 10 Lib marginals totals around 1.5 - 2million people.

420,000 ballots sent = 20-30% (i wonder where they were targeted)
185,000 returned = 8-12% of constituents.

Hardly representitive.

Iain Dale said...

Newmania, I can hardly believe you write that rubbish seeing as though you are a regular reader of this blog.

On Boris, that's simply not true. I have written regularly in support of Boris.

On Europe, how on earth you can even think I am a Euro enthusiast is beyond me. I am wholly against the EU Treaty and would definitely vote no in a referendum. As to In or out, form the first time in my adult life I could conceive of voting to come out. But the case has not yet been fully made by those who are already on that side of the argument.

Gavin Whenman said...

Ed Davey, at last week's bloggers interview, estimated that around 18 - 19 Labour MPs would rebel (i.e. not enough to defeat the government's majority even if all of the opposition voted for the Tory's amendment). He sort of used this as a basis for not forcing a referendum on Lisbon alone.

Anonymous said...

Don't expect any support from Clegg - he's as dishonest and scared of the people as Brown - hasn't got a clue what democracy is. What a waste of space.

JJ said...

Younghusband said... "if Glenda Jackson can canvas expats who've lived most of their lives in South Africa.."

If they have been living abroad for more than 15 years she is wasting her time - they not eligible to vote in UK general elections.

Johnny Norfolk said...

This country has been held back by the EU issue. Look what it did to John Major.

We should have a referendum to sort this out once and for all. The people have NEVER been asked if they wanted what we now have.

I am totaly opposed to the EU,(having voted yes to the Common Market )

One way or the other we could then move on.

Government should not try to oppose the will of the people. if they carry on like this the matter will only get worse. If the Tories promised to hold a referendum they will win the next election.

Anonymous said...

Ignoring the fact of whether the poll is truly representative or a stunt - it seems the government still has a sizeable proportion of the electorate who at the very least don't think they are being listened to and also are not convinced by the government's case on the Lisbon Treaty or that it isn't anything other than the old Constitution in all but name.

From the government's point of view this whole thing has been handled disastrously from the very start and they have allowed the "I want a referendum" Campaign to gain the initiative and to score a PR triumph that will continue to dog this Treaty and question the validity of any ratification of it for years.

It will also enable any Opposition Party to question any future Labour Manifesto promises by citing this whole episode and whilst that may be totally unjustified it will put all those Labour MPs that support the ratification on the defensive at the next General Election and have a question mark over their integrity to the electorate.

Either way its a lose/lose situation for the government and Labour

Newmania said...

Iain , you said yourself you had doubts about Boris and your support was a little after the fact. You have certainly been supportive since but I expect you to be ahead of the hoi polloi especially on matters of grass roots political mood .

On Europe –..ha ha ..just smoking you out of your lair. I think what you say there is exceedingly interesting and exactly the way I find myself thinking . After starting of as pro EU when it looked like the future it is only very recently I could imagine actually leaving . Mr. Dizzy has expressed the same view. I wonder how many more , who think of themselves as modern and forward looking , are reaching this point . I agree the case for the future is not yet made . Mr. Redwood is very good here and it is one of the many reasons he surely must be given a higher profile role .
(Perhaps if he changed sex ? )

Greg said...

Hi Iain,

If asked whether they would prefer a referendum on Lisbon or a referendum on in-out what do you think the public would want?

Would they support the Tory stance?

Or would they support the Lib Dems stance?

hmmmm I wonder.

Be very afraid

Newmania said...

PS I gather other countries require 'super' majorites which would mnean that one poltical view could not behave as an elected dictatorship on a Constitutional matter. I think this should have been made more of. It is frequently aid that "no-one else is having a refrendum "

Anonymous said...

Greg are you suggesting a referendum on the referendum? :-)

JP said...

The fact that a majority of people want a referendum means precisely nothing because the UK is not a representative democracy but a British parliamentary democracy. So unless a party wins power on a mandate which includes a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, then the British Parliament will happily laugh in the faces of the electorate and ignore them.

Now its David Miliband echoing the sainted Margaret Thatcher (who in turn echoed Clement Atlee, of all people) saying that referendums are the "refuge of dictators and demagogues"

Its like your campaign for fixed Parliamentary terms, Iain. It won't happen unless it becomes a populist issue with one of the two main parties, and even then, it can be undone by any future government.

The UK electorate will continue to have the future opportunity to vote decisively on these issues like the carrot in front of the proverbial donkey, but like the donkey getting the carrot, the electorate won't actually be allowed to vote against the interests of the British Parliament.

You just don't get it, Iain. There is a reason why fewer and fewer people in the UK are voting at all - its because they have realised that regardless of which party they vote for, that party very quickly takes the State line against the electorate and repeats the same lines from Sir Humphrey's copybook over and over again.

You clearly have not learned what the electorate have learned.

Newmania said...

Greg they have an opportunity for a two question referendum dealing with both issues as per the Labour amendment which with Lib Dem support would pass.
As the Lib Dems are currently pretending they desperately want the people to have a say what will their excuse be for blocking this very fair dual question.

Margaret Thatcher was right ; referenda are not part of our history but then we have not handed away control of the country to outside agencies in our history either .The principle of representative government is not transgressed by requiting additional agreement when you are changing the constitutional rights of the voters for obvious reasons such safeguards are essential . Other countries require enhanced majorities for such changes and that would be the better way in my view . It cannot be right that the countries sovereignty can be altered against the will of the Majority . If , say 70% was required in the house then a consensus of all Parties would be required which would be fair and reflect the position of the Constitution.

The Liberals do not have leg to stand on here and being the Judas that sold the country out is not a history they will enjoy carrying.

tyger said...

I actually couldn't care less if we're in or out of Europe. I see benefits of being part of a larger trading block (in light of behemoths such as India, China, Russia, and the US), yet I can also see why being a dynamic unconnected state would have benefits too.

However a referendum is not the answer. Iain et al claimed recently that the Lib Dem walk-out was a disgrace (such silly false outrage is de-rigour of course), yet they want a referendum which would do far more damage to the essence of Westminster.

Why can't these politicians make decisions on their own anymore?

George said...

Looks like MORI have done some polling and found people want an in-out vote rather than a referendum on the treaty. (See

Rog said...

I think the IWAR campaign clearly shows that the people are being led into the the EU constitution/treaty completely against their will.

The question is, does the government represent the people, as they are supposed to?

Clearly, "no", is the answer.

I fail to see how any remotely honest politician, from any party can still be against a referendum, and at the same time pretend to represent the people.

It just shows how contemptuous the major parties are of the populace.

We merely exist to keep the trough topped up.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it quite straight forward that Mr Cameron simply makes it clear that at the next election he will allow the British electorate a referendum on this EU document whether you believe it to be a "Treaty" a "Constitution" "Nothing Important" "Irrelevant" or whatever you believe it to be...If this is made quite clear now then whatever happens in parliament ove the next few weeks is irrelevant

the hand of history said...

Newmania does type some hogwash doesn't he? "...we have not handed away control of the country to outside agencies in our history..."

Has he forgotten 1066 or the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when we had to get a Dutch bloke over to help sort out the mess?

And what about the Hanoverians whom Parliament installed in the eighteenth century or having to get the Yanks to help out in the two world wars? And don't get me started on Phil the Greek.

History don’t you just love it? If you look for evidence to support your prejudices you're sure to find it...

Votedave said...

I notice Labour ministers are being characteristically arrogant and dismissive of these poll findings.
They richly deserve to lose the next general election.

Anonymous said...

the hand of history said...

"History don’t you just love it?"

Well, I do, but clearly you have no knowledge of it.