Wednesday, August 29, 2007

LibDems Split over EU Constitution Ballot

It's some time since I did a LibDems are split story, which, I suppose, is hardly surprising since they all apparently decided to take August off. But Ming was back in the harness yesterday when he wrote a letter (which took quite a lot out of the old boy) to Gordon Brown asking him to surrender in set a date to withdraw troops from Basra.

According to the Telegraph, Ming is cominmg under great pressure to support calls for a referendum over the EU Constitutional Treaty. Several of the younger LibDem MPs, who are considerably more realistic about the EU than their elders and betters are fed up with being whipping boys on this issue. They include Jo Swinson, Norman Lamb, Julia Goldsworthy and Nick Harvey. Ming, however, is kicking it into the long grass and says they won't decide what to do until they see what "the final document looks like". We already know what it looks like - and it's 96% the same as the old constitution. But even if we didn't already know the contents, isn't this issue a matter of principle, something you feel in your gut. Either you think the people should decide their constitutional future, or you don't. For a party which happily supports regional referenda on devolved government, you'd think they could at least be consistent and support one on an EU constitutional treaty, wouldn't you? No? How very cynical of you.


Unknown said...

Why on earth do commenters in the MSM constantly describe Minge as an "expert" on foreign affairs? That's like a Pope being an expert on fellatio, i.e. it's just about conceivable but highly unlikely and probably an entirely theoretical interest. Minge is an expert only on being a stupid, boring and irrelevant old fool.

Hughes Views said...

Speaking of consistency - how about a 'party which happily' signed the UK into the EEC and the EU to say nothing of major European reform treaties without holding referendums suddenly demanding one for a much less far-reaching treaty?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Iain, you and I know that politicians aren't consistent.

It's quite valid to change one's opinion of an issue after imbibing knowledge and experience, it's quite another to fluctuate according to short-term political expediency. The latter is what causes so many of us to despair.

It seems to me that the LibDems have spent so many years trying to twist in every direction, being all things to all men, that they have lost all sense of direction.

There is a big vacancy for an honest and decent Party of the Left nowadays, and Cameron is working to create a modern Party of the Right. Seems that the best thing the current LibDem politicians could do would be to decide whether to cleanse NuLab or assist the NuRight, according to their dispositions.

Tim Leunig said...

Every international treaty we sign alters our constitution. Joining NATO, for example, commits us to fight to defend other NATO countries if invaded. Should we have a referendum if NATO procedures change? It is hard to think of any greater pooling of sovereignty than this.

Anonymous said...

Labour manifestos have promised referenda on the Constitution Treaty and electoral reform.

To prove Tories, (having opposed Paddy Ashdown’s call for a referendum on Maastricht) really are calling for a referendum on a matter of constitution principle, why not support a referendum on electoral reform too.

Lib Dems should not fear putting this Treaty to the people, a public debate would be very good, and expose some of the extreme euro-sceptic for the loonies they are. Never mind the fact that for an insincere group, a referendum is a devise to frustrate the Treaty, they don’t even countenance the possibility that the people might vote in favour.

96% - please read the Reform Treaty Iain!

Anonymous said...

hughes views,

Aw, c'mon - the Tories have had four new leaders since then!

The issue is not the Tories. The issue is the Govt. of the day walking away from its manifesto commitment. Anybody voting Labour last time legitimately expected an opportunity to express their views in a referendum before a Euro-Constitution was enacted. Who knows how many would have voted differently if the true position had been clear - that the Constitution was going to be approved come Hell or high water. And claiming it is no longer a Constitution is pitiful sophistry.

One can only assume that Brown knows he has not got the force of either argument or personality to win the debate - and so he'd rather let down the British electorate rather than his fellow European leaders. It speaks volumes of his prirorities.

Anonymous said...

david said.

It must be tiresome to be constantly correct! You must wake up every morning worrying just what the 'loonies' are up to now!

Much along the lines that the overwhelming majority of loyal Great Britons, sorry Loonies, do when they wonder just what the Lib Dems stand for today? away with petrol cars..that will get them elected again here in the West Country where people rely on their petrol driven cars!

There is as much chance as the majority voting for a treaty/constitution and well you know it.That is why undemocrats like yourself do not believe the people should have a say..!

Perhaps LoonieCrats is your new name. Sounds like a seventies pop group. Ming and the Looniecrats!

Anonymous said...

Surrender in Basra? We already have done Iain. Not because they're not doing a good job, because they're doing an IMPOSSIBLE job.

And be as snide as you want about the Lib Dems, it was YOUR IDIOT PARTY which backed this wretched bloodbath in Iraq - and YOUR IDIOT PARTY which should be hanging it's head in shame.

Freeborn John said...

To Tim: NATO membership does not automatically commit us to fight. Article 5 of the NATO treaty commits each member to take “such action as it deems necessary” in assisting another member that has been attacked. This form of wording was chosen specifically to preserve the right of the US Congress to declare war accorded to that body by the US Constitution. Furthermore decisions taken by NATO require unanimity which is the traditional method of legitimising supranational decision-making.

EU treaties are unique in that only the EU may create law superior to national law and impose it on member-states in direct opposition to the view of their elected governments and people.

Anonymous said...

This entry needs a spell check.

As a Lib Dem, I thought our positon was that there should be a referendum. Perhaps I've been too busy delivering Focuses to notice a policy shift. The consultation paper for Conference at poses the question but doesn't answer it.

AndyR said...

Everyone is being entirely consistent really, in their motivations if not their principles.

If you know the likelihood of a referendum being won or lost, and know whether a particular person wants the underlying legislation to succeed or not, then you can work out, with a high degree of accuracy, whether or not they are in favour of a referendum.

This referendum will be lost, I don't think anyone seriously doubts that. Therefore the people who want a referendum are those who oppose the legislation (Cameron, half the labour and libdem parties, and probably most of the country).

I remain convinced that there will be no referendum on this issue. Brown will deploy every available tactic to ensure that he can avoid going to the country. If he holds one, he loses. If he loses, his power and credibility are severely, possibly fatally, undermined.

Unless the media unanimously declares war on Downing Street over this, or there is civil unrest (highly unlikely over a fairly opaque piece of european legislation, and what results did the Iraq march deliver?), or there is a significant rebellion in parliament, then he will get it through.

The best we can hope for is that after this, the public realises what kind of man Brown is, what a hollow sham his 'listening to britain' act was, and that they want to boot him out ASAP. But then he will go for a 2010 election, and his popularity may increase between now and then.

I guess what I'm saying is that unless Cameron/Coulson get their act together, we've got nothing to feel happy about for a very long time to come.

Anonymous said...


David Bothroyd? no matter!
The constitution document IS just that! Many people have gone through it with a fine tooth comb and its been put together by some sneaky lawyer types to look quite innocent on the surface BUT dig a bit deeper and you find a kind of "binary weapon" effect that forces nations to become subject to and bound to work for the EU state! One part even states that regional states WILL put the interests of first the EU then the regional government and then the people! So the people come last in the pecking order in a future EU superstate! It will be the first time that a democracy puts the interests of government over the people they are supposed to work FOR!
The treaty is nothing more than a shabby attempt by the EU commisars to put free citizens into a kind of indentured servitude! The EU will gain lots of power straight away BUT they will gain even more over a period of a few years as the articles that are contained within begin to combine and strangle any attempt to break free!
Make no mistake about this, the constitution document will be a mortal wound to a free and democratic UK!

Anonymous said...

The Libbys are very pro anything europe - they see it as a way of getting PR.... of course they will say what they like in different parts of the country - just to get votes - one place for - the next door one against -
jo - eastbourne

Anonymous said...

6. Anonymous said …’That is why undemocrats like yourself do not believe the people should have a say..!’ Try to keep up, I’m in favour of a referendum on the treaty, and an honest and fair debate.

As a loyal Briton (six years serving Queen and country) I despair when I read euro-sceptics calling for the impeachment of HM Queen, if she signs the treaty. I think people advocating that are loonies.

Undemocratic people like you only want a referendum because you think you know the result, otherwise you’d be spouting on about parliamentary sovereignty.

Do you believe the people should have a say on electoral reform?

Letterman said...

Ming's just trying to cover his back. He knows he's in a very precarious position at the moment and doesn't want to annoy the substantial pro-european group in the party. Meanwhile, Lib Dems like Julia Goldsworthy in the South are looking like they could face a tough fight against 'Liberal' Tories and aren't in favour of anything that could solidify the UKIP vote against them.

Having said that, EU treaty or not I am very pro Julia Goldworthy.

The Remittance Man said...

To be honest one could leave aside principle as a motivation as well. Simple practicality provides a sufficiently powerful argument to my mind.

There is a lot of debate as to how much the British people actually (dis)like the eu with people on both sides of the argument making statments based on assumptions coloured by their own position on the issue.

Surely a referendum with an unambiguous question would end a lot of the debate one way or the other. All it takes is the cojones to stand by the result whatever that may be.

The antis appear ready to do this while the pros appear too scared to put their reputations where their mouths are.

Now one can read into that what one will about the respective camps' understanding of the public mood. But the only real answer will come with a vote.

Cowardice is not a valid reason to avoid something as important as this.

Freeborn John said...

There is no reason to be so fatalistic Andy. Brown had earlier built some credibility on the issue of Europe by keeping us out of the Euro even when bribed by Blair with offers of the premiership. His first act as PM was the announcement of some constitutional improvements that stand in stark contrast to this EU treaty. It’s hard to believe he is committed to the federalist cause after saying that joining the Euro would be the wrong thing to do. He is not however a man that likes to be seen to admit making a mistake. The greatest danger is that he digs himself into a hole that he should have avoided. We cannot allow this latest treaty to pass without a referendum. Politicians cannot be allowed to get away with transferring the sovereign power of the people in stages to institutions outside the democratic framework following referendums in two countries that rejected this step. If they can get away with that they can get away with anything. The people need to stand up and force the issue. The history of democracy has always been that people need to fight for it, and that means you too.

“Experience has shown that, even under the best forms (of government), those entrusted with power have, in time and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny”. – T. Jefferson.

AloneMan said...

Iain, I have till recently hated the Lib Dems and I still do hate them as a local force. But I do believe they deserve some credit nationally for a) standing up against the war in Irag in the first place and b) having Ming stand up now and ask us to achknowledge that the occupation has been a failure. Whether a troop pull-out now is the right thing to do I don't know. But as a nation we should have the collective balls to put our hands up and say "Iraq has been a disaster". You never know, if we did that, we might actually learn something from it.
If anyone's interested, I'm doing some sole-searching about the Lib Dems on my own blog (just click on Womble on Tour above). The idea that I might be able to stand the sight of some of them is causing me profound shock.

Anonymous said...

The political party most consistent on the EU is UKIP.

Anonymous said...


"I'm doing some sole-searching"

So it was YOU that walked in the dog-pooh then...

Kerron said...

Surely this is the big story of the day:

That has to go down as an appalling press conference from Larry Craig. :-/

strapworld said...

womble on tour.

How reassuring for the loved ones of all our service men and women who have given their lives!

Not one word of regret on that score I note!

Our armed services deserve better than white hanky brigades, like you!

Ming is not saying what he has said for nothing more than electoral advantage. YET Note that the Opinion Polls show a reducing number support him.

where does that leave you?

Richard Edwards said...

The position of New Labour and the Lib Dems is probably even more unprincipled than that. While they make a good case for referendums on devolution etc they are, as you point out, being somewhat disingenuous and inconsistent on the EU. One further point. The effect of the new EU treaty will be to gain new areas of competence that are broad enough to impact on powers that are exercised at the devolved level in the UK. At this point we should remember that devolution was necessary to counter the over-centralised government based in Westminster. So it might be the democratically 'settled will' of various parts of the UK for devolved government but we'll hollow out the institutions thereby undermining devolution and leaving you with little more than a shadow theatre. So in a sense its doubly anti-democratic.

David Lindsay said...

According to the Telegraph, the Lib Dems are worried about losing Eurosceptical votes to Cameron! Isn't it a bit late in August for the silly season still to be going on?

Greater Manchester Fabians said...

This seems like the Telegraph playing politics and doing so successfully...

Rob said...

Wouldnt the EU's plans eventually lead to the breaking up of the UK, and other EU nations into seperate districts? So therefore it would be devolution and therefore the LibDems should be all for a referundum!

Fallacy of Logic?


Anonymous said...

"For a party which happily supports regional referenda on devolved government..."

But not a referendum on independence in Scotland. That's sent them into the screaming ab-dabs. Along with Labour and the Conservatives it's fair to say.

There's currently a Labour, Lib-Dem, Conservative alliance against the SNP in Scotland. Politics are getting strange up here.

Anonymous said...

The LibDems being fence sitting hypocrites is not exactly new news now is it Iain.

Manfarang said...

I seem to remember the "hands up" ten years ago in Hong Kong.If ever there was a place that was a gleeming example of Thatcherism, Hong Kong was it.
So are you about to volunteer and go to Basra Iain?

Anonymous said...

The EU is good for you.

For heaven's sake stop whinging and moaning and sign up now for the new Treaty.

Agreed it is long winded, but that is because it is not federalist. If it were a federalist constitution it would be as long as the US constitution, which clearly it is not.

It is a pragmatic, messy compromise, like so much else in life. Stop sounding like a set of saloon bar bores and stand up when "Ode to Joy" is played