Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LibDems at Sea on Lisbon Treaty. Again.

The LibDems confirmed their status as the "right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" party tonight in the Lisbon Treaty vote in the House of Lords. LibDem Peers delivered an embarrassing rebuff to Nick Clegg when instead of following the example of LibDems and abstaining on the idea of a referendum, they went through the No Lobby and voted against. The irony is that if they had abstained the Lords vote would have approved a referendum.

So for those already confused by the LibDem stance here's a three point outline of their stance...

2005 LibDem manifesto commits to a referendum
Jan 2008 LibDem MPs abstain on a referendum
May 2008 LibDem Peers vote against a referendum

Is this Nick Clegg demonstrating an ability to lead from the front? More like hiding behind Shirley Williams' skirt. Still, the Irish might yet put the LibDems out of their misery.


Man in a Shed said...

What is the point of the Lib Dems ?

Jonny Wright said...

The Lib Dem position is actually pretty simple and entirely coherent. We support a referendum on Europe - but not *this* referendum. There are usually more than two possible answers to every problem!

Do you seriously think that, if we had a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, we'd get a detailed clause-by-clause public debate of the merits of the treaty? Like hell we would. It would turn into a referendum on British membership of the EU.

Far better to ratify the damn treaty, and then have an in-or-out debate. That's the sort of question referendums are useful for resolving.

Iain Dale said...

Jonny, you will have to do better than that. Take your first para. If that is the case, why did LibDem MPs abstain while LibDem Peers voted against.

Jonny Wright said...

I take your point, but I think this is more a criticism of the way the party has handled the parliamentary process, rather than a symptom of there being anything wrong with the actual policy position we've taken.

Put it simply: in parliament, we're forced into making a polar choice between two sides, neither of which reflects our actual (and entirely legit) viewpoint. We can either vote with the Tories, in favour of a referendum we don't agree with, or alongside Labour, against the principle of having a referendum at all. The Lib Dem option wasn't on the table for us to vote for, thanks to the efforts of the extremely competent and entirely unbiased Speaker of the Commons.

What do you do under those circumstances? It's an impossible position. You can abstain, and say that the referendum you want to vote for isn't an option. You can vote against, and say that the referendum being offered is the wrong one. Both of those options make sense, although they're both poor alternatives.

I'll accept your criticism of Nick Clegg's handling of the procedure, it's been done quite badly - but his actual policy position is a perfectly fair one, and the Lib Dems have had to jump obstacles which the Tories never had to face, just to get their own position into the national debate in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Can you believe I voted for these lying hypocrites all my life?

I was stupid enough to think that they believed in democracy, communities and protecting the civil liberties of the individual.

All the while, all the mindless minority in control of the Lib Dems really wanted was to commit political suicide by betraying us all.

Anonymous said...

When Ireland joined the EU it was one of the poorest nation in Europe,. It is now wealthier than Switzerland. We must vote to keep the Eu strong. And not let Chinese commies, Islamic NAZIs, and American neocons divide us up and destroy us. Keep our continent strong not weak.

Anonymous said...

Pssssst, it's now June Iain! ;)

Anonymous said...

You should have been at that C.I.B. demo after all Ian?

Anonymous said...

The Lib Dems are simply NOT a serious political party and it's pointless to consider them as such.

btw, surely Lembit Opik could be taken more seriously as party leader than the ludicrous 'Cleggover'.

Newmania said...

The Lib Dem position is actually pretty simple and entirely coherent.

I agree . They are a Euro fanatic ( anti nationalist) Party in a Euro sceptic country and many of their supporters are not only as horrified at this bureaucratic behemoth as we are but also oddly committed to democracy .
Once you recognise this what follows is entirely logical. Pretend changing the name lets you out of your promise and cover yourself in a billowing cloak of sanctimonious drivel to befuddle those who point at you and shout “Liar”.

This also explains why the Lib Dems abstained and saved Brown while the Peers voted against which will be less noticed .

The settled will of the people for a long time has been that we want the trading arrangement we were offered and no more .A recent survey showed this is supported by a large majority. The referendum was therefore asking exactly the right question .

Still I admire their cheek and if I am ever caught in flagrante delicto with someone’s wife I will feel nerved to squeal…….

” I refuse to discuss if I screwed her until we have discussed the real question that is the place of monogamy in contemporary society because until that question is answered it will fester …..etc. etc.”


You leave that Johny Wright alone Iain, I already feel as if I have just told a three year old father Christmas doesn1t exist. Ahhh they grow up so fast.....

David Boothroyd said...

The pledge in 2005 was to a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty, since withdrawn. There was no pledge in 2005 to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (and couldn't be, for it was not in prospect), nor in general on amending treaties within the European Union.

Constant conflating of two quite different treaties may be a good political point (or it may not), but on a strict factual basis they are not the same.

Newmania said...

When Ireland joined the EU it was one of the poorest nation in Europe,. It is now wealthier than Switzerland.

Yes and now they are having to put some money back in guess what.... they don`t like it any more. Jeez I thought we had bought the EU a country turns out we only rented them

Daily Referendum said...


Do you really believe that rubbish? Clegg ordered his MPs to abstain because he knew that given a free vote up to 50 of them would vote for a referendum. By forcing them to abstain he knew he would have fewer rebels.

In the Lords he did not ask his Peers to abstain because he knew that Labour needed the Lib Dem peers to block the referendum.

The referendum is not about in or out. It's about staying as we are, or further integration into the EU. Believe me, there are a huge number of Tories who want to stay in the EU, but do not want to integrate any further.

Clegg wants us to ratify the Lisbon Treaty and will do anything to ensure it happens. Unfortunately for you and other Lib Dem supporters he's making your party look both conniving and ridiculous.

Newmania said...

What do you do under those circumstances?

The Lib Dem option that was not on the table was to go deeper into the EU and not have to answer questions about its legitimacy at all. The honest thing to do would have been to support he referendum recognising that betraying the country by stealth was busted and they had better start making their case in the open, win or lose .What they actually did was save the most authoritarian administration since the war , tell a pack of lies and force the British people into an agreement they quite clearly did not want.

Well that seems reasonable ….um…

Andy said...

An explanation, for anyone who is bothered:

The Lib Dems have acted in accordance with the same two guiding principles which govern the actions of all political parties: 1. The leadership's position on the issue, and 2. Political pragmatism.

The position is that a referendum on this treaty is unnecessary, but that a referendum on membership of the EU itself would be a good idea (since this was quashed by the other two parties, it is a nonstarter - ho hum)

The pragmatics of the situation is that several Lib Dem backbenchers in the commons don't follow the leadership line, mostly because their constituents are strongly of an opposing view, and therefore they are obliged to take an opposing view too. In the Lords, no such problems exist, so the pragmatics align with the position.

Clegg also knows that the press are watching the Commons much more closely than the Lords, and that anything that can be portrayed as a "split" among his MPs is a bad thing, so he moves to minimise the split by whipping his MPs to abstain in the Commons, despite the fact that, on the question of a referendum on the treaty, he has never argued anything other than that one is unnecessary.

In the Lords, nobody really cares if a party's peers are split, and they have no constituents to answer to for not representing their views sufficiently. Therefore they are able to vote mostly in line with the party position.

Now, the effectiveness of the abstention in the commons vote was debatable, compared to simply taking some heat over a split. But you can't really complain now about the Lords actions. They are simply voting in accordance with what Clegg has argued all along.

Tapestry said...

Lib Dem equals LIBerty DEMolition.

Anonymous said...

I think Lib dems are now being looked at seriously as the direct opposition to the Conservatives (for when the time comes)

Chris Paul said...

I'm sure they'd still support a referendum if there was a new constitution rather than, effectively, an engrossment of all the amends and minor bits since the last few major moments when Tories DID NOT have consultations never mind referenda.

Toreis would not be having a referendum on this treaty and you should be honest about that Iain. Only ireland is having one, ought to vote YES big style, according to national interests, but might demonstrate why no one has one that doesn't have to.

Chris Paul said...

Sheesh Iain, why let through Anon 12:43's LD propaganda. It's a two-horse race? Ho ho.

Anonymous said...

Jonny - the problem is *this* referendum was the one you guys promised, and polls show 67% of Lib Dem voters want.

If you can't deliver that, why should we believe you'll deliver any other ... once there's the remotest chance of it actually getting majority support?

The Lib Dems and Labour have grossly misjudged this issue. Much more than a low-profile EU technicality, it has now become a totem of trust. You'll find that such deceit lingers much longer in the public memory than the act which confirmed it.

A Lisbon referendum would only turn into a vote on British membership when desperado europhiles like the Lib Dems inevitably scaremonger that a 'No' vote would mean we'd have to leave.

If it wasn't for stuff like that, we could have a grown-up debate.

Ted Foan said...

"Sheesh Iain, why let through Anon 12:43's LD propaganda. It's a two-horse race? Ho ho." (Chris Paul June 12, 2008 12:52am)

Hasn't this prolific blogger noticed the consistent decline in the Labour Party's share in the opinion polls? They are now down to the level where his hated LibDems are within 5% of overtaking them.

It's not impossible that an opinion poll in the next few months will put the LibDems above Labour. Now that would be interesting.

Pogo said...

David Boothroyd: Constant conflating of two quite different treaties may be a good political point (or it may not), but on a strict factual basis they are not the same.

The only "strict" factual difference seems to be that of line-spacing and font.

Letters From A Tory said...

Poor old Cleggy. The supposed saviour of the Lib Dems has no vision and no control over his party - bit like Gordo.

Anonymous said...

Lib Dem manifesto commits to a referendum on the constitution
Lib Dem MPS vote against a narrow referendum on a single treaty but still see the case for giving the public a say on the wider issue.
Lib Dem peers decide it is proper to follow the vote on the elected house.
Sorry, I don't actually see a massive contradiction here.

Newmania said...

ANDY SAID -The position is that a referendum on this treaty is unnecessary, but that a referendum on membership of the EU itself would be a good idea
Why not "a referendum on this treaty is unnecessary but cello-taping a pager to the ‘remote’ would be a good idea." ?
Any more good ideas around that have not bearing on the matter before us whatsoever ? If , with great effort we allow that this collection of pier end comedians are sincere..... I know... I know ......, their position is actually this....” Despite the fact that the powers of this body have proceeded by lie increment and obfuscation and despite the fact that you were offered membership of a Common Market , not a Super state , you , the supposed citizens of this super state will have no say in its formation whatsoever except to either include or exclude yourselves and that’s because we have not found a way of stopping you actually leaving “
So the Lib Dems recommend a course of ‘threat’ ‘lie’ and the removal of decisions from the British voter and that is what they call an honourable position. What on earth would it take to make these con men ashamed? Running against Peter Tatchell as a “Straight Choice for Bermondsey” as a closet gayer?
PS ( I write from a holding cell and in six weeks I may be told which piece of household waste I wrongly recycled )

Anonymous said...

And here's a guide to the "principled" Tory policy on 42 days:

George Osbourne wants to support the Government.
Michael Gove wants to support the Government.
David Davis wants to oppose the Government.

Anonymous said...

with the honourable exception of John Burnett