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The Booker column

Posted by Richard Sunday, September 12, 2004

Booker is back to running four stories in this week’s column, one on the bizarre "reign of terror" being waged against South Cambridgeshire district councils by the mullahs of the Standards Board of England. Amongst the latest diktats is that elected members have recently been told by their "monitoring officer"that they may be disqualified from discussing the siting of a mobile phone mast if they themselves use a mobile phone.

Booker also picks up on the story we ran in this Blog on this week’s debate on the Community Fisheries Protection Agency. We are really pleased to see this egregious failure of the scrutiny process reported in this way as it has had precious little comment from anywhere else.

In his fourth story, Booker takes a swipe at the mad metric mullahs in the BBC and The Times, who insist on using this alien system of measurements in the most inappropriate way, but the substantive story – for this Blog, at any rate – is his third story, headed "The not-so-great debate", something which we too have looked at in the Blog, here, here, and here.

Booker remarks that one might not have guessed last week that one of the most important political debates of our lifetimes was finally creaking into gear, with the publication of documents by the Government and the Tory party on the proposed EU constitution.

The problem for the Tories, he adds, is that in opposing the nonsense put out by the government is that, because they are all in favour of staying in the EU, they must pretend that it is only the new constitution that makes it unacceptable. But the more trenchantly they attack the constitution, the more they draw attention to the fact that it is only an extension of what we have already. They will thus have to fight the campaign with one hand tied behind their backs.

"If we are really to have a serious national debate on a referendum unlikely to take place until 2006", he concludes, these vacuous opening shots are not a very promising starting point.

What is perhaps more distressing is that, even amongst the Eurosceptic fraternity – on the bulletin boards and discussion groups – there is very little debate either. All too easily, these people seem to be distracted by any number of issues, none of them to do with the issue at hand – how we are going to win the referendum.

And with the self-appointed "Vote No" campaign also doing such a dismal job, we could find ourselves unprepared when the campaign starts to pick up. We need more in the locker that the "vacuous opening shots" that Booker so rightly dismisses.