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Democracy is not a spectator sport

Posted by Richard Sunday, September 05, 2004

Following on from the earlier story in this Blog, taken today from the Sunday Sun – a northern regional paper, not to be confused with the Sun - is this report:

North MP Set for Role as Pin-Up

Controversial MP Peter Mandelson is at the centre of another row, this time among Eurosceptics over whether they should use him as the pin-up boy of their latest campaign.

Members of the Vote No group campaigning against the new European constitution believe the perceived unpopularity of the Hartlepool MP makes him the perfect face for their posters.

Mandelson is set to quit his constituency after a November by-election to take up a new post as European commissioner.

Richard North, one of the leading lights in the anti-Europe campaign, has slated the proposed poster campaign, however. It is a stupid idea and a waste of money, he said.

"Personalising this on one individual when the campaign hasn't even begun to take shape could be the wrong pitch to the wrong people for the wrong reasons," said Dr. North.

"This has to be a popular and inclusive campaign by the people and stunts like this are just going to annoy the majority of European sceptics across the country and could stop them working with this group."

The Vote No organisation is the successor to the Vote 2004 group set up to press for a referendum on the constitution.
A London-based group deciding its own strategy without reference to any other campaigners is not exactly calculated to win friends and influence people, especially when the idea of targeting Mandelson is contentious, and the tactical thinking behind the idea highly suspect.

Of course, the rich men backing the "Vote-no" campaign can waste their money any way they wish, but they need to remember that the campaign against the EU constitution is not their private property, and they have no proprietorial rights over the issue.

This issue is, in fact, far too important to be left to a bunch of "teenage scribblers" and their wealthy backers – who have their own agendas. It is "we the people" who will suffer from the effects of the constitution if it is ratified, so we must fight the campaign.

Democracy, in this case, is definitely not a spectator sport.