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EU referendum: much binding in the marsh

Posted by Richard Friday, May 10, 2013

BBC 010-vot.jpg

One suspects that the intensified interest in an EU referendum displayed by the idle school-boys, insignificant coxcombs, toad-eaters and sundry others of the commons, has more to do with protecting their positions at the general election than any concern about the governance of this country.

Thus, we see, according to diverse sources, including the BBC, that the self-same idle school-boys, etc., have tabled an easily defeatable amendment to the motion welcoming the Queen's speech, expressing regret that it did not include a commitment to legislation on a referendum.

This, we understand, has been fronted by MP John Baron, and could be debated as early as next Tuesday or Wednesday, giving a platform to those Tory MPs who feel most threatened by the Fatuous Farage to declare their undying commitment to leaving the EU, without ever having to do anything constructive about it. 

Downing Street thus conveys the predictable message that David Cameron is "relaxed" about the amendment, as well he might, it having little chance of success, so much so that Tory MPs may be given a free vote – the ultimate expression of contempt from the parliamentary establishment. If the vote mattered at all, the whips would be on. 

This latest outbreak of Tory euroscepticism follows an intense 48 hours of thrashing about in the wake of the much-delayed Lawson statement, with a rickety old bandwagon becoming ever-more burdened as more and more ex-office holders pile into its capacious rear. 

Two more former chancellors of the exchequer have added their voices to the clamour: Labour's Dennis Healey and Conservative Norman Lamont also say it is time to reconsider Britain's membership of the EU, but again they are fixed on leaving only if the UK cannot renegotiate its relationship with the bloc. 

Even more prominent amongst the bandwagon riders is the wannabe Tory leader Boris Johnson, who tells us that "leaving Europe a shot in the arm for democracy", which might carry some conviction if Johnson actually practised democracy and showed any signs of knowing what the term meant. 

The man-child is still hedging his bets though, also supporting David Cameron, the latter reinforcinghis renegotiation fantasy by telling us that he thinks it is possible to change and reform the EU, and "change and reform Britain's relationship with it".

The man clearly fails to understand that asserting this no more makes it true than if he was to assert, with the same degree of confidence, that the moon was made of green cheese. In fact, there is more likelihood of establishing a lunar green cheese mine than there is of Mr Cameron successfully changing and reforming the EU. 

But, with Lawson having breached the dam, even Michael Portillo has joined calls for a referendum, with no more idea of how to fight and win one than the rest of the bandwagon riders. 

Fortunately, we remain in a position where Miliband is likely to heed Poly Toynbee's call and "ignore calls to hold a futile and distracting in-out vote". 

As long as the Farage mania holds, that is Mr Miliband's last best hope of becoming prime minister, the net effect of the UKIP vote being to destroy the Conservative's chances of winning an outright victory at the general election. 

What terrifies Toynbee, though, is the Kellner scenario where a referendum held by an unpopular mid-term Labour government could unite the eurosceptics, who could then pull off a vote demanding an EU exit. 

Thus, Toynbee says, Labour should stick to its "no referendum" policy. Ed Miliband "does not want to be the prime minister to take Britain out of Europe into the wilderness". And there lies the ultimate irony. Our best option for leaving the EU is for Labour to promise a referendum and for us to vote the party into office. 

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