Monday, September 24, 2007

A dose of reality

If The Sun is taking the referendum issue by storm, we get a downbeat piece from The Telegraph, headed "Election 'will not blunt EU vote call'".

Ostensibly, this is a warning from "rebel MPs" that a snap general election would not blunt the campaign for a referendum on the EU treaty. These MPs, we are told, have made it clear that the campaign for a national vote on the draft treaty would go on "even if Mr Brown called and won an autumn general election."

However, as the Labour Party conference gets into its stride, the reality comes further down the piece. One of the Labour "rebels" is cited as saying a decision had been taken not to rock the boat this week. "We're playing the unity card," he says.

Nevertheless, Ian Davidson, who is the public front for the rebels, is remaining bullish, telling the Telegraph that the referendum "will still be an issue after an election."

The point is, though, that if Brown did call an early election, the Labour manifesto would almost certainly include a commitment to Parliamentary ratification of the treaty. If Labour swept back into power on those terms, the referendum would be dead in the water. The election result would be treated as a mandate, even though it would almost certainly have been fought on domestic issues.

As you would expect, nor is Europhile David Miliband giving any ground. He is dismissing the referendum campaign as a "navel-gazing" distraction from the real issues facing Europe. He, says The Telegraph is known to be irritated at the head of steam being built by The Daily Telegraph's petition, and told a conference fringe meeting that the key challenges facing the EU were international terrorism, global inequality and climate change.

It was a "delivery deficit" on issues such as this that mattered in Europe, rather than the "democratic deficit".

As to the Telegraph petition, on the same page as the piece is a huge advertisement for the I want a referendum campaign (pictured), which just happens to be offering its own petition. Add that to the other petitions and the original - which is struggling to reach 20,000 - and you have the Eurosceptic movement in a nutshell. What did the man say? "Divided we stand".


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