Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Dilemma for Gordon?

False Friends
Part of the fight or false friends?
The pressure on the Prime Minister over the call for a referendum on the resurrected European Constitution continues (and yes I have decided to trust the views of the leaders of the other 26 member states, rather than my own in calling it what it really is).

Union after union is now calling for a demand to be made for a referendum on the treaty at the TUC conference. Initially I was heartened by the news.

As I've highlighted in several other posts I believe that regardless of your views on further European integration it is high time for a public consultation. If you are generally pro EU you should be concerned about the prevailing feeling that the EU is something 'done to' the UK and welcome a chance to make your 'Positive Case for Europe' and seek a vote of confidence. If you are against further integration a chance for your voice to be heard is clearly welcome. The arrival of a new Prime Minister, to whom the public, rightly or wrongly, seem to have awarded a clean slate should be enough to assuage concerns that the people would vote based on factors other than the proposition in front of them.

Unfortunately hearing some of the union leaders interviewed on radio my hopes, I must admit, have turned to fears. They appeared to have little interest in the need of the people as a whole to be consulted on major constitutional issues such as this, and even less in the fundamental iniquity of a government reneging on a clear manifesto commitment that was designed to nullify a potentially damaging issue at the polls. No, they just want the full weight of the social elements of the proposed arrangements to help them strangle British business.

It was abundantly clear that were the Prime Minister to drop his opt out on the charter of fundamental 'rights', with its provisions on rights to strike, support for a referendum would evaporate like Scotch mist. From the little the Prime Minster lets know of his basic instincts I wouldn't put it past him to accept this when weighed against the risks of a referendum. His excuses are already so wafer thin, that I suspect he would judge that he has absorbed almost all the political damage he is likely to take. I suspect that for the four opt outs, that he foolish believes convince the British people that the treaty taking shape is different from the proposed constitution, to become three may be reckoned to be less damaging to him than a full on confrontation with the unions.

There is a very real danger, in my opinion, that the intervention by the unions could be very far from helpful, and could indeed produce an even worse outcome than the Gordon's current plan to raise one finger of the great clunking fist to the British people.

As an aside, I have been wondering about some of the speculation about a snap election in October. Many reasons that it may be a bad idea from the Prime Minister's perspective have been advanced, most notably the state of Labour party finances. I can't help feeling that an important one has been overlooked.

Last time I heard a schedule, the IGC was scheduled to have produced the final shape of the new treaty sometime in October. This would naturally push the issue of the EU and a referendum way up the news agenda.

Would a party really want to be launching a manifesto, when one of the most deceitful manifesto promises of recent times in their last offering to the people was about to come under the spotlight in such a prominent way?

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