Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Mixed Bag of Results

No, not a Rugby World Cup reference, where the gulf of relative performances between England and those of key opponents have brought ever more gloom to those who ride the roller coaster of supporting the men in white, as has every medical bulletin. Rather, I refer to the contrasting pronouncements of the TUC and leader of the ironically named Liberal Democrats, Sir Menzies Campbell, on the subject of the upcoming EU treaty.

Today the TUC did indeed vote to demand a vote on the EU treaty today. I will also say, in their favour that the initial coverage did contain a significant amount of comment from union leaders on the fundamental dishonesty of the government's volte face on the issue.

Over the last few hours however most of the comment I've read makes it sound, much as I had feared, that it may be merely a bargaining position, and that the opposition would evaporate were Broon to give way on his 'Red Line' on the status of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and through that back door, bring in the increased union powers that the Labour movement know they cannot sell to the British electorate.

BBC News quotes the GMB general secretary, Paul Kenny:
"If we get a referendum and the terms haven't change, it's going to be very difficult to persuade workers to vote for it [the treaty]."

Source: BBC News

Most of the union comment I have read has come from traditionally left of centre sources like the Guardian and the BBC, who probably have similar misguided sympathy for the the Charter, so it's hard to guess what motivates the majority in the union movement. That being the case, I personally give the TUC the benefit of the doubt and welcome their position, and just have to trust that the Prime Minister has the wit to know that to give way on one of his increasingly thin red lines would reduce his credibility from virtually to absolute zero.

Sir Menzies Campbell
Definite Loser
In any case, I suppose that to do the right thing, even for the wrong reason is better to than to do the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Once again this seems to be what the hapless Sir Menzies Campbell has done.

Having supported a referendum on the proposed Constitution at the last election, and suggested that he may be amenable to one on the reform treaty, he has caved in completely and declared it unnecessary. Nor, this time, was it a return to what may be a relatively principled position on the role of referenda in a representative democracy, the line that the Lib Dems have usually have adopted to ensure that the EU continues to get its way in the face of public disapproval.

As Shane Greer, currently persona pro Iain Dale, and Thunder Dragon have both spotted, Menzies has instead decided to stick rigidly to the party line; that is to say the Labour party line.
Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat leader, on Tuesday took the heat off Gordon Brown over the revised European Union constitution, arguing that a referendum on the new treaty was “not necessary”.


[Sir Menzies] told the Financial Times the new EU reform treaty was “sufficiently different” from the original constitution to avoid the need for a plebiscite. He said the only case for a public vote would be on a much broader “in or out” question about Britain’s membership of the EU, to prompt a serious national debate on Europe.

Source: The Financial Times

Fortunately it seems to be younger more forward looking Lib Dems who seem to be backing a referendum, as opposed to Campbell, once again pretty much marginalised in the broader debate, who once again has felt the need to follow the old failed approaches to resolving the agonies this country puts itself through over its relations with the EU.

The real beneficiary of Campbell's intervention I suspect may be David Cameron, not Broon, by leaving the Conservatives as the only mainstream party whose leadership backs a public say on the referendum. When you consider how closely he has parroted the Prime Minister's line, after a prolonged period of dithering, it's likely that many will draw their own conclusions over the Lib Dem position, should they ever get the chance to hold the balance in power in Parliament.

As for being the 'real party of opposition'...Sorry Menzies, that has probably just taken a fatal beating.

I've done far too many EU posts of late, so I'm going to place a short ban on the subject here for a while, unless someone suggests something really stupid and insensitive like putting the ring of stars on British passports.

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