Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics
 

Debate No.2: When Cleggmania ended.

Posted by Jason O on Apr 22, 2010 in British Politics |

I hope I’m wrong, I really do. I would love the Lib Dems to absolutely storm this election, and finally bring about reform of Britain’s obscene electoral system. But I fear that tonight is the night that the shine comes off Nick Clegg. He’s now the man to beat, expectations are too high for him, and people who have never voted Lib Dem are just looking for an excuse to go back to where they came from.

He knows this too, and maybe he’ll surprise us, but I reckon this is when the Lib Dem vote starts to falter, when Cameron puts the boot in, and the stratospheric poll ratings start to fall. It’ll be interesting if Cameron stays on topic tonight (Foriegn affairs) or decides to use the debate to push the “Vote Yellow Get Brown” message. Also interesting will be how Clegg responds to the Trident and EU questions. I still think the promise of an In/Out referendum may bizarrely attract eurosceptics to the Lib Dem banner, and cause Cameron problems, so it’s all to play for yet. 

1 Comment

david morris
Apr 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

LimpDems promising an In/out referendum on the EU ?

Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.

What their manifesto actually says is the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU, that there would be a referendum

This is very different from their straightforward In/Out referendum promised after U-turning on their previous referendum promise. Cleggo’s calculation is that there won’t be a major EU treaty in the next three or four years. And if there is, he’ll claim that it doesn’t amount to a “fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU”.

You’ll forgive me if I point out that the Limp Dems have form here.

In 2005, they were elected on the basis of a far less equivocal manifesto commitment:

“We are therefore clear in our support for the [European] Constitution, which we believe is in Britain’s interest — but ratification must be subject to a referendum of the British people.”

By the time the European Constitution Lisbon Treaty came before Parliament, it was obvious that keeping this promise would jeopardise ratification. The peoples of France and the Netherlands had voted “No”, and the people of Britain were straining like greyhounds in the slips to do the same.

So Cleggo went back on his word, and ordered his MPs to abstain on the critical vote. The amendment was defeated in the House of Commons by 63 votes – precisely the number of Lib Dem MPs. In the House of Lords, however, an abstention wouldn’t have been enough, so Cleggo adopted his third position in as many weeks and instructed his peers to vote against the referendum he had promised.

Seeking to justify these U-turns, Nick Clegg snatched up the figurative fig-leaf, by clarifying what
he actually wanted, which was (he said) a vote on EU membership, not the paltry referendum he had promised before. He told the BBC Today Programme:

“The positional we took was that the referendum, which we wanted to see take place, was a referendum on the big question about Europe, which is whether we stay in or out. What we disagreed with, as the party, was the Conservative proposal to have a referendum, a very narrow referendum, only on this Lisbon Treaty.”

Angels dancing on the head of a pin comes to mind. Instead of a referendum on Lisbon, the Limb Dims would graciously consent to give the electorate a vote on whether to remain in the EU. So a couple of weeks later, the UKIP peer, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, took them at their word and introduced precisely such a proposal in the Lords.

Did the Limp Dims support it?

Of course not.

“We didn’t want to big up UKIP,” one of their peers later explained.

So now these Euro-fanatical shysters have the gall come back with the same promise of a referendum that they have already broken?

Kind regards


 

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