Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lib Dems should not have whipped against EU referendum

Apologies for lack of posting recently. I've been a bit busy and will likely continue to be for a good while. I will dip in and out as I can though.

I really felt that I had to comment though on the debacle of the Lib Dems having been made via a 3 line whip to vote against a referendum on membership of the EU.

Frankly, what the hell were we playing at? I lost count of the number of times I heard party spokespeople in the run up to the election last year repeat the mantra that we should have an "in/out referendum". Over and over again. It was clearly a device to try and neutralise an issue on which the party recognises it is in the minority ay least on superficial polling evidence. I know that the actual manifesto commitment was if there was to be a transfer of powers to the EU then there should be a vote but frankly that nuance will be lost on most people and the caveat was not always invoked when it was discussed either. The man/woman in the street will just vaguely recall having heard that the Lib Dems were in favour of a referendum to give people their say on the EU and then watched only 1 Lib Dem MP (Adrian Sanders) vote for it with the rest either abstaining or voting against.

Way to go guys. In the wake of the tuition fee catastrophe you would think giving ammunition to those who accuse us of breaking our pledges would be avoided at all costs. But apparently not.

I cannot understand why Clegg and the party leadership did this. They could easily have pointed at the manifesto and said "Sorry Dave, we're not going down this road again" and fulfilled the spirit of the pledge. Instead it's more fodder for those who would love to see the Lib Dems destroyed as a political force which includes lots of Dave's own party.

Numerous people quit the party over tuition fees. I have already seen at least one Lib Dem blogger quit the party already over the EU vote. I have not seriously entertained this thought but I am one of those footsoldiers who has stood on doorsteps trying to persuade people to vote for us in the past. Where is my motivation to do this in future if it turns out that even when we are perfectly politically able to fulfill our pledges we choose not to? I could see how difficult the tuition fees situation was but this latest one is 100% self-inflicted.

I just hope the leadership reflects in the aftermath of this and resolves not to put us in such a position again.


Joe Otten said...

No such pledge.

How many jobs is it worth sacrificing for a referendum on the EU contrary to our manifesto and the coalition agreement?

Oranjepan said...

elsewhere I said "to call for a referendum at the height of a crisis is like whipping a lynch mob up into a frenzy and expecting justice to prevail" - the only way to counteract such 'whipped-up' frenzies and the descent into reactionary policy-making which they lead to is to have a whipped vote.

Frankly the 100k bar on public signatories for backbench debates is far too low. I think it should be 1m. With a higher bar rabble-rousing voices are neutralised and the requirement for whipping is eliminated. And clear heads could then prevail as nobody would be left with a hangover of regret and recriminations.

It should also be said your criticism is misplaced as well as wrong because all three main parties whipped the vote.

If you want free votes on matters of conscience or principle then you can't hold them where they relate to current outside events - to argue the reverse is to make a mockery of the process: a wide debate must relate to the wider context, a narrow debate must relate to a narrow context.

As it was this particular motion was attempting to make a deep arguemnt in specific relation to the current crisis - therefore a 'free' vote was irresponsible because it would place a gun to the head of decision-makers and no serious figure could ever allow that, which is why none of the main parties was ever going to.

The public must be more responsible in understanding how the petition trigger should be used constructively, but that requires politicians on all sides are more honest when explaining the issues at stake. It's early days yet, so we must accept some learning is inevitable.

But we've had 36 years of dishonest governments poking a stick at this honets nest for political advantage, so either we must sit on it and get stung on behalf of everyone, or we must accept the consequences of a swarm rising.

European integration is not about jobs, though that is one beneficial side-product of the tool of integration, trade: it is about preventing the outbreak of another major war.

We should be very concerned that blocking integration will lead to greater international friction as individual powers seek advantages and this creates a situation with the potential to escalate suddenly.

History has not ended, we should not forget it - it has speeded up and in doing so the balance has grown very delicate.

That you say you cannot understand suggests you are forgetting.

If your view is reflective of wider opinion, we should all be shitting ourselves.

Sadie said...

Why let us be defined by what other people think we have said
Several of our MPs posted thoughtful pieces about why they chose to vote which way. Very sensible arguments.
This petition was largely got up by the exUKIP MEP an the vote took place with the Eurozone in a real mess.
Couldn't win whatever we did.
We need to exert influence in Europe.

Red Rag said...

I don't think it matters what Nick Clegg does or say, because a very large percentage of the electorate doesn't believe a single word he says any more.

Anonymous said...

At the time I thought people were overly harsh on Clegg/LDs regarding the tuition fees and told people so.

After the EU thing, I'm thinking I was wrong and they are just as 2 faced as people said.