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.