Thursday, 13 March 2014
The world’s gone referendum mad! Well the UK has gone referendum mad! That is, its political parties have gone referendum mad… a bit. Not really sure how to set out their stalls, the main parties have each now announced ‘crystal clear’ positions on the whole kit and caboodle; positions so clear that a battalion of spokespeople, pundits, columnists and commentators appear to have spent most of yesterday explaining and counter-explaining them. I think most ordinary people understand by ‘crystal clear’ and ‘simple’ that a thing is so self-evidently what it is that further elucidation is unnecessary. Trouble is this particular duck looks like a horse, talks like a monkey and walks like John Wayne.
The nub of the neighing, anthropoid, big-leggy duck situation appears to be this:
The LibDems, having demanded an in/out referendum in 2008, because they firmly believed the voters would opt to stay IN, are now absolutely on the side of NOT holding a referendum because they are terrified the public might vote OUT. But just in case they are accused of dithering they have altered their stance – but say they haven’t and to politicians saying and doing are much the same thing - to add that IF further powers are ceded to the EU a referendum WILL be forthcoming. IF you vote for them. Good luck with that then, Nick.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, despite spending the last forty years banging on about Europe have never managed to get their heads around what they want because their big business backers are vehemently pro cheap labour and Tuscan villas and big UK landowners just love the subsidies for blighting our rural landscapes with wind turbines and damn the peasantry. At the back of their collective mind, though, is a nagging concern over loss of sovereignty and influence at ‘the top table’. But having procrastinated for so long, that particular fear has largely gone away. As there is little in the way of sovereignty left to give they can now afford to be so fiercely pro-EU that they can promise an unconditional in/out referendum following the inevitable failure of reform talks, hoping that with a resurgent economy the issue of the EU will quietly cease to be a concern for voters. Clear so far?
But Labour are obviously the front runners in the PlainEnglish Campaign as they announced their latest offering. An offering so convoluted that after even Snakey Mandelson failed to make it understandable on the Today programme, Andrew Neil had to ask Angela “Eddie the” Eagle about a dozen times on the Daily Politics. Ed Miliband’s Financial Times article was headlined “Miliband rules out early EU poll” while The Daily Mirror splashed “Ed: we will give EU an in-out vote.” Effectively, Ed has sort of made a promise he sort of believes he will never have to sort of keep. Presumably he hopes people are stupid enough to believe, yet again, that he is for whatever they are for and against whatever they are against. Nice trick if you can pull it off, but what do you actually stand for, you muppet?
As I recall, Labour were rabidly anti-EU in the seventies and eighties but seeing the fabulous wealth their most fatuous leader has acquired since being booed off Brighton beach and into Brussels, maybe they decided they should have some of that; to this day denizens of the Rhonda dream of winning the lottery and becoming “As rich as Kinnock.” Given that it is Labour’s core constituents who have suffered the most from the EU’s open borders, their yeah-but, no-but stance is far from the decisive workers’ party leadership Ed wants to claim.
Other commentators sought to place the issue of an EU referendum far down on the voters list of priorities, but trust me, it’s up there. Maybe UKIP are popular because unlike the other parties everybody knows what they stand for, at least as far as Europe is concerned, and they are the only party never to have altered that position in twenty years. And in contrast to that steadfast vision of an independent United Kingdom the prevarication of the two-and-a-half-main parties over this and so many other issues is precisely why the electorate will stay away in their droves come the general election. There is a feeling of helplessness and inevitability about voting that, however you cast your ballot, the same rotten lot always get in.
Now you're talking, Mr Ed.
So, to sum up: Libdems – don’t trust you; won’t hold a referendum. Conservatives – don’t trust you; will have a referendum, unless they can quietly forget about it. Labour – don’t trust you; might have a referendum, might not, but vote for them anyway, it will be like pass the parcel. As for UKIP, despite their obvious popularity with the disaffected of all three parties and huge recent gains in opinion polls, it’s unlikely they will have more than a handful (if any) MPs but a vote for them IS a sort of referendum. Oh, and the Greens don’t trust you either, but nobody gives a flying fuck what the Greens think.