Tuesday, January 22, 2008

EU Reform treaty: Death by tumble dryer

I now know how a cat feels trapped inside a washing machine when the tumble dry cycle goes onto overdrive.

It's like being trapped in the EU Reform Treaty debate.

Round and round it goes, and where it stops....we all heave a sigh of relief.

Fortunately, since the last fast spin cycle of this debate, I've managed to clarify my thinking - helped, largely, by Messrs Clegg and Huhne (yes, in the leadership debate they beautifully clarified our position on this).

Stephen Tall. Lovely man. Such precise prose. A man of impeccable judgment and balance.

But he is in severe need of a stiff whisky.

He writes:

I do not like to see banner headlines on the BBC News Politics website proclaiming: Lib Dems oppose referendum vote.

Well first of all, there is a technical term in the journalism profession for such headlines. It rhymes with "rowlocks" (pronounced: rollocks).

We oppose a referendum on an egg-cup, but we want a referendum instead on the swimming pool which contains the egg-cup. So the BBC headline writer chooses the egg-cup without reference to the swimming pool. Well done BBC!

We all don't like those sorts of headlines, Stephen. I didn't like "Jeremy Thorpe on trial" but with the 9 million negative headlines for the LibDems since then, 8 million of them unjustified [rhymes with rowlocks], I have learnt to live with it.

I prescribe three fingers of Glenfarclas 105 (if you like something with a bit of a bite) or a few drams of Laphroaig (if you like something a bit mellower with a peaty taste).

Whatever your/our poison, Stephen, and others who might be tempted to have the jitters also, we need to take it and stand fast. Don't panic Mr Mainwaring.

But Stephen is always fair, so I'll be fair to him. The main thrust of his post was quoting an excellent speech from Ed Davey, so good on you, Stephen.

So, back to the tumble drier. You know the routine: "We promised a constitution...the Daily Nonsense and the House of Commons Terminal-Numptyism sub-committee says its 95% the same...we demand a constitution...inalienable rights of the British people......hang on a minute...a constitution actually sets things up from scratch...this is a reforming or amending treaty...it doesn't set things up...the Lisbon thingey intended to scrub the decks and start again...a proper constitution...but that was abandoned...this is just a list of amendments....we need to be honest with people and offer them a proper referendum on EU membership - all the treaties to vote on....Ah! But you promised a referendum on the constitution....."

Brrr. Wizzzzzz. Meeow.

The comments to Stephen's piece have been taken over by a Tory/UKIndy gang-bang team, rather like a Chippendale table being infested with woodworm.

But one of the most ludicrous arguments was repeated by Timberwolf:

We should have said ‘Yes, we will vote for a referendum on the Treaty, but even better, let’s have a referendum on staying in the European Union’.

That would have put the Tories in a difficult position.

Oh, I see: Play short-term politics with the long term future of this country and the European Union?

That suggestion throws into sharp relief the fact that the Liberal Democrat party’s stance is strong and principled rather than cowardly and short termist - which voting for the EU treaty Reform to put the Tories on the spot, or bash Gordon Brown, or get us off the hook of an unfortunate headline or twain, would be.

Politics, even in opposition, occasionally requires a spot of principled hard ball. Well done Nick Clegg and the parliamentary team for sticking to our principles! People in the country will understand this. They will not forgive the alternative of cynical short-termism.

Without a clear tradition or adopted policy of regular referendums in this country, having a referendum, out of the blue, on the EU Reform Treaty would be an utter farce, which could send this country down a five year cul-de-sac of untold and unnecessary constitutional upheaval in the middle, possibly, of a recession.

It would be disgraceful if we have anything to do with letting that happen.

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