Why is wanting a referendum right wing?

The BBC in its report on UKIP said with some glee that the Conservatives will face a challenge from the right at the European elections because UKIP will demand a referendum on Lisbon.
Why is it right wing to want to ask the people about such a crucial matter? Were Labour and the Lib Dems being unacceptably right wing when they promsied one in the last General Election? Did they become left wing when they ratted on their promise (Yes, probably! That’s a delightful unforeseen consequence of the BBC nonsense).

What the BBC should have said in its report was this. The Conservatives promised a referendum on Lisbon in the last Election. We kept our promise, moving an amendment to get one, and voting for it, when Lib Dems and Labour let us down by failing to keep their word. I seem to remember there were no elected UKIP MPs available to help us secure that referendum, and fewer Consrevatives than we needed because UKIP and others had stopped some Conservatives getting elected on the promise of a referendum.

Conservatives have made clear we will give a referedum if Lisbon has not been ratified everywhere when we come to office. It seems unlikely it will have been ratified, so there will be a referendum. If by any chance it has been ratified we will be taking other actions to sort out the EU mess, as we cannot live with Lisbon, or with other parts of the accumulated Treaties and powers of the EU.

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30 Comments

  1. Tony Makara
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    It is indeed curious how plebiscites are often described in the media as being right-wing or a favourite tool of dictators. Who could possibly object to a referedum on the very existence of our country? The original raison d'etre of the EEC, as an internal market, a trading bloc, of benefit to its members, has now completely disappeared and has been replaced by a political superstructure that sees itself as being above nation states.

    If the EEC/EC had remained at 12 member states and existed purely for the purposes of trade it may well have been a great success. However what passes as the EU today can in no way claim to be the organization that people voted for at the last referendum. So, the EU needs to seek a mandate from the British people, lets get the EU issue out in the open and lets see how much public support there is for it.

  2. Posted September 6, 2008 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Not really UKIP's fault that they have no elected members in Westminster, though they do in Strasbourg. This is purely because we have an electoral system that prevents representation of minority parties (& thus views). Responsibility for us having that system lies squarely with the Labour & Conservative doupoly, who normally benefit from it.

    My opinion is that under representative form electoral system UKIP would be about the same size as the LibDems which would be a healthy thing for British democracy. On present polls it is quite likely that Labour would be about the same size.

    Forcing voters forcing to vote for parties they don't like but are the "only electable choice" is undemocratic, a great restriction on new ideas & to blame for entrenching both class & national conflicts. If Labour get as few votes as the LDs they will have many more seats & retain their class base. The SNP have never had a fraction as many votes as the LDs but because their vote is all in one area have, on occasion, rivaled them in Parliament. I think it is wrong to criticise UKIP & their supporers for an ill your party are complicit in.

  3. James
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I foresee many, many long nights ahead of you sorting out such messes when you are in office.

  4. Posted September 6, 2008 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I can't begin to tell you how warm it sounds to hear those words Mr Redwood. I've been a Conservative for 34 years and have seen my country ripped to pieces by consecutive treaties and drains of sovereignty which have nearly destroyed the ability of any government to legislate much of what we now live by. I've researched everything, I prove it all to myself, I see many deceits have occurred, the public misled, lied to, ignored, and now the BBC call us "right wing" because we seek direct democracy on one issue so important to our overall democracy and to our sovereign right to govern ourselves ?

    The BBC are completely infested with Common Purpose graduates, which are all bent one way toward supressing political debate and moulding what's left into a neo-liberal ball of puke.

    I placed the BBC's piece about UKIP on here earlier and made a comment that I'd vote UKIP unless DC beomes clearer where he stands. ( Where the party stands ).

    I know there are issues of a public character to singing one song loudly over Europe, but there must come a point where the party actually states how it will negotiate ( how will it actually get negotiation with upwards of 30 or more members ) ? – What if it can't ? What then ? – When would it negotiate and what outcome does it want ? – And what if negotiations fail ?

    Clearly, would it not be more open to say we will NOT agree to the terms of the Lisbon Treaty and if it is accepted by others then we will reverse our membership to EFTA ?

    I can see no economic disadvantages to being in EFTA at all, and there are plenty of social advantages notleast we'd regain parliamentary sovereignty and have the ability to snip some of the bureaucracy away with no problem at all.

    Immigration, the justice system, foreign policy, military, our economic policies, our trade with others, laws on human rights which are in flagrant abuse of any sense of reason in some cases. The list is endless here of how we could cut away the fat and lean up our whole country by giving it the breath of fresh air needed here as well as the faith we need again that politics is working.

    I'm also still at a loss to see why David Cameron wanted to embroil himself ( and his followers ) in foreign policy on Georgia when he has no right really to have been there. I don't see Russia in the same way he sees it obviously and nor do I see America in the same mind he obviously does either. I think we should be distinctly running our own ship here and doing our best to keep out of others politics, so it's unfathomable to me why he did that.

    I guess I'll wait to hear something more precise at the forthcoming conference and will keep my fingers crossed until then, and just hope it has more beef on it than it does currently, although your own vision makes a lot more sense than his does at the moment and I'm very pleased to have read it.

  5. Trevor Wright
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    "Conservatives have made clear we will give a referedum if Lisbon has not been ratified everywhere when we come to office. It seems unlikely it will have been ratified, so there will be a referendum. If by any chance it has been ratified we will be taking other actions to sort out the EU mess, as we cannot live with Lisbon, or with other parts of the accumulated Treaties and powers of the EU."

    May I clarify:

    Is the above Conservative Party policy? or is it John Redwood's policy?

    Will the Conservative Party go into the election, when (if) it comes on the basis of not ratifying Lisbon?

    Will it be part of the party's policy to reduce the UK contribution agreed by the Labour Government?

    Thankyou in advance
    Reply: I have stated Conservative policy. I myself would go even further.

  6. Alan Douglas
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    John,

    This does show up the inconsistency of the Tory position.

    I have no doubt that what you say is true, but Cameron has so far NOT implemented the one clear promise he made re leaving the EPP grouping, so some vague formulation about "dealing with Lisbon" can hardly be seen as a vote-winner.

    Could we have some clear statement of policy from the Tories that we can unambiguously VOTE for ?

    Alan Douglas

    Reply: I have always favoured a referendum and will continue to pledge to vote for one whenever opportunity presents

  7. Keith
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    John, if you wanted to guarantee an absolutely mind boggling majority then you should promise a referendum on this country's continued membership of the EU.

    • Tony Makara
      Posted September 6, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I agree, it is the only way to put this issue to bed one way or the other. A referendum on continued membership would give all sides an opportunity to enlighten the public as to benefits and pitfalls of EU membership. Anyone who bearnestly believes in the democratic process should welcome such a referendum, whatever their position on the EU. Would a Conservative government dare to consult its own people on the issue of EU membership?

  8. adam
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Of course it used to be the other way around. Tony Blair wanted out of Europe.

    The right may be split over Europe but the left doesnt really have an identity, its represented by Europe minister Jim Murphy, who makes sympathetic, empathetic apologies to the commons for his own positions at every opportunity.

  9. John Broughton
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    John

    If parliamentary sovereignty means anything at all and if we want to have a country to govern post the next GE then Cameron must give us a referendum whether or not ratified.

  10. mike stallard
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. So what is the cost of a referendum?
    The EU is not a nice place. The Irish are being forcfed into a referendum prtobably after the European Elections. The treatment of dissenters in the parliament, the forcing of journalists who film MEPs taking their unfair allowances and the non signing off of the accounts year on year, all point to a very nasty lot of people.
    These people actually believe in Europe and they are terribly narrow minded. I got all this from Dan Hannan's blogs because the deliberations are not reported and they are virtually secret.
    Both of these facts mean that anyone who rocks the boat and who is not totally in favour of the European Project will be isolated.
    That leaves America.
    America which led us into Iraq. America which does not even consult us on Afghanistan any more.
    And, now, we get all our military equipment from Europe.
    It will take a very brave politician to run a referendum. I wonder, myself, if that man is David Cameron.

  11. John Fehr
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Quote: "I seem to remember there were no elected UKIP MPs available to help us secure that referendum, and fewer Consrevatives than we needed because UKIP and others had stopped some Conservatives getting elected on the promise of a referendum."

    What a cheek! If Conservatives didn't get elected, it was simply because not enough people wanted them. This is a bit like the BNP councillors getting elected in Lambeth (from memory) and Labour having the temerity to say that the voters got it wrong.

    We should vote for whoever will represent us, regardless of their chances of getting elected – or would you suggest that nobody should vote Conservative where their candidate clearly has no chance of being elected?

    I have observed the performance of UKIP. Your arrogant comment makes me even more inclined to vote for them.

    • John Fehr
      Posted September 6, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Not Lambeth, perhaps Barking. Maybe I just tend to associate Lambeth with unpleasant extremists. The principle remains.

  12. Johnny Norfolk
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    We need a referendum on the EU once and for all .John Major should have had one and it was his greatest mistake not to have one.
    We were lied to when we vosted to go in , in the first place. I would have voted no if it was to have what we have now.

    We should sort this out once and for all.

  13. geoff mortimer
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Out of curiosity went to conservative.com and on the link to Policy there is currently only 7 items listed the dreaded EU is not one of them, neither which is of greater concern is there any mention of Defence.

  14. Bazman
    Posted September 6, 2008 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    WE do not pay MP's to put the complicated political decisions on the electorate. This is why expensive referendums are wrong.

  15. Posted September 6, 2008 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    But what will you do to "sort out the EU Mess"? We need to see or hear something more concrete. We still remember Maastricht and the ERM. The Conservative track record suggests that not much will be done, despite sceptics like you.

  16. Posted September 7, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    What slightly puzzles me is this promise only to have a referendum if Lisbon is not ratified. Why not have a referendum even if it has been ratified?

    After all, 100% of the referenda that we have had on matters European have been retrospective, haven't they?

    (Disclosure, yes, I am an UKIP press officer but this is a personal comment.)

    Reply: Why just vote on the Lisbon bit once it is passed if it is passed? There are other bits of the Treties we have voted against and do not want as well.

  17. Posted September 7, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    As Nigel said in his speech at the UKIP national conference in Bournemouth, Cameron could kill the Lisbon treaty stone dead right now by saying the right things but he refuses to do so. We know how two-faced the Tories are on this, which is why we will take everything you say with a large pinch of salt.
    Reply: What nonsense. We tried to kill Lisbon the only way it can be killed here in the UK by votes in the Commons. We need more votes.

  18. HM
    Posted September 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, your party's position on the EU is nothing more than cowardice.

    "Conservatives have made clear we will give a referedum if Lisbon has not been ratified everywhere when we come to office. It seems unlikely it will have been ratified, so there will be a referendum. If by any chance it has been ratified we will be taking other actions to sort out the EU mess, as we cannot live with Lisbon, or with other parts of the accumulated Treaties and powers of the EU."

    So basically if it is ratified you're absolutely stuffed.

    Let's look at the bigger picture here:

    The CONS want to stay in the EU. They want to reform it (as if that is possible for a vast minority to achieve in the EU) and with it reformed, let's see what changes would be made:

    1. Keep open borders. (Basically immigrants will keep flooding in).
    2. Europe sticks together to fight terrorism and climate change. (Why can't independent states do that? And having open borders and fighting terrorism seems like an inherently foolish idea).
    3. Give national governments a bigger say in the EU. (What does it matter? Britain can still be overruled by the other states on many issues if that happens. Independence would solve that problem and return full sovereignty to Britain which could deliver its own stance on climate change, foreign spending and terrorism and ACTUALLY legislate by itself.)
    4. Still allow the EU to have massive power over making directives. (This is just stupid and still holds Britain back from its full potential by taking away its sovereignty and giving it to nearly 30 other countries and an army of bureaucrats).

    So in a nutshell the CONS want a Europe that still regulates, that can still make decisions for Britain, that makes up our mind for us on terrorism, the environment and foreign spending, and that has open borders.

    I mich prefer UKIP's vision of total withdrawal from the EU, making our minds up for ourselves, closing our borders for a points-system for immigration, raising democracy in the UK and having a European Free Trade Area as well as a Commonwealth one. Where can you go wrong with that?

    Sources: http://www.europeanreform.eu/the-eu-a-new-agenda-http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7067149.sthttp://www.conservativeeurope.com/conservatives-i

    Reply: Your caricature of Conservative policy is silly, and your belief in a UKIP government soon absurd.

  19. Posted September 7, 2008 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Why should anyone trust Cameron after he changed his promise on leaving the EPP from "months, not years", to a 3 year delay?

  20. Frank Davis
    Posted September 7, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    "Reply [to Trevor Wright]: I have stated Conservative policy. I myself would go even further."

    Geoff Mortimer wrote: "Out of curiosity went to conservative.com and on the link to Policy there is currently only 7 items listed the dreaded EU is not one of them"

    There was a time when there was a robust public debate in this country about Europe. Now there seems to be near-complete silence among the political classes. Is it any wonder that, in this vacuum of information, the wildest rumours flourish and gain credence?

  21. Adrian Peirson
    Posted September 7, 2008 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I don't want a Referendum, What if the Vote were Fixed, I want Full Soveriegnty restored to the British People just like it should be.
    the EU is Corrupt, not having had its accounts signed off for 13 yrs, they cannot account for 80% of its Budget, it has been voted down by the French, the Dutch and now the Irish.
    It is Illegal, an act of Gross Treason under Common Law, the Bill of Rights, and Magna Carta.

    What exactly does it take.

    We are only ever offered what they want us to choose between. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iW5kOB1pmg

    The EU is Illegal under the British Constitution. http://www.britsattheirbest.com/freedom/f_your_ow
    http://thejournal.parker-joseph.co.uk/blog/_archi

    Elizabeth Becket. http://www.namastepublishing.co.uk/Elizabeth%20Be

  22. Andrew Forbes
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I'd like some sort of referendum. After all, I am a mere 41, and therefore far too young to have been given any direct say in all of this. You have to have been 18 in 1975; nobody in the UK under the age of 51 has had any direct say in the transfer of power to Europe. Even then, they were only asked to vote on an economic community.

    In hindsight, the correct time for a referendum was Maastricht. Where were you then, John?

    Reply: Losing the battle in Cabinet to have a referendum and to give MPs a free vote.

    • Andrew Forbes
      Posted September 8, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I'm sorry you lost. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  23. Posted September 8, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I am making the assumption that the Treaty will be signed by the next election, but even if it is not, the EU needs to change. How will you propose to change our relationship with the EU after the next election. Do you have any previous articles that summarise?

    • mike stallard
      Posted September 8, 2008 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      In this situation where the EU is going to steamroller through to Lisbon over the heads of the Irish polliticians who now plan to use the parliament for the vote, you might have thought the situation hopeless.
      Today Open Europe (sign up if you have not already) and the Telegraph are holding a debate. So things are starting to move – the consensus is turning into a debate.
      Valerie Guiscard d’Estang has also said that he is quite ready for a two speed Europe and he is the bloke who wrote (with help) the first Constitution.

      Reply: he expressly told us he was not recommending a two speed Europe. I thought he was trying to stop a future UK government using the veto.

  24. Matthew
    Posted September 8, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Surely a referendum needs to be on membership of the EU? The issue has dragged on in British politics for 20 years now and letting the people have their say seems right.

  25. Posted September 9, 2008 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I think having read the links [ Adrian Peirsonon 07 Sep 2008 at 5:48 pm ], a referendum of IN or OUT is a dangerous thing to do as if a yes vote came back then the no's would be completely disenfranchised from their rights to sovereignty.

    Possibly 49% of the population could have their sovereignty removed in a popular vote which is anything but popular.

    Clearly you cannot "vote away" your sovereignty !!

    I'd prefer William Hague to amend the 1972 Act and re-establish parliamentary sovereignty.

    Also, party whip on any decisions involving international agreements should be forbidden.

    He should form a committee to draft a formal British Constitution and John Redwood and Bill Cash should head that committee so it is drafted solely in the public interest.

    It should be without any of the nonsense Gordon Brown plans of setting out "our responsiblities" in a document intended to set "our rights" in stone as to do that is utter nonsense and it fools nobody. Typically it is yet another Labour con to turn a constitution of rights into a document of control.

    Britain needs a written constitution so we can stop any future argument about who our sovereignty belongs to.

    The way I see it is the government has been given a mandate to govern for 5 years. It has not been given a mandate to sign away that responsibilty, we gave THEM the madate to do that and no other !

    Sovereignty belongs to the people, we loan it to government, the Queen protects it, and if she doesn't like a bill then she refuses to sign it and it cannot pass into law.

    If the Queen is petitioned ( as she has been by many ), then it is for her to say she cannot sign it until the government has the expressed wish of the people. ( Why has she signed it when she knows this and has sworn an oath to uphold our sovereignty ) ?

    The other thing I'd suggest, is that a government is held to account "to the people" on its manifesto promises. An unfulfilled promise should automatically incur a vote of confidence in the commons and should never be left to private individuals to attempt to sue the government over what is manifestly a lie or a failure by government.

    Parliament needs some reform as a government cannot represent the people's wishes if it doesn't ask us and it isn't held to account when it is unable or refuses to fulfill its pledge which led to it being given a mandate to govern.

    • thomas
      Posted September 14, 2008 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

      Eddie, the Queen is worried about her own position if she became involved in such a matter, I assume. And indeed, what could be worse than to lose our Queen over the EU! That really would be the end of our nation.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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