Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Monday, 3 March 2008

Democracy, Parliament And The Lisbon Treaty

I have to admit to thinking up till now that the self-styled “referendum” on the EU Treaty was a bit of a waste of time.

For those who’ve missed it, the I Want A Referendum campaign sent a ballot paper to every registered voter in each of ten Parliamentary constituencies – that’s 415,000 people – asking them two questions:
1) Should the United Kingdom hold a national referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty ?
2) Should the United Kingdom approve the EU’s Lisbon Treaty ?

I’d always thought that this amounted to little more than a stunt whose results would be as unreliable as they were predictable. It was obvious that there’d be a majority in favour of a referendum, and against approving the treaty. Why ? Because people who felt strongly that there should be a referendum were far more likely to respond than those who didn’t; you’re much more likely to go to the trouble of responding to this kind of thing if you’re driven by a belief that you’re being disenfranchised than you are if you’re content with the government’s position. And if you couldn’t give a monkey’s either way, perhaps driven by pure apathy, then you’re just going to throw the ballot paper in the bin. So to be honest I’ve been turning a blind eye to the whole thing.

That was until I saw the turnout that this little escapade generated; 36.2 per cent, which is pretty damn impressive by any measure, and more than bother in many local elections. Now, put that together with the overall finding, which is that nearly 88% said there should be a referendum, and that nearly 89% think that the UK should reject the treaty, and it strikes me that actually these results are pretty dramatic. You don’t need be a statistical expert to realise that, in all probability, these results could be extrapolated to conclude that the majority of British people believe there should be a referendum.

As I’ve said before I personally find this issue not quite as cut-and-dried as many, and although I do believe we should have a referendum because the Treaty proposes a transfer of sovereignty, I can’t get quite as passionate about it as some. Perhaps in that respect I’m fairly typical of the British electorate; I do believe we should have a say but I really can’t be bothered to take to the streets about it, and I wouldn’t, in two or three years’ time, use the issue as a basis for deciding whom to vote for in a General Election.

I guess that illustrates the challenge that has been set to I Want A Referendum, and which, despite their commendable efforts, they have not met; to turn that groundswell of public opinion into something that our politicians would be really scared of.

The vote in the Commons on whether there should be a referendum is on Wednesday, but let’s be clear; there is no way on God’s earth that the government will give us a say in this, for the simple reason that they know they would lose. Both Labour and Lib Dem MPs are likely to rebel from their parties’ position in some numbers but never enough to send Gordon Brown to defeat. It illustrates that our Parliamentary democracy is far from perfect, and often fails to deliver what the people want.


Anonymous said...

The Government, like every other European government, knows they will lose. Democracy is dying a long and painful death across the entire continent.

Mrs Smallprint said...

Hi Womble

I can see why you like many others may not be too worked up about this rather boring and wordy treaty, but how do you feel about being lied to by two out of three of the major parties in order to gain votes by deception?

Mrs S.