Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Senior Lib Dem MPs may back referendum on Lisbon treaty

Today's Daily Telegraph reports that a significant number of Liberal Democrat MPs may be planning to support a Conservative amendment calling for a referendum on the Lisbon treaty:
Mr Clegg signalled last month that he would help Labour block a Tory amendment to force a referendum, saying: "We would vote against a referendum on the treaty."

But members of Mr Clegg's shadow cabinet are among a significant number of MPs who are understood to be unhappy with the decision.

David Heath, the constitutional affairs spokesman, and Nick Harvey, the defence spokesman, are both understood to have told their constituency parties that they want to see a popular vote.

Neither man has been disciplined for their stance by party whips, which other MPs have seen as a green light to rebel.

Of the Lib Dems' 63 MPs, as many as 16 may be prepared to defy Mr Clegg, either by voting directly for the Tory amendment or by abstaining.
Having called for a referendum on the European constitution at the last election, the party needs a pretty good explanation of why it is not supporting a referendum now. That explanation has not been forthcoming.

The decision to support Labour and block a referendum was announced by Nick Clegg on the Today programme last month.

As I recall it, it took the interviewer three goes to get Clegg to spell out exactly what he was saying. This gave the impression that he had been forced into saying more than he intended. No doubt this was not the case, but there really should have been more thought into how the leader was going to explain such a substantial change of policy.

Meanwhile, I remained convinced that the idea of the Liberal Democrats calling a referendum on our membership of the EU is a nonsense. It time for the party to stop refighting the 1975 referendum campaign and to start explaining how and why we want the European project to develop.

1 comment:

asquith said...

In my humble opinion, Clegg should allow a wholly free vote, as Wilson did in 1975, and take no position of his own.