Saturday, March 01, 2008

Who wrote the Lib Dems' referendum policy?

I am not a great believer in conspiracy theories. In my experience they are drawn up in secret by close-kint groups who wish to control the world.

But the Liberal Democrat policy of demanding a referendum on whether Britain should contiue to belong to the European Union - invented by Ming Campbell and maintained by Nick Clegg - is so bizarre that some such theory is needed to explain it.

We may have found one.

Nich Starling points us to a story by Danny Finkelstein who points us to Dominic Lawson who writes:

I'm told that after Gordon Brown had decided to abandon the Blair commitment to a referendum Shirley Williams, now Baroness Williams of Crosby and former leader of the LibDems in the House of Lords, had threatened to resign and rejoin the Labour Party, unless Ming Campbell likewise abandoned the dangerous policy of giving the British people a vote on the Lisbon treaty.

The artificial and insincere idea of offering us instead a vote on 'in or out of the EU' was Ming Campbell's way of wriggling out of the Liberal Democrats' commitment to a vote on the amended constitutional treaty without making the party look 'undemocratic'.
Whatever the truth of this, the Daily Telegraph claimed this morning that the policy is causing Nick Clegg enormous problems:

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, faces having to sack several members of his front bench team next week in a damaging internal row over Europe.

He will spend this weekend trying desperately to contain a growing rebellion over the controversial Lisbon treaty.

As many as a quarter of Lib Dem MPs are preparing to defy Mr Clegg's orders and vote in favour of a referendum on the treaty in the Commons next week.

The rebels include members of Mr Clegg's shadow cabinet and frontbench spokesmen, who have been told they will be sacked if they insist on backing a referendum on the treaty, which is based on the defeated European Constitution.

Time to rethink the policy even if it does mean the delightful Barness Williams returning to her ancestral home. That staged walk out from the Commons last week will look less and less clever as time goes on.

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