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Sara Scarlett shows her Old Labour credentials

By Mark Littlewood
October 12th, 2009 at 1:33 pm | 7 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Co-op movementIf you haven’t seen it yet, Liberal Vision’s Sara Scarlett has an article on LibDem Voice, calling for the Liberal Democrats to reach out to the (often totally ignored) Co-operative Party and its twenty-nine MPs.

Judging from the extensive stream of comments posted, her strategy and analysis have met with approval from all corners of the LibDems.

The odd (very odd) one or two party activists, however, seem sceptical of voluntary or market mechanisms in virtually all their aspects.


Shouldn’t the LibDems say that “President Blair” is totally unacceptable?

By Mark Littlewood
October 7th, 2009 at 2:18 am | 2 Comments | Posted in EU Politics, UK Politics

tony-blair1The view in the more hysterical reaches of the Eurosceptic press is that Tony Blair is heir apparent to become President of the European Council should the Lisbon Treaty be ratified.  This fits a neat narrative for those on the Right who wish to warn Cameron that Lisbon is roughly synonymous with Armageddon. Tony Blair is the only man in three and a half decades to have successfully challenged – indeed, reversed –  the electoral ascendancy of the Tory party. He is feared, respected and reviled by Conservaties in about equal measure.

But the major issue about Blair for liberals must be that he led Britain casually into an illegal war, on a false prospectus and with utterly catastrophic consequences. There has yet to be a full public enquiry into the Iraq war. Until there is, and until any possible subsequent legal action against Blair is resolved, Nick Clegg and the LibDems should surely use what (limited) political power they have to argue that Blair should not be considered for any meaningful public appointment within the UK or the EU.


Is Cameron’s best tactical option a referendum that means virtually nothing?

By Mark Littlewood
October 5th, 2009 at 4:20 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in EU Politics, UK Politics

French referendum ballot papersTory splits over Europe aren’t what they used to be. Nevertheless, David Cameron got off to a shaky start to his party’s conference over the vexed issue of a referendum on Lisbon.

On the face of it, his position isn’t total nonsense. Basically, if Lisbon  has not been ratified by all 27 member states, he will hold a snap referendum in an attempt to rescind the UK’s ratification, thereby preventing it coming into force.  But, if Lisbon is already in place, he’ll have to find a different way to prosecute his plans to repatriate powers to nation state level – which may or may not involve a referendum.

But you don’t have to dig very far beneath the surface for this stance to start unravelling. It’s Parliament – not the British people – who would need to tear up our treaty commitments. This would, of course, be seen as a monumental act of bad faith by our European partners  ( it’s hardly the EU’s fault that the UK’s system of government allows strong majority governments elected on 36% of the vote to wriggle out of their manifesto pledge to a referendum).

A Lisbon referendum would also give rise to the absurd situation of a government holding a nationwide vote in which they want to secure a negative answer. I can’t find any precedent for this in the history of human democracy. Referendums have always been used – sometimes badly – because the government wishes to achieve X but feels the need (or has a legal requirement) to secure the public’s explicit support.

And this shows how the whole European debate has warped a meaningful discussion on the proper use of referendums. Questions along the lines of “Do you like the Lisbon Treaty?” don’t provide much policy guidance if the answer is “no”. It simply begs the question “Ok, what the f**k do you want then?” It’s certainly not at all evident that the “no” votes in various member states have been an expression of settled public support for the status quo – i.e. the present, constitutional structures of the European Union (which is what you end up with if Lisbon falls). At some point, people need to say “yes” to something – even if this is a “yes” to withdraw completely from the European Union.

That’s why I don’t buy the Eurosceptic argument that a re-run of a referendum is intrinsically undemocratic. It’s wholly legitimate to go back and seek to secure a majority vote – especially if you were very close to getting 50% support first time round and if you believe you have taken compelling steps to understand and address the objections of  “no” voters. (I gather the Irish government did this in 14 areas, before the second referendum).

So, Cameron has a difficult problem. His European strategy is no longer in his own hands. Britain’s policy and approach to the EU in 2010 now largely depends on the deliberations and legal processes of the Poles and the Czechs.  So much for national sovereignty.

Our likely next Prime Minister also has an internal party difficulty. Europe is to the British Tories what abortion is to the American Republican party. With ConHome’s poll showing a huge majority of Tory members wanting a referendum come what may – and nearly half wishing to leave the EU altogether – an appeal to “move on” from their party leader will fall on deaf ears.

Perhaps David Cameron’s best option – if Lisbon is a sealed deal by the year’s end – is a consultative referendum on whether the British people support the British government’s attempts to repatriate certain areas of social policy. No doubt, the Tory leader could secure a pyrrhic victory and appease at least some of his hardcore anti-EU supporters. But the rest of the European Union could just turn round and say “no” to the new British Prime Minister.  So, such a referendum would not be an expression of national sovereignty, it would a demonstration of how meaningless the whole concept of national sovereignty has become.

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Liberal Vision is the 24th top blog in the UK in September 2009

By Mark Littlewood
October 4th, 2009 at 6:39 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in UK Politics

According to the Wikio stats, Liberal Vision has zoomed up the blog charts with a leap of seventeen places, thereby smashing in to the top 30 at number 24. Amongst political blogs, we are now 19th in the UK, a rise of thirteen places.

Thanks to all our readers.

LibDem conference bounce wears off in latest poll

By Mark Littlewood
October 3rd, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Comments Off on LibDem conference bounce wears off in latest poll | Posted in UK Politics

The SIndy’s ComRes poll has the Tories on 40% (+2%), Labour on 28% (+5%) and LibDems on 19% (-4%) – pretty much where we were all at before the conference season began. Be interesting to see if there’s a bounce for Cameron in the next few days – or if the Irish referendum causes him problems.