It is surprising that the Eurosceptic right is up in arms at party whipping and most specifically the three line whip deployed by the Tories to keep the rebels in their rank in check. As it happens more than 80 Tories rebelled.
But when it came to the Iraq war many on the right were more than happy to have a three line whip deployed. In what we can classify as an unjust war fought on the basis of trumped up evidence of non-existent WMDs. This is where the political classes are out of touch. Europe maybe a big issue to some, but the Iraq war has seen 100,000’s of people killed.
One of the rebels on the EU referendum was my former lecturer in Journalism at Leeds Met, Jason McCartney. After the vote he tweeted “Proud to have joined 110 other patriots in voting to trust the people in having a say on our relationship with the EU.”
In total 111 MPs defied their parties and voted for an in out referendum on Europe to be held and despite around 20 MPs rebelling on Labour’s side, Ed Miliband claimed victory saying, “This massive Tory rebellion is a humiliation for the Prime Minister.
If he can’t win the argument with his own backbenchers, how can the country have confidence that he can win the arguments that matter for Britain?”
Now I’m a fan of referendums, but I don’t think we can have a fair and sensible debate in the run up to a referendum on something like Europe. We know the role that the majority of the patriotic right leaning British press is going to play. In a recent episode of Question Time this was a question posed by a politics student in the audience and the panel didn’t have a response.
In fact Daily Express chief political commentator, Patrick O’Flynn gloated on Twitter how the victory for the no camp in the Alternative Vote referendum was due to the role of the press.
If in the future there is a referendum on Europe, I wonder how the question is going to be worded. Will it be a, what do you think Britain’s status in the European Union should be, in or out? Or would it be a, should Britain leave the EU yes or no? Or maybe even, should Britain stay in the EU yes or no?
The wording of the question could play a part in a future referendum if there ever is one. As we saw with the referendum on the Alternative Vote it is much harder to convince people to vote yes to something, especially when they don’t fully understand the question. The natural thing to do is mark no or out.
As it stands there won’t be a referendum on the EU, mind you many now campaigning for a referendum on EU thought a referendum on AV was an expensive and complicated exercise. Remember “She needs a maternity unit NOT a referendum on the EU.”