Sunday, March 16, 2008

European Betrayal: David Howarth’s ‘Anne Campbell’ Moment

It seems like an eternity ago, but until 2005 Cambridge used to have a Labour MP, Anne Campbell. No small part of her downfall was her stance on tuition fees. Having promised the electorate she would say no to tuition fees, she then decided to do the party loyalist thing and vote for them. No amount of weasel words from her that she had meant to be talking about top up fees could persuade the electorate she hadn’t promised one thing before an election, and as MP, had voted a different way.

Prior to the last election, the Lib Dems promised Cambridge residents a referendum on the European Constitution. By betraying this promise and abstaining on the Conservative’s demands for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Cambridge Lib Dem MP David Howarth may well have just had his ‘Anne Campbell moment’ – and the Cambridge electorate know they can never trust him again to keep his promises.

It’s no good weaselling that the Lisbon Treaty isn’t the European Constitution – as Mark Littlewood, former Lib Dem Head of Media said:

‘There are differences but they are differences of nuance, and I think you need to go through some pretty perverse constitutional contortions to be able to go back and explain to the electorate why that promise for a referendum doesn't hold'

As for the Lib Dems fake outrage and walkout of parliament because they couldn’t ask for a referendum on EU membership itself - why should this be relevant to a discussion on the Lisbon Treaty? Personally, I certainly don’t want Britain to leave the EU as it currently is, for example, they do important work to make free trade and the common market happen, and they have important work to do on cross-border environmental issues.
But I do think the EU is far too bureaucratic, and far too far from democratic control by the people of Europe – a point reinforced by the way politicians have brought back the Constitution almost unchanged as the Lisbon Treaty, ignored previous referendums rejecting the plans and breaking promises to hold new referendums. So no, the question is not whether we should remain in the EU, but how to give people a real say on whether further powers should be transferred to Europe as this Treaty implies.

Don’t take my word for how badly Lib Dem MPs behaviour has gone down – ask some Lib Dem activists like this and this.

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