What You Can Get Away With » referendum

And neither of them is the old ‘is the plural referendums or referenda?’

1) Various people push the ‘we need a referendum on Europe because the people haven’t had their say on it since 1975′ argument. If that is the case, shouldn’t we also be having referendums on our membership of NATO, the UN, the Commonwealth and who knows what else? The people have never been given a say on those, and if you’re really concerned with the popular will, then surely those questions should come first?

2) For the sake of this argument, let’s assume that the referendum on Scottish independence is won by the No/pro-Union side and Scotland stays in the UK. Let’s also assume that there’s a UK-wide referendum on EU membership in the not too distant future. The result of that referendum is a UK-wide majority in favour of leaving the EU, but in Scotland (and possibly Wales and Northern Ireland too) there’s a clear majority in favour of remaining in the EU. Politically, what happens next?

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Yes, the burning issue here is the old one – is the plural referendums or referenda?

First up, interesting news from Wales where there’ll be a referendum at the start of March on granting new powers to the Welsh Assembly. The interesting part comes from the news that there may be no official referendum campaigns as it seems no one’s that interested in being the official No campaign. This would mean that there would be no official Yes campaign either, but as that’s supported by all four of the parties that sit in the Welsh Assembly, it’s not going to be short of support.

There does appear to be an attempt at a No campaign but – and this may be due to the fact I haven’t had much contact with Welsh politics for almost fifteen years – it doesn’t seem to make much sense, and seems to consist mainly of criticising the politicians rather than the policy.

Meanwhile, back in London, Labour peers in the House of Lords are trying to delay the referendum on AV, which presents the rather bizarre spectacle of them working to delay the implementation of something that was in their manifesto at the last election. I wonder what the Salisbury Convention would have to say about that?

But if anyone wants to see just why negotiations between the Liberal Democrats and Labour in May broke down, this is why. Given the number of Labour dinosaurs opposed to any reform in the voting system – and a Government that spent thirteen years kicking the issue into the long grass – it was obvious that Gordon Brown couldn’t deliver any promises on electoral reform, even before other issues were looked at.

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The website for the yes campaign in the AV referendum is finally up and running, so you can now get along there and sign up to support and help out in whatever way you wish. There’s also the Take Back Parliament campaign – at the moment, I’m not sure how much overlap there is between the two – and there’ll be another meeting of the Essex TBP group at the beginning of October. More details of that soon.

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Just a brief note to say that I’ve been informed of a Take Back Parliament (the organisation campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum on the voting system next year) meeting for Essex that’s happening next Tuesday. It’s at 7.30pm in the Charles Peters Lounge of Chelmsford YMCA. I’ll be going along with at least one other person from Colchester, and if you want to know more about it, see the website here.

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I’m wondering how much it would cost to organise a speaking tour of Australian republicans who voted ‘no’ in their 1999 referendum on establishing a republic, on the grounds that it wasn’t quite the sort of republic they wanted? (The possible audience being those who are preparing to vote against AV in a referendum on the grounds it’s not the exact reform they wanted, so if it’s rejected they’ll get a pony a referendum on the exact reforms they want, in exactly the same way as the Australians didn’t.)

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I recently wrote a post based on an article on Conservative Home that appeared to have been written by Lord Hanningfield, the leader of Essex County Council. Having seen the latest in their series of articles by ‘Lord Hanningfield’, it’s clear to me that Conservative Home have clearly been taken in by a clever con, perpetrated by someone pretending to be Lord Hanningfield in order to post views that he would never have.

It’s a clever con, because the call for Councils to be able to hold local referenda so they could abide by the opinions of local people on decisions is the sort of thing you would expect a Tory Council leader to be proposing in an effort to show just how in he was with the ethos of the Progressive Old Etonians and the Bullingdon Tendency, but to put these words in the mouth of Lord Hanningfield is the work of a master satirist, an Essex-based version of the Yes Men, perhaps.

For Hanningfield is the man who so majestically dismissed the concern and obejections of thousands of people in Colchester when he wanted to close two schools. Thousands against, just over a hundred in favour with even the local Tories pushing a different scheme to Hanningfield, but those schools are still closing because his Lordship has decreed they must. So, to have him as the mouthpiece for local decision-making – and that’s not even mentioning the County’s designs on Rivenhall Airfield over local objections – is a masterpiece of satire. Well done to whoever pulled this off!

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