I was extremely pleased to see the fuss that Lib Dem MPs, led by Ed, deliberately made yesterday about their call for a referendum on Britain’s future membership of the EU. It was an excellent way of drawing attention to this Lib Dem call (which I have strongly supported here).
The Lisbon Treaty is obviously the particular document under discussion at the moment - but the referendum that people really want, is on the key question of whether Britain should remain part of the EU or not - not about details such as exactly how many Members of the European Parliament there should be, or the exact number of weeks that national Parliaments should have to object to any proposed European legislation, which is the kind of stuff the Lisbon Treaty is made up of.
When people express their concern about the EU they are not talking about this kind of detail but fundamentally whether we should part of it or not. (Indeed many normal voters I have spoken to over the years have expressed this as “I don’t think we should go into Europe” which says a lot about the false chimera of a “federal Europe” that people are scared of, rather than the reality of a pretty federal Europe that we already now live in - but that’s a topic for another post!).
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We’ve been on a bit of a learning curve as a nation over the last few days, it seems to me.
On Thursday the headlines screamed “Archbishop of Canterbury says Sharia Law in UK is unavoidable”. The immediate image this conjures up - and was presumably meant to, by the headline-writers - was of a thousand years of English Law being swept aside for gratuitous beheadings and cuttings off of hands: Magna Carta out, Abu Hamza in.
It must be said that a second’s thought by anyone intelligent would have suggested that it was unlikely this was what the Archbishop of Canterbury was really suggesting - I think most people think he may be a bit academic, mystic and generally incomprehensible, but not completely barking.
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Liberal Democrats February 9, 2008
Yesterday was the deadline for making submissions to the Party Reform Commission set up by Nick, in conjunction with the party’s President and Chief Executive (Simon Hughes and Chris Rennard).
The team actually carrying out the review are Chris Bones (whom I don’t really know but has a very impressive management background, as well as a long party history), Duncan Greenland - a councillor and as Chair of the party’s Federal Finance and Administration Committee probably has a strong claim to be the most powerful person in the party that you’ve never heard of; Kate Parminter, who I had the pleasure to work with in the Meeting the Challenge group a couple of years ago, and has a long track record of successfully transforming party operations in the past, and Paul Burstow MP, the Chief Whip in the House of Commons.
I think having the review itself is a very good idea and hope it does what it has set out to, to reform the way the party does things, to help us achieve the aim that the new Leader set out, to achieve 150+ MPs over the next two General Elections.
There is some doubt over exactly what its remit covers and how broad it is - and I may say that a few conversations that I have had with people I would expect to know about this, have not necessarily helped to clarify this for me (rather the opposite, in some cases”¦). The review group itself has put various pieces of information, including their formal terms of reference, here - but these are perhaps necessarily not entirely specific.
For what it’s worth my own best take on what it is really intended to do is Read the rest of this entry »