Nick Melhuish, one of our Conservative Future members, was telling me on Saturday what a warm reception they had had when they were out canvassing on Saturday afternoon at Ealing Broadway station in the run up to the European Parliament elections on Thursday. He did have trouble though getting his head around the issues. Nick worked hard on the London Mayoral campaign this time last year and then he had all of the issues at his finger tips and knew all the arguments and counter-arguments. The same clarity evaded him this year.
Today the Sun nails the only issue and advises its readers to vote Tory on Thursday. All three major parties offered the British people a referendum on the European Constitution. Now only the Tories still promise a referendum. The EU finessed no votes in France (May 2005) and the Netherlands (June 2005) by coming up with the Lisbon Treaty (December 2007) that was indistinguishable from the constitution in every area that was substantial – only frippery such as flags and anthems were dropped. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have used the Lisbon Treaty as an excuse to renege on their 2005 election promises. Even after the Irish voted against the treaty in June 2008 the unaccountable EU machine would not let the constitution (by another name) die.
This is what the Sun says:
David Cameron promises a Tory government will hold a referendum on the Constitution if it hasn’t been enacted by the next election.
We want a referendum whatever stage this wretched treaty has reached. But realistically, the Tories are the only game in town.
The sooner that election is called, the better. Thursday offers us a real chance to make sure we get one.
Our advice to Sun readers? If you want your vote to count in Europe, vote Tory.
On Thursday, however fed up you are with MPs – and we know that MEPs are probably much worse, get out and vote and vote for the Tories. A good result for the Tories and a bad result for Labour may precipitate a general election and that would give us a referendum.
For the total spanners amongst you I have pulled out the three relevant portions of the main parties’ 2005 election manifestos. All three promised a referendum. Only the Tories still do. Interestingly Labour even used the word treaty in their manifesto so their fig leaf defence of their reneging on this promise, ie the constitution is dead and this treaty is something different, does not stand up.
Conservatives support the cause of reform in Europe and we will co-operate with all those who wish to see the EU evolve in a more flexible, liberal and decentralised direction. We oppose the EU Constitution and would give the British people the chance to reject its provisions in a referendum within six months of the General Election. We also oppose giving up the valuable freedom which control of our own currency gives us. We will not join the Euro.
The EU now has 25 members and will continue to expand. The new Constitutional Treaty ensures the new Europe can work effectively, and that Britain keeps control of key national interests like foreign policy, taxation, social security and defence. The Treaty sets out what the EU can do and what it cannot. It strengthens the voice of national parliaments and governments in EU affairs. It is a good treaty for Britain and for the new Europe. We will put it to the British people in a referendum and campaign whole-heartedly for a ‘Yes’ vote to keep Britain a leading nation in Europe.
Membership of the EU has been hugely important for British jobs, environmental protection, equality rights, and Britain’s place in the world. But with enlargement to twenty-five member states, the EU needs reform to become more efficient and more accountable. The new constitution helps to achieve this by improving EU coherence, strengthening the powers of the elected European Parliament compared to the Council of Ministers, allowing proper oversight of the unelected Commission, and enhancing the role of national parliaments. It also more clearly defines and limits the powers of the EU, reflecting diversity and preventing over-centralisation. We are therefore clear in our support for the constitution, which we believe is in Britain’s interest – but ratification must be subject to a referendum of the British people.