Following Thurrock's referendum on the EU I find myself further distracted from the issue itself and more towards the reactionary prevarications and conflicting logic of the agitators.
Taking Thurrock - a place where there has been a EU in/out referendum organised by the People's Pledge. The loaded wording on the ballot paper stood out as wrong: "Voters should be given a national referendum on whether the UK remains a member of the European Union. Agree/Disagree?"
Take the opening words "Voters should be given"; a leading statement offering the presumption that something is being taken away from people. Any fair question should be neutral. It should have read; "Do you wish there to be a national referendum on ..."
It would appear to me that the People's Pledge are embarking on a mistaken strategy. They should have ensured that the question couldn't be any fairer, that it does not solicit a preferred answer and that the credibility of campaign is not compromised or left open to criticism as it is now.
The Electoral Reform Service, which was responsible for co-ordinating the People’s Pledge vote, issued 47,995 ballot papers to voters in 14 wards, with a turnout of 30.4 per cent. In the local elections for Thurrock Council, there is an electorate of 98,303 so why were some people given a ballot paper and others not?
Some 14,590 people in Thurrock, Essex, returned postal ballot papers or voted electronically, of those 13,111 said there should be a referendum on the issue. The prevarication is that politicians don't listen to the people and the people want a referendum. The reality is even with a loaded question, 34,884 either couldn't care or were against despite it being an all postal vote with online voting and many of those were engaged in the local elections with UKIP candidates standing.
Ian McKenzie, Director of the People’s Pledge, commenting immediately after the figures were announced, said:My own position on the issue itself has always been one of great concern about Europe. A socialist one. EU rules preventing Council's entering markets or subsidising companies that need help. I understand why the EU has these rules in place - I just do not think they help an area like Hyndburn were public underwriting of private is sometimes a necessity of growth. The Globe Centre would not have happened without public money but all too often projects such as this are stymied by EU competition regulations. Take the Liverpool docks debate where it is being prevented from entering the cruise liner market because the docks were built with public money (It is currently a stop off port only).
“This turnout is astonishing and vastly exceeds anyone’s expectations, including mine. Two months’ very hard work by our small highly dedicated team has paid off in spectacular style. Earlier this week, when we were finding so people had already voted, it was clear something very exciting was about to happen. These numbers were simply unimaginable.
“A turnout this large proves two things. First, electors will respond to political activity that engages them. The myth of the uninterested citizen is just that, a myth. Knock on enough doors, respectfully explain why you are there, and, if your message is strong enough, people will respond.
“Second, the political parties at Westminster are going to have to rethink their attitude to a national referendum on the EU. “Heads in sand” is no longer a viable strategy; the people of Thurrock have just taken it off the table.
In the long term I have real concerns about free trade too and whether there is social and economic responsibility in global markets. Whether this is just a race to the bottom, shareholders and wealthy the winners, the middle classes and the poor the losers. Factories (and businesses) that float around the planet based on lowest cost. Much has to be done to strengthen the union movements and workers rights in those countries if we ourselves are to be undercut. I accept the EU has anti-dumping laws that prevent other countries flooding EU markets to squeeze competition but can this not be done at a national level more effectively?
I also have concerns about the environment. it may be cheaper financially to ship goods around the world but it is not more economic. It has an an environmental impact. The jury is out on whether collective EU action on the environment is better than individual sovereign power that would be at the mercy of a fragmented market of nations seeking the weakest regulatory framework to boost growth.
I also have concerns about the free movement of labour. Ed Miliband stated as much in his Conference speech last October when he said that the party’s policies had “effects on people right up and down the country” and that not enough was done to protect British workers.
"I think we underestimated the level of immigration from Poland, which had a big effect on people,” Daily Telegraph 25 Sep 2011In another interview, Ed has stated:
“I think we did introduce, we did allow the entry of Poland into the free movement of labour too quickly, and that clearly had effects on people right up and down the country. We’ve clearly got to learn those lessons for the future when it comes to future accession…if you have a more open economy in Europe, you’ve got to put in the right protection for people, for workers.” Daily Telegraph 25 Sep 2011I also have deep concerns about CAP, fishing rights and the budget.
Against this backdrop I voted against a national referendum on the European Union on the 24 Oct 2011 in Parliament. As someone whose position is marginally pro-EU, I have to say my position shifted to be more pro-EU having listened to both sides.
Firstly the anti EU campaigners failed to understand the basic question being asked, it's implications and consequences and worse, I felt they did not want to understand. It was not an in/out question for which the anti-EU campaigners have a chance of victory but a triple in/out/reform question for which they have no chance.
HANSARD 4.32 pmI made this point to Europhobes who wrote to me demanding I vote with them, explaining that they should be opposed to this triple question motion. Quite frankly I'd have had more success selling sand to Arabs. The opinion polls on in/out are 31/47 but on in/out/reform dramatically change to 15/45/30. Shoot the messenger - even if it's good news.
Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I beg to move,
That this House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the United Kingdom should
(a) remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;
(b) leave the European Union; or
(c) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.
A second reason I felt the argument moved against the anti-EU campaigners was the tone and content of the 29 letters I received. None of the content contributed much to the debate. Many opened up with threatening comments before even attempting to make a case and all showed little understanding of the motion or issue at hand. Many talked of less regulation but that argument was further distilled down to simply mean less workers rights.
Of the majority Tory rebels amongst the 81 that voted for the triple motion there was an acceptance that we should sign up to 'free market regulations', they were regulations that were not to be abolished which seemed contrary to their supporters who wrote to me dead set against regulations on for example straight bananas, Eccles cakes and anything else Brussels might say on creating a single market. The contradictions were marked and left the anti-EU argument in disarray. Less rules from Brussels - but more free markets - which means scrapping 27 rules and replacing it with 1 - from Brussels. I could only deduce from such contradictions that if Brussels was relocated in Manchester, everything would then be alright.
The debate had developed into a three cornered argument. I could not share or support these objectives. I could never vote to take us down a road of diminishing workers rights that the 81 were essentially advocating (and that the 29 letter writer's were oblivious to).
I could never go against the views of local business people either. The reality that the British economy was contracting and orders falling. Only new export orders had saved British jobs, saved Hyndburn jobs more specifically. That euro turbulence would not be helped by any British doubt, by a referendum at that moment.
On the one side was the often inflammatory and confused Eurphobe arguments and on the other, the immediacy and reality of families needing employment.
Having been someone who had expressed doubts about the EU, when it came to the vote it was a no-brainier. Common sense said we didn't need a referendum at that moment. There is no doubt my own view became more pro-EU as the arguments unfolded though that is a separate issue to a referendum.
Having had such a mini rehearsal of an EU debate I can see why Harold Wilson promised a referendum with opinion polls showing 66% of people wanting out of the EU. (Heath had taken us in without a referendum). By the time of 1975 referendum following a lengthy debate in which nonsense is always exposed, the British people switched and voted to stay in with 67.2% in favour on a turnout of 64.03%.
I have long held the view that the Euro question should at some stage be considered for a referendum. As Hyndburn's MP I believe the Labour Party should consider that option and anti-EU campaigners in Hyndburn can be assured my it is certainly not as one sided as they perceive my position to be on a referendum. This week People's Pledge signatory Jon Cruddas was appointed head of the Labour's policy review.
Ed Balls said last week: ‘Whether there could be a case for there being a referendum more widely on Britain’s relationship with Europe as a new settlement evolves...that might be an issue whose time comes.’The People's Pledge may well come to Hyndburn. If so, lets hope we have a balanced question, an intelligent debate and a high turnout. Let's hope by the time the People's Pledge reaches our doorstep it feels right - it appears fair.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2144486/Referendum-EU-needed-warns-Balls-Europe-crisis-rages-on.html#ixzz1vF5xlAV0