There has been a resignation over Young Dave’s new Euro-policy, but most folks will not have noticed: the show of principle has come from Dan, Dan the Oratory Man, who will be concentrating on pet projects such as localism, and direct democracy. Dan, along with his equally eccentric chum Douglas Carswell, are hot on this kind of thing, and equally hot on telling us all that nobody under the age of 52 has had a chance to vote on Europe.
This, on more than one level, is utter drivel. The reference being made is to the 1975 referendum – the only one in the UK’s history – which was ostensibly to confirm our membership of the then EEC. The reality, however, was that Harold Wilson’s Labour Government was split over Europe, and the referendum was merely a device to allow him to hold the party together.
Moreover, we have had several opportunities to vote on Europe since that time: in 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005. That’s seven opportunities. Granted, the issue of Europe is only one of many that are presented to us at General Election time, but the opportunity to register dissent has been given.
Furthermore, if Hannan and Carswell want to be consistent and credible, they might usefully consider other occasions when major decisions have been taken without specific consultation of the electorate. They proclaim a commitment to localism, yet have not told of the lack of consultation on centralising of power away from local authorities, notably by the Tories when the GLC and the Metropolitan Councils were abolished.
They make no complaint about the lack of referenda before committing the UK to a succession of military adventures – a commitment in human and monetary resources more substantial than Europe. There is no comment on the joining of NATO, the UN, the commitment to Polaris, to its update, to its replacement – all commitments made without public consultation. No mention is made of the wholesale tinkering with the UK’s rail and bus networks, made without public consultation, which has seen the railways costing far more, and the bus, outside London, becoming a remaindered transport mode, with most of those who can afford a car switching to one.
Nor is there any complaint about the Thatcher Government foisting the Poll Tax on the country without prior consultation. All of the foregoing impact the daily lives of the electorate more substantially than the EU, yet there is no call from this uniquely eccentric duo for referenda on these matters, and a regret that we have not been afforded one for decades. And until Hanann and Carswell can apply some consistency, rather than becoming hung up over their obsession with Europe, I for one will not be taking them seriously.