Monday, 17 June 2013

Referendum on Europe is subversion of democracy

Does a majority of the UK population feel so strongly about our EU membership that they consider it a matter for a referendum?  Has that even been tested?  I think it is a small minority who are agitating for this -- backed by the Daily Express and Daily Mail who maintain a daily barrage of misinformation about the issue -- and the only reason it has got this far is because of Conservative party self-interest.  The Prime Minister doesn't want it, I think : the only reason he's promoting it is to prevent votes going to the xenophobe parties, knowing how vulnerable he is both personally within his party and how vulnerable his party is in the next election owing to its mismanagement of the economy. Neither of these things really has anything to do with the EU as such.

As I understand it, the Green Party believes in subsidiarity.  Some aspects of our life absolutely must be politically organised at European level -- for instance, preventing capital exploiting differential rates of pay, unemployment benefits, working conditions and environmental standards by working to bring these into line across the continent.  No responsible party -- least of all one whose political philosophy starts with the environment -- has any business entertaining 'little-Englanders' like this.  At the same time we need Area Committees, local currencies -- decision-making as close to the ground as possible.  It cannot be an either/or decision.  Such a 'Yes/No' referendum is thoroughly irresponsible because the answer cannot be 'yes' or 'no'.  It has to be a constant negotiation of the boundaries of what is to be decided locally as opposed to European wide.  Every bit of European legislation that the Express and Mail sound off about, claiming that the "Brussels bureaucrats" are issuing diktats and imposing foreign rule (at least, every bit of legislation that I've followed up) is not imposed but proposed, and has to be first adopted and implemented by our own government.  More often than not (I suspect) it is -- because it's sensible and in the UK's interests.  Partly because UK representatives have been there influencing its formation from the outset.

I understand that to oppose a referendum sounds like opposing democracy, but the primary vehicle for democracy is our party political electoral system.  Referenda bypass this.  The only justification for a referendum (it seems to me) is that the issue in question is not party political and therefore cannot be decided that way.

In which case, why have we not had a referendum on capital punishment?  Should the Greens not be supporting that (because I reckon there would be a lot more public support for a referendum on that issue).  Has there ever been a free vote on Europe in Parliament?

Surely, this issue absolutely is party political -- and what's more, narrowly within the right wing of the political spectrum.  A vociferous minority are effectively attempting to hijack our democracy in arguing for a referendum, and we shouldn't be supporting them.  We should be nailing them for trying to subvert our democratic system.

Nor should Cameron : he needs to stop faffing about and take his chances on telling it how it is instead of letting UKIP dictate the terms of engagement in their spat.

a colleague has added :

I think asking for a referendum on the grounds that no-one under 55 has had a chance to vote for membership of the EU is like asking us to vote whether we want an NHS or not on the grounds that only those over 98 years old would have been able to vote whether they wanted it.

which prompts me to add :

. . . and in the year when we celebrate the birth of the Suffragette movement, arguing for a referendum on the rights of women to vote, given that no man currently alive was able to vote for it.

I remember, thirty years ago now, asking a church member in her twenties if she was going to vote, and when she scoffed at the idea reminding her that women gave their lives for her right to do so.  To which her reply was (the shock of it still sticks in my mind) "Well, I didn't ask them to."