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Gale's View

March 5th 2008

This is the week when Gordon Brown's Government uses the power of the Whips Office and Mr. Blair's majority to force the Treaty of Lisbon Bill through the Commons against the wishes of most of the British people.

At the last General Election each major political party, Labour, Liberal and Conservative, promised a referendum on a new or revised European Constitution.  That means that effectively every sitting Member of Parliament has made a pledge that the Labour and Liberal parties are now seeking to wriggle out of.

The fig-leaf with which Gordon Brown is seeking to cover the tatters of his modesty is that the Lisbon deal is not a constitution but a treaty.  This is in spite of the fact that many European Heads of State, senior politicians and reputable commentators have all indicated that the Lisbon Treaty is the European Constitution in all but name with the flags and anthem removed!

The sub-plot - and I use the word "plot" advisedly - now being peddled by some of my Kent Labour colleagues is that the treaty doesn't really matter because we can opt out of anything that we don't like!  Not only is that in itself patently untrue but we are heading to surrender our right to veto European lunacies across a whole range of matters than can and will affect our everyday lives.

There are those, including even some within the Conservative Party, who say that this is "yesterday's issue" and that nobody is interested in the European argument any more.  I beg to differ.  Last autumn I and my supporters hand-delivered an EU referendum leaflet to just about every household in North Thanet.  My colleagues Laura Sandys in Thanet South and Charlie Elphicke in Dover did likewise.  The response was overwhelming.  Notwithstanding the fact that the response section of the card was, for reasons of cost, unstamped literally thousands of people went out and paid the postage, in many cases first class, or drove from Herne Bay and Cliftonville to my office in Birchington, to return the cards.  A further three and a half thousand signed, in a couple of weeks, the petition that I then presented to parliament.

More recent polls have indicated that the overwhelming majority of  voters, including those who wish to support the European Union, want a referendum on this issue.

Once again it looks as though it will be left to the House of Lords to mount a damage-limitation exercise but there is an alternative.  East Kent does not have local government elections in May but very many parts of the Country do and huge numbers of people will, therefore, be heading to the polls. Gordon Brown has the opportunity to call a General Election on the same day and to prove that he is right and we are wrong and to secure his own mandate instead of riding on Mr. Blair's coat tails.  I wonder if he has the courage to go for it!

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