The past three weeks have seen an
unprecedented surge in nationwide support for a referendum of the British
people on the proposed European Constitution. Mass circulation British
newspapers have led the demands – and in the past two-weeks alone, three new
campaigns to force Tony Blair to concede a referendum have been launched.
The text of second draft of the European Constitution,
described as ‘the blueprint for Europe’, was released on Bank Holiday Monday. As
predicted, it provides for the European Union to be given ‘legal personality’,
entitling it to a seat in the United Nations. The right of independent nations
like Britain to a separate seat in the UN will be
ended. Foreign and defence policy will gradually be decided at a European
level, and jury trial and habeas corpus will be abolished in Britain.
Recent highlights of the campaign for a referendum
have included: The Daily Mail, which began a vigorous campaign on
7th May to draw attention to the destruction of the European
Constitution, announced last week that they would hold an historic ‘people’s
referendum’ on Thursday 12th June. The Mail’s referendum
question will be: ‘A new EU Constitution is being negotiated and MPs will
decide whether the UK accepts it. Do you think the final
decision should be put to a referendum of the British people?’ They plan to
have over 6,000 ballot boxes throughout the country, mostly in newsagents, and
say that the count will be independently scrutinised by independent pollsters
ICM. Campaigners are urging referendum supporters to do all they can to
publicise the vote locally, to secure a good turnout and a huge vote in favour
of a referendum. The Mail sells nearly 2º million papers daily with a
readership of around 5 million.
The Sun organised an independent poll on whether voters
thought there should be a referendum on the European Constitution; 86% of those
polled said the government should hold one. They intend to continue their
campaign for a referendum. Sales of the Sun are around 5 million with
readership around 10 million.
The Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror have all run strong editorial demanding a
referendum on the Constitution. All have portrayed the dispute as ‘us’ and
‘them’ – the ordinary people of the country, ‘us’, against ‘them’, the Labour
Government and its undemocratic allies in the European political elite.
Left-wing commentator Tony Parsons in the Mirror used strong language to
condemn the European Constitution and said that Tony Blair’s ‘place in
history’, if the European Constitution was adopted, would be comparable to that
of Judas Iscariot.
Lord Saatchi has been called in to launch another nationwide
referendum, provisionally called ‘Vote 2004’. This would aim to hold another
people’s referendum in 2004 on the European Constitution if the government fail
to hold one. It is backed by the ‘No’ campaign against the euro.
Labour MPs Frank Field and Graham Allen last week published a Private Members’
Bill to hold a referendum on the European Constitution. The Bill has the
support of several other backbench Labour MPs, including former Northern Ireland Minister Mo Mowlem, several Liberal MPs and many
Conservatives. The Bill stands little chance of becoming law, however, unless
adopted by the government.
Liberal MEP Graham Watson added his voice to the growing clamour for a
Conservative leader Ian Duncan-Smith tackled Tony Blair at Commons
Question-Time last week on the subject of the European Constitution and was
widely held to have won the exchange hands-down.
Jenny Sleep continues to organise her local ‘people’s
referendums’ in the Thames Valley with a poll
last Saturday in Workingham, Berkshire. During the day, 135 people voted, with
129 voting for the British Constitution and 6 for the European Constitution.
To date, the three polls she has organised have resulted in over 98% support
for keeping the British Constitution and opposition to the European
Valery Giscard d’Estaing, former French President and Chairman of the
105-member Convention on the Future of Europe, this week echoed calls for a
referendum by saying: “I would be very pleased if Britain held a referendum on the Constitution”.
Britain’s representative on the 13-strong Central Committee
of the Convention, Mrs
Gisela Stuart, was last week revealed to have been German-born Roman Catholic
Gisela. She changed her name several years ago in a successful bid to become
more appealing to British electors. She is the British representative
defending British interests on this powerful committee.
Peter Hain, the Minister defending the government’s refusal of a
referendum, has in the meantime slightly shifted his position from
claiming that the European Constitution was ‘merely a tidying-up exercise’ to
asserting that “three quarters of the Constitution is just minor modifications
to existing European Treaties, whilst the other quarter is modernising and
reforming the Treaties so they can cope with the exciting enlargement of Europe.
It will help to achieve the reunification of Europe”.
He dismissed those who called for a referendum as propounding; lies, baloney
and fantasy’ and said they were making ‘a hullabaloo about nothing’. He added:
“The campaign for a referendum is being orchestrated by extreme right-wing
CREC, the Campaign for a Referendum on the European
Constitution, announced as
we went to press that people from all over the country were ordering their
numbered postcards to the Queen at the rate of over 1,500 a day. Their stocks
of cards had temporarily run out and they were having to place orders for tens
of thousands more cards. Their Press Officer Bryan Smalley added that a number
of churches had organised distributions amongst their members.
The BBC and other radio and TV outlets have been forced to respond to the
growing chorus for a referendum by regularly covering the issue in their news
bulletins in the past three weeks. Journalists have been demanding that
government spokesmen explain ‘why are you denying voters a say in their
future?’ Many different answers have been given; none has yet been convincing.
(98% of 8,359 respondents to a teletext
poll said there should be a referendum. Hon. Ed.)