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Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Date Posted:
6/16/2003

Tony Blair


Media Clamour For Referendum On European Constitution


Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley

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 referendum.

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 Constitution.

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 newspapers”.

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.)

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