The Daily Telegraph reports (here) that something of an incipient revolt is brewing amongst Labour backbenchers concerning the issue of a referendum. As many as forty of them, including German born Gisela Stuart who had a hand in drafting the original and therefore ought to have as keen an eye as anyone for how much has been brought back in Blair’s tawdry document which Labour Apparatchiks try, to the derision of all and sundry, to call ‘not a constitution’. Also featured is the redoubtable Kate Hoey, The Huntsman’s favourite Labour MP, who is in no doubt there should be a referendum.

If as many as forty Labour MPs could be persuaded to back calls for a referendum, then the matter could be dealt with on the floor of the House of Commons since that might well be enough to deprive Macavity of his majority. In part the Telegraph reports:

A group of Labour MPs has begun pushing for a referendum on the new European Union Treaty in the first serious revolt against Gordon Brown’s leadership. Up to 40 are considering backing a backbench campaign for a national vote – directly opposing official government policy – with the aim of killing off the treaty for good.

With the Tories and some Liberal Democrats also backing a referendum, the pressure on Mr Brown to give the British people a say is mounting. More than 23,000 Daily Telegraph readers have signed a petition calling for a vote.

Ian Davidson, an MP close to Mr Brown, who was heavily involved in co-ordinating Labour opposition to British entry into the euro in 2001, is one of those behind the plans.

Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, intends to demand a referendum in a debate in the Commons today.

Miss Stuart – who was appointed as the Government’s representative on the European convention that drew up plans for the constitution – said it was wrong for Mr Brown to reject a national vote.

“I thought that the commitment we made to a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty when Tony Blair was Prime Minister was a good one,” she said.

“Given that Gordon Brown is committed to even greater participation of people in decision making, I think the case is even stronger now.”

Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, said: “There is no doubt there should be a referendum.”

Another Labour MP involved in the campaign said it was disgraceful that the Government was claiming that the new treaty was less far reaching than its predecessor – the Constitutional Treaty – and therefore did not merit a referendum.

“It is being spun by the Government as a different treaty in a way that is totally dishonest,” said the MP.

A hard core of a dozen Labour MPs is said be totally committed, while about 30 are considering signing up.

Whether this translates into action remains to be seen. But some Labour MPs may well be concerned that, given the polls which suggest that the British people want their say on the Constitutional Treaty recently negotiated by Blair, there may come a time (eg the European elections of 2009) when the electorate decides to punish Labour yet further and obliterate them from the Brussels talking shop. Is it too much to hope that in some Labour breasts there still beats Patriotic heart?

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