A Typical Lib ‘Dem’: face both ways at once whenever possible

Now here’s an interesting thought: the soi-disant ‘Liberal Democrats’ may, according to the Spectator’s Coffee House, be on the cusp of a major split on the issue of a referendum on the EU Constitution. Having all stood in the 2005 election on the basis of a clear and unambiguous promise to hold such a referendum, the LibDems too have chosen the path of dishonour.

Notwithstanding their 2005 pledge, Sir Menzies Campbell took one look at the figures in the polls and decided that he was not going to risk any harm coming to Le Grand Projet, so he ditched the pledge like a very hot potato in favour of one on the issue of our very membership of the EU. Incoming new leader, Nick Clegg, has adopted his predecessor’s policy.

At the beginning of the passage of the bill to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon which embodies all of the Constitution utterly rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, the ‘LibDems’ sought to amend the bill with a call for just such a referendum. The attempt never made it to a vote, however, as The Speaker ruled that the amendment had no actual relevance to the meat of the Bill. Collapse of stout party.

Now the party seems to be split down the middle as some of their MPs remember what it is to conduct oneself with honour and others feel the cold frisson of unemployment blowing as the I Want A Referendum campaign threatens to organise local referenda in marginal LibDem seats.

Knowing as we do how lucrative being an MP can be, even if it means having to jettison any personal honour one may have, it is unsurprising that ‘LibDem’ MPs with wafer thin majorities should be having a fit of the vapours at the thought of being confronted by something truly democratic (Let the People Have Their Say!) as opposed to their ersatz version of democracy (‘Do as you are told!’). So some of Clegg’s motley crew are threatening to rebel against his leadership in order to be able to keep their promise. If you follow the link to Iain Dale’s blog you can then link on to the views (and comments thereon, some of which bear reading just for you to get a flavour of what life is like in a home for the eternally bewildered) of some LibDem recusants.

The maths of a LibDem switch from their usual “Vote LibDem, Get Labour” fallback position plus twenty-odd courageous Labour MPs defying Head Prefect Hoon is that the vote on the second reading of the ratification Bill of 362-224 in favour starts to look like a very much closer run thing, especially if some more Labour MPs with marginal seats are targeted by I Want a Referendum.

I am not going to hold my breath, but there remains a slim possibility of derailing this rotten Treaty to which all should now bend their minds and energies.