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Labour’s filibuster on the EU referendum bill cheers Tory hearts

18 July 2013

As a rule, public bill committees aren’t really the kind of thing even the most insular Westminster bubble inhabitant buys popcorn to watch. But last night, James Wharton’s private member’s bill found itself the subject of midnight drama in the committee room. Labour MPs decided to filibuster on a series of troublemaking amendments, with the whips calling a late night cooling down break in an attempt to move the proceedings on.

Even though Wharton and Tory colleagues on the bill committee may be rather dozy this afternoon, the late night drama, eventually resolved at 12.30, does allow them to make a political point out of what is normally a very poorly-followed committee stage. They can use this as an example that Labour doesn’t trust the British people and wants to use undemocratic and underhand methods to stop voters having a say in Britain’s membership of the EU. Which makes a lowly committee stage of a lowly private member’s bill another thing to add to the list of reasons for the Tories to be cheerful, as well as a little tired, as recess looms.

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  • Mynydd

    If Mr Cameron ready wanted a referendum on EU membership he would have brought a bill to parliament in the name of the government. Conservative members of the cabinet outvote the Lib/Dems, therefore if he had the bottle, he could have faced down Mr Clegg and introduced a government bill. There may have been a serious split, so what, many Conservative backbencher’s would have welcomed It, and as we are often told, it is the duty of the PM to make difficult decisions. So now we have a PM hanging onto the coat tails of backbencher, and whipping a bill that cannot be imposed on any party, included the Mr Cameron’s Conservative party, after the next general election. All this to appease his backbenchers, nothing to do with the general public, it’s peace in his time as party leader at all costs.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I expect there is rather more to it than that. Mr Cameron shows no inclination for a direct confrontation with Clegg. The latter has thrown his toys out of the pram on many occasions with little or no reaction from Cameron. He is walking the path he wants to, regardless of how that might be interpreted.

  • David B

    The instincts of Labour appear to be against the referendum. I suspect because:

    A. The referendum campaign will show up how divided Labour are on the subject of the EU. Miliband is pro EU and Balls appears suspicious -backing Brown when he spiked Blairs ambition of taking us into the Euro
    B. Labour are fully aware of the electoral danger they face from the conservatives if they have an agreed policy on the EU, possibly agreed with UKIP, and backed by the public
    C. Labour are using methods like this because they would like to vote against but understand the damage it will do to their chances and will also prevent what I suspect is the enevatable U turn on the policy in the run up to the next election

    • David Lindsay

      Labour is going to call for an In-Out referendum to be held on the day of next year’s European Elections. Cameron’s fox will then be well and truly shot.

      • Wessex Man

        are you going to write a book about it David?

      • Colonel Mustard

        And yet elsewhere on this page you write of a “silly little gimmick” by the Tories. Tell me, David, do Labour ever do anything other than connive for their own political advantage? It would make a refreshing change were they to put the good of the country ahead of shooting Cameron’s fox.

        Since about 1997 their main policy seems to be trying to discomfort the Tories one way or another. They do not seem to understand the concept of integrity of argument – or maybe it is because they have no argument beyond demonising and hatred of their “jews” (Murdoch press, Tories, bankers, rich donors) or the superficiality of urging us to pay more tax to spend on the feckless, their “victim” groups or growing the state.

        Also, be careful what you wish for. If they pull this stunt to coincide with the European elections when I suspect a majority of voters will be out for UKIP they might get more than they bargained for.

      • David B

        Please refer to my previous post on this. It will take between 6 to 9 months to organise a referendum (remember the AV act had to be passed by end October for it to happen in May and that . This referendum will be more complex so the bill needs passed before the conference season.

        So if Miliband is going to call for the referendum to be held at the same time as the EU election he needs to do it now. He also needs to call for government time to be given to the bill. If he waits to Frebruary/March to call for the referendum the head of the electrical commission will stand up in front of TV camera’s and say time constraints make that impossible and Miliband will look like a weak leader trying to jump on a bandwagon to improve his popularity

        Timing is everything and Miliband is to weak and to scared of public opinion to actual carry out the strategy you suggest

  • David Lindsay

    Is this silly little gimmick still going on? One had rather assumed that it was a dead story by now. Like young Wharton’s occupancy of Stockton South; his career is now three fifths over.

    • David B

      You hope, but don’t worry this time next year you will be calling for a referendum as soon as possible in line with Miliband U turn.

      • David Lindsay

        U-turn on what? All that he has ever said was that this Bill was not even worth bothering to vote on. Which it isn’t. I am amazed that it is still being given parliamentary time. That only serves to remind the handful of people who might care that the Tories made fools of themselves by pushing it at Second Reading. It will never go through. It will just get lost in the sausage factory somewhere, as Private Members’ Bills do.

        • stickytape

          Sadly David Lindsay I fear you’re right, Cameron has previous, this is a sop to his back banchers.

          • HookesLaw

            Dummy – its the backbenchers who are promoting this bill. You are as observant as a blindfolded socialist.

            • David Lindsay

              Backbenchers cannot do that. You clearly do not know the first thing about how Parliament works.

              • Wessex Man

                Why not write him a book how it works David? That will teach him and at least you wil know someone read it!

            • stickytape

              Cameron could have stopped this Bill anytime he wanted, he hasn’t, because it’s a sop to them, and I still don’t think Cameron will actually go through with it.

              • HookesLaw

                The fact is that he is happy to have a referendum in 2017, it is his avowed policy. It will certainly be in the 2015 tory manifesto. Why should he stop it?

                This is a private members bill and otherwise nothing to do with Cameron. He cannot stop it he has no reason to stop it and only a dummy would pretend otherwise.

                • stickytape

                  Of course he could stop it, he could just deny it time, it could have gone the way of countless other private members bills over the years. The fact that he hasn’t shows it for what it is, a bit of red meat for the backbenchers.
                  Regardless of whether it’s in the manifesto, Cameron will be campaigning to stay in. I heard him say not long ago that if an overwhelming majority of the British people voted for it, he would negotiate to withdraw. No mention of a simple majority, the man is a charlatan.

        • David B

          No U turn, yet above you say Miliband is going to call for a referendum on the same day as euro elections. The only way he can achieve that (if he is serious) is to back the legislation and that is turning against his current policy

          Of course he might not back the legislation and then call for a referendum when there is insufficient time to organise it, but that would be the actions of a weak leader

  • realfish

    ‘…Labour doesn’t trust the British people and wants to use undemocratic and underhand methods to stop voters having a say…’

    Socialism and democracy are strange bedfellows. This on the day when Mugabe is accused once again of rigging the Zimbabwe election.

    You might argue that Labour and ZPF aren’t one and the same, but they have the same DNA. They are socialists and all over the world they abuse the rights of the people they claim to represent.

    And just in case Tele-whatever-his-face turns up, chew on this (in no particular order!):

    – Unite’s candidate selection fraud
    – Labour Scottish MPs voting on English issues
    – Andrew Neather’s disclosures – grateful incomers will vote Labour
    – Gordon Brown’s client state – benefits for votes
    – Gordon Brown / David Miliband sign the Lisbon Treaty in defiance of their referendum pledge
    – Labour ratify the Lisbon treaty in defiance of an impending election
    – Postal vote fraud
    – Tower Hamlets
    – Labour (and Lib Dems for they are of the same orifice) refuse equal constituency sizes – equal value votes for all
    – The TU block vote
    – Militant / SWP / Trotskyist entryism
    – The BBC

    • Bert

      Apt that you have the BBc there at the bottom.
      The flawed impartiality of the state monopoly broadcaster has underpinned Labour, excusing its failings and steering opinion in its favour.
      It should be next for privatisation

      • realfish

        Privatisation is too good for the BBC. The chop may be a better solution.

    • tele_machus

      I’ve been reading some of Mark Ferguson’s recent posts
      You would benefit from the same

      A “debate” (if you can call it that) has broken out in recent days about whether or not “right-wingers” are “evil”. The argument reached its peak yesterday a blog from Sunny Hundal, called “Are right-wingers evil? Yes”. I admire his certainty, but I just can’t agree with his argument. I can’t, don’t and won’t believe that right-wingers, Tories (or however we define our political opponents) are “evil”. Whilst it might get an easy cheer in Labour circles to repeat Nye Bevan’s old charge that the Tories are “lower than vermin”, I’m afraid I’m not willing to join the “Tories are evil” bandwagon. Are they misguided? Yes. Do some of them overlook the cruel and damaging impact of their policies? Of course. Are they fundamentally wrong about the future of Britain? Undoubtedly.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Interesting that you should quote Bevan, who also said “We want the complete political extinction of the Tory Party”. That resonates with the current left wing trend of demonising not just Tories but any to the right of a centre that has undoubtedly moved left since 1997, a trend that you yourself have been no slouch in besmirching almost every thread here with. Hundal’s offensive posturing gels well with the trend so it is unconvincing for you, the prolific wielder of stereotype and label, to try and distance yourself from it.

        And it all sits very comfortably with Blair’s “The Labour party is the political wing of nothing less than the British people as a whole” (a boast made before Labour began dismantling the very concept of a British people by their devolution “strategy”). As well as the boast that Labour are a “movement” rather than a party. Which brings us right up to date with Miliband’s “one nation”. Was there ever a party with such conceit and presumption, a party that rather than deploy persuasive argument treats political power as its right and howls whenever that is threatened?

        The single party state aspiration is very apparent in all this and within the public sector Common Purpose are doing their bit by “leading beyond authority”, an anti-democratic process which might be more honestly described as “manipulating beyond accountability” – especially when anything goes wrong.

        How magnanimous of you to draw up short of Hundal’s hate speech but “undoubtedly”? History is always the judge and you have no crystal ball.

      • jase

        I wonder how many left wing governments have killed their own people on mass? Some names come to mind such as hitler, Stalin, Ma. I think the left are far more evil.

        • Chalcedon

          Thank God you have recognised Hitler as a socialist lefty.

    • Chalcedon

      You have nailed it!

  • Bert3000

    Britain’s a parliamentary democracy. If people want to leave the EU they can vote for a party with a manifesto commitment to leave.

    • Hugh

      Yes, it’s a pariamentary democracy with provisions in place to be able to hold referenda. If people don’t like that, they can vote for a party that rules out a referendum.

      Good luck with that.

    • Colonel Mustard

      No, it used to be but now it is a fractured hybrid state with different tiers of government for different people and an over-arching bureaucracy in Brussels that few people understand. As society has been politicised by the left it has become more fractured rather than diverse, with multiple and belligerent competing agendas. This has threatened traditional tolerance (there is more hate now than ever before), freedom of expression and indirectly democracy.

      A parliamentary democracy? Just the window dressing I’m afraid. Inside the shop it is more chaotic and dysfunctional than that.

      • HookesLaw

        Don’t be silly

        • Colonel Mustard

          Not silly at all. The evidence speaks for itself.

          Where once (within my lifetime) there was a single British parliament (give or take Stormont) there is now the European Parliament in Brussels, the Scottish parliament and the Welsh Assembly. British people depend on these institutions for how they are treated and they are not treated all the same. In 2014 we shall see whether there is to be an independent Scotland, the ramifications of which are largely unknown. But if independence follows the concept of a governed British people will be further fractured.

          Parliamentary democracy. No, not really. And not silly at all.

  • allymax bruce

    Would you like to win €100,000.00 ?
    The Institute for Economic Affairs is running a competition for anyone that has the best ‘out strategy’ for leaving the EU, upon an ‘out’ win, in the ‘in-out’ referendum on 2017. Looks like David Cameron is doing all the right things, making all the right preparations, and making the way straight for both in or out eventualities.
    Cannot be said of Labour !

  • monty61

    If Labour were sensible they’d focus on getting elected in 2015 and not stunts like this – the whole referendum bill being a Tory stunt in any case rather than a serious piece of legislation. Very poor tactics.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “what is normally a very poorly-followed committee stage”

    If a Bill is being scrutinised by a Committee of the whole House then the proceedings will usually be broadcast live on the BBC Parliament channel and normally a running transcript will be put on Parliament’s website with a delay of about three hours.

    However Parliament’s website has only just acknowledged the existence of the Public Bill Committee for this Bill and listed its members, and has not yet got to the point of putting up a transcript of yesterday’s meeting:

  • HookesLaw

    Labour’s fear of a referendum is quite illuminating. They are making fools of themselves over this.

    • stickytape

      //They are making fools of themselves over this.//

      And long may it continue, although having said that, it is quite hard to change the habit of a lifetime.

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