HOW FAIRLY WILL CAMERON’S IN/OUT EU REFERENDUM BE CONDUCTED?
The noteworthy fact is that it is the Europhiliacs in the Conservative Party who generally want to get it over with quickly rather than many of their more Eurosceptic voices. The Eurosceptics want the referendum in 2017. This set me to thinking why that would be? I also started to consider how the referendum would be conducted.
The Eurosceptic argument for having the referendum in 2017 was to allow David Cameron a full and reasonable opportunity to negotiate repatriation of powers to Westminster. Thus if nothing sensible is offered Eurosceptics will be able to prove that the EU is un-reformable and thus we are better off out.
In the meanwhile, however, of course various voices within the EU, including Angela Merkel and the President of the EU Commission, Jean Claude Junker, have made it clear that there will be no meaningful negotiation with substantial powers being returned. In these circumstances it is easy to understand why Europhiliacs would want to get the referendum over with as quickly as possible before voters can start to build-up resentment that so little is being offered, which, of course, would help in building a head of steam for British exit from the EU (“BREXIT”).
Then of course there is the serious question of what version of the electorate will be given the entitlement to vote in the referendum. I notice that some, particularly Labour and SNP voices, are currently saying that 16 year olds should be allowed to vote, who of course have had the “benefit” of 10 years of Europhile propaganda, at public expense in their schools and are therefore thought to be likely to mostly vote in favour of staying in.
There is however the wider question of whether the electorate will be restricted to just British citizens or the General Election franchise which includes Irish citizens as well and various other categories, including some Commonwealth voters. Particularly and rather more alarmingly whether it will be the local government franchise which would include all those EU citizens who have registered on the electoral roll. If the millions of EU citizens resident in the “United” Kingdom are permitted to vote then that will make it much more unlikely that the vote will be in favour of “BREXIT”. The franchise will therefore be a crucial battleground. David Cameron appears to have indicated recently that he has conceded the Eurosceptic demand for the franchise to the General Election one but we all need to check the Bill’s wording on this when it is published.
Then there is the question of how the EU referendum itself will be conducted. Perhaps the model to consider is the referendum organised by John Prescott when he was Deputy Prime Minister. This was when Prescott hoped to start the process of breaking up England by getting a democratic mandate to separate the artificially created “Region” of the North-East. Labour had recently gerrymandered this “Region” to give itself a permanent majority (N.B. John Major’s original “Northern Region” gave the Conservatives an impregnable majority by including Cumbria).
It is worth remembering that in that referendum the preamble to the question which was put on every ballot paper miss-stated as fact a number of inaccuracies and misleading claims designed to encourage people to vote in favour. There was widespread protest, including even the usually useless Electoral Commission, but nevertheless that wording was included in the Act which meant that it had to be on the ballot paper by law. The question itself was somewhat loaded as well in favour of a Yes vote, all of which gave Labour, it thought, the best chance of winning that referendum.
If loading the question and misleading the voter wasn’t enough then they also thought that they wanted to make the referendum a conquest between North-Easterners and Tory “toffs”. So even though Neil Heron, the metric martyr, had got a highly successful No campaign going and was undoubtedly almost single handedly the principal reason why the result was a No vote, nevertheless Labour manipulated the setting up appointment of a No campaign so that a Tory millionaire businessman, John Elliott, was put in charge of it.
I notice on Twitter and Facebook that some over excitable UKIPers seem to think the pro-BREXIT campaign might be led by them with Nigel Farage. I would be very surprised if that was the case. I think it is much more likely that Cameron will engineer it so that it is led by a Labour figure. By doing this he will aim to split Labour on the issue and make it as repellent as possible for Conservative loyalists to vote in favour of BREXIT.
The most credible leader from the Labour side of the BREXIT campaign would be Frank Field. For that reason I think he will be excluded and the appointee will be a less credible Labour figure but one who has at least some Eurosceptic credentials. Would you like to speculate on who that person will be?
I suspect also that the time period given for the referendum will be short so that the BREXIT campaign cannot really get going and the amount awarded to the Yes and No campaigns will be kept to the statutory minimum with the smallest permitted ceiling on spending by third parties. This will allow the Europhile media to have the maximum influence possible.
The leading media organisation in trying to influence the public to vote to remain in the EU will of course be that media outlet which has by far the largest and most dominant market share of all in our media, this is of course the, partly EU funded, BBC. It doesn’t require any imagination to guess which result the BBC will be supporting!
However event though the cards will most likely be stacked as heavily as possible against a Yes to BREXIT result that should not lead us to total despair. In the North-East referendum 79% voted to reject the break-up of England despite all the cards being stacked against that result. Despite also the BBC’s efforts on behalf of the Labour Party in the recent General Election, we now know that many of our fellow citizens weren’t taken in. The big question is whether that will happen again this time. What do you think?