News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lib Dems finally take a decision - to sit on the fence

Lib Dem fence sitting has long been the butt of political jokes, but Calamity Clegg has taken the position to a new level. For what is believed to be the first time in history, a political party has issued a three-line whip requiring all Lib Dem MPs to abstain in the vote on the EU Constitution/Treaty. Frontbenchers who refuse to comply have been threatened with dismissal.

It really is quite amazing for a party that wants to be taken seriously can't manage to decide one way or another on a matter as crucial as our constitution. There are rumours of considerable dissent within Lib Dem ranks, but we will have to wait and see whether that converts to any rebellion. Given that the Lib Dem manifesto pledged a referendum and an organisation backed by Nick Clegg on the matter has called for them to vote for a referendum, surely there must be a few Lib Dem MPs with a conscience?

Clegg's constitutional calamity

Oh dear, yet another gaff by the new Lib Dem leader and wonderboy, Nick Clegg. Once again, he has managed to get himself into a mess over Europe - the treaty formerly known as a Constitution.

The Lib Dems pledges a referendum on the constitution at the last election but have been frantically back peddling ever since it has become clear that they would lose. Now, they argue, the revised text is not worth having a referendum about. In trying to make the bizarre u-turn make sense on 5 Live yesterday, he upheld the work of Unlock Democracy, which is a group working on definitions of what does and does not need a referendum. He seems to have missed one minor detail though - on Tuesday, Unlock Democracy said that the Lib Dems "should back down and support the Conservative amendment."

Not everything they had to say was so critical of the Lib Dems, and there is plenty in the statement with which I would disagree. However, the fact that the treaty "has clear constitutional implications for the UK’s uncodified constitution and the EU as a whole." seems sufficient to merit a referendum to me.

The move follows a silly spat in the Commons on Wednesday, when the Deputy Speaker again refused to accept the Lib Dems' amendment calling for a referendum on EU membership, which is not considered to be relevant to the debate in hand. Ed Davey, the Lib Dem spokesman, threw a tantrum on the floor of the house, and was ejected from the house. The remainder of the Lib Dem group walked out in protest. Subsequently, the Conservatives have accused the Lib Dems of pre-planning the walk-out to avoid airing their divisions in public.

Hat-tip: Guido.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Dan Hannan freed from the EPP tyranny

It seems that Dan Hannan is set to become the second Conservative MEP to sit outside the EPP-ED block. After the next European elections in 2009, he will be joined by the rest of the Conservative group. I'm certainly pleased by the move - the EPP is an uber-federalist block with policies which I consider to be along way from conservatism. Dan's imminent eviction reminds me of Sterling's forced eviction from the ERM - both were good things, although not achieved in the best way (to put in rather mildly in the case of the ERM)!

Dan's heinous crime was to object to a decision to ignore the rules of the chamber, because they didn't suit the federalists' objectives. He pointed out that doing so was equivalent to the enabling act, which was passed by the German parliament and effectively gave Hitler carte blanche. We all know where that lead. The leader of the EPP and even one soon-to-be-ex-member of the Conservative delegation criticised him for offending the speaker of the European Parliament by comparing him to Hitler. Of course, he did not actually compare him to Hitler. The parallels between the actions of the European Parliament and German parliament are clear, and it was quite right to point them out. Many may not have understood the implication of the move.

The real reason that Dan faces eviction from the EPP-ED was summed up rather well be its leader in the parliament itself. He decreed that he was prepared to tolerate Dan Hannan's calls for a Referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in the UK, but not inside the European Parliament. Excuse me? The said referendum is Conservative Party policy. It was even in the manifesto on which all Conservative MEPs were elected that they would demand a referendum on the proposed constitution, which the Conservative Party considers the Lisbon Treaty to be. Moreover, the Conservatives and partners in the European Democrats (from Northern Ireland, Czech Republic and Italy) are supposedly free to have their own policies on constitutional matters.

Dan's move to "non-aligned" status, along with fellow Conservative Roger Helmer, who the EPP have already thrown out, is a positive one for him, for the South East England constituency and for democracy in Europe. He was previously prevented from speaking on the constitution in Parliament, even though he is on the relevant committee, because speakers are chosen by the leader of the EPP, who clearly doesn't appreciate opposition to the "European Project."

It has to be said, they've never really liked the idea of democracy in the EU. Last time I went to the European Parliament, it was a school trip for school children across Europe. The leader of the Belgian delegation informed me that I should be executed as an obstacle to the European Project - probably the greatest compliment you could pay me!