Paul Greenall: Lies in our time
Cllr Paul V. Greenall began his political life in the Referendum Party in the 1990s and has been a Conservative member of West Lancashire District Council since 2001. In this article, he presents a three-point plan to fight Labour over their EU lies.
The recent comparison by Labour’s Chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, of Labour’s handling of the EU “Reform Treaty” to Neville Chamberlain’s return from Munich, may have offended David Miliband’s sensitivities, but it was largely accurate. After all, Brown’s deferential approach towards the EU in 2007 did invoke memories of poor old Chamberlain’s efforts to avoid war in 1938. And by all accounts, the “red lines” that Brown waved upon his return from Lisbon are about as much use as the piece of paper that Chamberlain waved upon his return from Munich. However, whilst the EU might want to proclaim “success in our time” and Brown “red lines in our time”, the reality is “lies in our time”. And the big question is what should we do about it?
Although Labour’s dishonesty over the EU is well documented, four of their biggest lies need to be highlighted: Firstly, when Tony Blair announced the EU referendum in the Commons in April 2004, he also confirmed to David Heathcoat-Amory that our referendum would take place, even if another EU nation voted ‘no’ in theirs. Yet just fourteen months later, our referendum was cancelled because of the ‘no votes’ in France and Holland…! Secondly, Labour claim a referendum is not required because the “Reform Treaty” does not fundamentally change the relationship between Britain and the EU. Yet on the day he announced the EU referendum in the Commons, Tony Blair said the very same thing about the Constitution, when answering a question from Ian Paisley…! Thirdly, despite the fact that other EU leaders and the Labour dominated Commons European Scrutiny Committee openly dispute it; Labour still claim the “Reform Treaty” is different to the Constitution…! Fourthly, whilst Labour claim their beloved “red lines” are novel and capable of preserving Britain’s interests, Labour MP Gisela Stuart, who helped to draft the Constitution dismisses them as red herrings that were also present last time…!
Put simply, Labour has spun a web of lies over this treaty, the aim of which has been to mislead the House of Commons and the public, to enhance their electoral fortunes and now, to avoid a referendum. Indeed, although his language was more restrained, in Blackpool earlier this year William Hague acknowledged Labour have deceived the country and that consequently, Brown has no democratic mandate to ratify this treaty. So what should we do about these lies? Well, I propose three things:
Obviously, the Party must fight Labour both in Parliament and the media. However, our capacity to do this is constantly undermined by our historic opposition to a referendum over Maastricht. This is our ‘Achilles heal’ in this debate and it must be swiftly and decisively dealt with. If Teresa May could stand up and boldly concede we were once the “nasty party”, then why can’t a senior figure from our Party stand up today and equally boldly concede we were wrong to oppose a referendum over Maastricht? If this happened, the “ghost of Maastricht” would be exorcised and we would be able to fight Labour much more effectively as a result.
Everyone should become active members of the growing I want a referendum campaign. Put simply, as more people become active in this campaign, Gordon Brown’s ability to ignore the public will diminish.
The problem of course is that when it comes to ratifying this treaty, Labour will probably show Westminster the same arrogant and contemptuous attitude that they have shown the British people. Indeed, if Westminster is the “Mother of all Parliaments” then I fear the “old girl” will soon be abused by a PM who will use the whips to bulldoze this treaty through the Commons, and invoke the Parliament Act to by-pass any opposition from the Lords. Therefore, we need a radical and imaginative proposal that will undermine Brown’s ability to violate our democracy.
We should give formal notice to Labour and the EU that because of the dishonest and undemocratic way that this treaty has been imposed on Britain, the next Conservative Government shall amend the legislation ratifying it, so that a ‘sunset clause’ is introduced. This would mean the legislation would lapse and the treaty cease to have any effect in Britain, unless its continued enactment was sanctioned by a referendum. This would unequivocally show that the modern Conservative Party will not tolerate the kind of conduct that Labour have displayed over this treaty, and it would increase the pressure on Gordon Brown to have a referendum, because effectively we would be saying to him “give the people their promised referendum today, or we will give it to them tomorrow”. Additionally, Brown would know that during an election campaign, the issue of trust would be raised and he would have to explain why the people did not get and cannot have, the EU referendum they were promised and which poll after poll suggests they want.
If the Conservative Party is to stand for anything in the 21st century, it must be the rejection of what some are calling our “post-democratic age” and the re-establishment and maintenance of an honest and open democracy in Britain; one in which politicians and institutions serve the people, not the other way round. In Blackpool, we promised to amend the law so that any future transfer of powers from Britain to the EU would need to be sanctioned by a referendum, and we reaffirmed our commitment to put the EU Constitutional Treaty to a referendum. These were solemn promises made to the British people and I see no reason why either of them should be abandoned, simply because Brown did not have the courage to call an early election. Rather, we should keep these promises and honour them when we are next in power, because if we don’t, then we too would have failed the British people, and why then should they bother to trust us?