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Dan Munford: Quite frankly, we should give a damn

Referendum_campaign_1 Dan Munford, Chairman of the I Want a Referendum Campaign in Wales, explains the importance of the EU Treatistution ballot being organised in Aberconwy.

The United States of America has a more mature approach to politics than we do. Sitting in a Chicago bar last week as CBS charted the progress of McCain, Obama, Clinton and Romney in the primaries, one thing was clear. US citizens distinguish between their political system on one side and the individuals and governments who operate within it on the other. We cannot. Their flag unites them. The office of President retains their respect while their lame duck President faces their overwhelming scorn. Their patriotism and their political heritage and democratic republican tradition is either side of the very same quarter dollar. 

Unfortunately, much to our cost, we have forgotten how important the maintenance of this distinction is to our rights as citizens. Politics is unanimously derided as bad and as a society we have no interest and no concern with its outcomes. Because we have as little respect for our institutions and our political processes as we do for hate figure politicians, we fail to hold our leaders to account properly. We find ourselves subject to establishment figures who compete to sell our country down the river and express shock and surprise when their judgement and motives are questioned. The common law, product of centuries of sophisticated Western civilisation can be abandoned on a whim by the leader of our established Church. And the ancient democratic rights fought for by ordinary men and women long dead can be signed away in European treaties without our approval.

Over the next few weeks, voters in Aberconwy in North Wales will themselves be tested in their ability to distinguish between a respect for country and their cynicism for individual governments and politicians. Alongside half a million of their countrymen and women they will have the chance to participate in the largest vote on Europe since 1975. The Lisbon Treaty is the EU Constitution under another name. As the man who wrote it, former French President Giscard d’Estaing, says: “We have maintained the substance but changed the packaging”.

Even in Aberconwy the establishment tried to take away citizen’s rights. As former senior Labour Government Economic Advisor Derek Scott alleged on the Radio 4 PM programme last week, Labour Chief Whip Geoff Hoon deliberately misled the I Want a Referendum Campaign into temporarily halting the Aberconwy ballot on the grounds of a made up story, local MP Betty Williams’s supposed ill health. But we will hold this vote and in so doing hold Betty Williams MP and all political parties to their 2005 manifesto commitments to a referendum on the subject. 

Some 43,000 eligible voters in Aberconwy have now received a bilingual postal ballot from the I want a Referendum Campaign explaining the vote, and providing information both “for” and “against” a referendum, with the European Movement given a fair chance to put forward their case. They then have until February 25th to send in their free postal vote. The result will be declared on February 28th.

Voters will have the chance to answer two questions; should the UK hold a national referendum on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty? And, if so, should the UK adopt it? Their votes will hold no legal status. But, by participating, they will send a message to the Labour Government that they must honour their promises. 

We think that our citizens have a right of opinion on the creation of the office of a powerful EU President, a de-facto EU Foreign Minister, the transfer of substantial new powers over our law courts and police to European Judges, the loss of our veto in 61 further areas and less control over immigration. 

Do UK citizens want Blair back as our European President? Should we acknowledge the legality of a knock on the door from Europol, accompanied by our local constabulary? Should we look forward to more examples like the recent Chindamo case where the UK found it impossible to deport the convicted murderer of school headmaster Philip Lawrence due to EU law? I think we should give a damn about these things. But let’s let the people of Aberconwy have their say.


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