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Christine Emmett: A rather British revolution

Christine_iwar Christine Emmett meets the respectable people who turned up in Westminster to protest about the lack of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

If Gordon Brown wins the vote and agrees to enact the Lisbon treaty on Wednesday without a referendum the British people will never forgive him. If he doesn’t, Tony Blair will never forgive him. It is what my 12 year old daughter would call a “no brainier” but will the Ditherer with too much brain and very little heart be able to make the distinction? The result of the local campaign in marginal seats is that 89% of voters want a referendum on the EU treaty, (now called Lisbon Treaty).

Last Wednesday a very British tradition took place outside the Houses of Parliament. Thousands of people queued – for hours and hours to register their concern with their MPs that British sovereignty was being given away without their permission. Thousands more will write to the Queen this week pleading with her to intercede on their behalf.

The Conservative Party, ever wary of producing splits on Europe has been cautious. David Cameron’s focus groups tell him that people are more worried about the things which directly affect them – crime, schools, and clean hospitals. What the Westminster elite are missing is the link between the Lisbon Treaty and all these services. If more power moves to Brussels and unelected bureaucrats administer our public services and affect our cost of living, how do they suppose will we influence what is done to our police force, our health care, our education system?

As the queue wended its way around parliament, people exchanged pleasantries - about the earthquake the night before, shared sandwiches and stories –some had been in the same place in 1965 to attend the lying in state of Churchill. That had been a much colder day, and they were grateful for the few breaks of winter sunshine today. In between they told one another why they had to be present, here, now, to register their dismay, so they could tell their children and grandchildren how they had made a stand as hundreds of years of stability and good governance was discarded. “Who do they think they are these politicians?” said one man wearing a Union Flag tie.”They were only given power by the British people so they could act on our behalf. It is not their place to give it away without our permission”.

It is all too easy to dismiss the people in the queue as xenophobic, little Englanders, but they had respect for one another, true politeness and courtesy for all. They do not dislike Europeans or Europe. They had done their research and spoke knowledgeably abut their fear of a European Foreign policy, the removal of democratic choice from our electorate widening the gap between those who make the law and those who obey it. They fear anarchy and cynicism will replace order and optimism. One woman had been in Kenya just before the riots – see what happened there when the people lose their voice she said.

These days people have access to all kinds of media. When you can vote a celebrity out of the jungle or a nobody into stardom at the click of a button there is no excuse not to have referendum on something as important as the future of our country. Politicians be warned. The British are generally quite respectful to their leaders and take a while to get angry. 89% want a referendum. Dismiss them at your peril.


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