Coffee House

Exclusive: partisan EU referendum campaign dampens Labour support

25 June 2013

5:57 PM

25 June 2013

5:57 PM

The Tories are putting off Labour MPs from backing their Private Member’s Bill on an EU referendum with an overly partisan campaign, Coffee House has learned. John Cryer, who chairs Labour for a Referendum, tells me that he won’t be voting for the Bill because the Conservatives have turned it into a party political campaign to shore up their own position, rather than one that genuinely promotes a referendum. He says:

‘I’m not voting for it, I’m abstaining. I think the way the Tories have approached it is very party political. I can understand it in a way because they want to be in a position where they are offering people a choice, they want to try to push other parties on that policy.’

He also says that James Wharton, whose Private Member’s Bill it is, did not approach him about the legislation at all, which is odd given Cryer’s position on the group campaigning for Labour to promise a referendum. Cryer says:

‘He might have shown that they were a bit more genuine if they had approached some of us about this.’

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I understand from discussions with those who have long wanted a referendum that they are worried the partisan nature and political focus will distract from the broader cause. One campaigner says: ‘It’s supposed to be country before party on this issue, not the other way round.’

Wharton says he has had talks with Labour MPs about the Bill, and that he hopes many of them will support it. But he also says it was a decision on his part not to approach them for more formal support: the co-sponsors are all Conservative, save the DUP’s Nigel Dodds.

Clearly the LetBritainDecide campaign is an excellent opportunity for the party to remind voters that only the Tories currently offer them a say on Britain’s membership of the EU. It has united the party for a while and, as Sebastian explains, is useful for future party campaigns. But this is all about politics rather than the principle of a referendum, and it is this that annoys Cryer and campaigners. If other like-minded Labour MPs join him in abstaining, then only a handful from his party could end up voting for it. Perhaps that does not matter if the Tories are happy to see the bill die, as they can then blame Labour for failing to back giving people a choice on the EU. But if they are really keen for it to pass, then they will need all the Labour votes they can get, rather than putting MPs off.


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Show comments
  • PaderB

    Is Wharton’s stance any less partisan than the Tory Bill? On the one hand he hopes that his Labour colleagues will vote for the Bill but not he because of his claim that the way the Tories are playing it gives them a political advantage. Wharton is playing partisan politics just as much as the Tories in his abstention. Surely the subject of the referendum and thereby the will of the Electorate may be shewn should be above party politics of any flavour?

    It is my belief that Wharton is grandstanding in order to improve his political persona. I have never heard of him before, has anyone else? Surely if something as important as the will of the Electorate is at stake, it should transcend party politics from whichever direction it takes. If Wharton had any sense of conviction on the subject of the Referendum, he should model himself on the likes of Kate Hoey and Frank Field who consider the subject to be too important to be brow-beaten by the Party line;

  • Bert3000

    What on earth is that at the top of the page? It looks like a woman who’s been got up as a man for a joke.

  • Lady Magdalene

    “Clearly the LetBritainDecide campaign is an excellent opportunity for the party to remind voters that only the Tories currently offer them a say on Britain’s membership of the EU”
    Which of course is not true. UKIP is giving them a say – and has done since its inception.
    Cameron is simply touting for votes and then a Mandate to keep us IN.

  • Daniel Maris

    Coated in butterfat and stuffed with ambition.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Ex-Spec writer (i.e when it was good) Mark Steyn today…

    Cameron’s current pledge of a referendum on EU membership sometime after his reelection, …. is intended to staunch defections to UKIP by seizing the nuanced ground of pretending that he’s not entirely opposed to adopting the position of conceding the prospect of admitting the possibility of potentially considering the theoretical option of exploring the hypothetical scenario of discussing in a roundabout way Britain’s leaving the EU. He doesn’t mean it, of course, but he has to toss a bone out there from time to time.

    • David Lindsay

      Labour should propose an In-Out referendum on the day of next year’s European Elections. The only problem is that such a call might set off a chain of events within Cameron’s party such as rapidly removed him from office, taking Osborne with him. And they are Labour’s two best electoral assets.

      • Daniel Maris

        I don’t agree with much you say but yes, that would be a good tactical move for Labour.

      • HookesLaw

        the point and effect being?
        The conservatives are promising an in out referendum so whats the difference?
        Labour could not seriously propose an in-out referendum without offering terms of staying in and since they are not in power they cannot do anything about it other than offer fatuous proposals.

        it would of course suit labour to have an early vote which would probably say ‘IN’ since it would lock the UK into the EU just at a time when it is changing and gives us an opportunity to renegotiate our status with it.

        • fubarroso

          Can you point me at an article in any of the EU Treaties that sets out how a member state can renegotiate its status?

          • Mark Myword

            Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty allows any member state to propose treaty amendments which either increase or decrease the competencies of the EU. If the proposal is to amend Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (that is to do with policies such as trade, fisheries, employment etc) then a simplified procedure is adopted. However, any such agreed amendments require unanimous acquiesence from other member states because they will apply to all. Nevertheless, contrary what some think, a mechanism does exist for renegoitiation.

            • fubarroso

              The idea that Article 48 could be used by Cameron to repatriate any of the major powers already ceded to the EU, and which have become part of the acquis, is farcical. It was never meant for that purpose as you well know.

              The only way that Cameron could renegotiate our status with regard to the EU is to invoke Article 50 of that same treaty and take us out. However, the mere thought of doing so would make him choke over his cornflakes.

              • Mark Myword

                Actually it was meant for that purpose – you ignoramus. I suppose you support that cult UKIP

                • fubarroso

                  I not only support UKIP I am a proud member. Never heard it referred to as a cult before. Typical of a EUphile to make ad hominem attacks though. If I’m ignorant what does that make you?

            • Wessex Man

              but only if you stand on one leg on a Wednesday!

    • Daniel Maris

      Well I was going to write much the same but Mark saved me the trouble! LOL

  • Smithersjones2013

    Cameron’s referendum coercion is nothing more than cheap Blairite/ Brownite triangulation that attempts to coerce secessionists to vote for a Europhiliac Party.. No self-respecting secessionist should touch their tawdry campaign with a barge pole…….

    • HookesLaw

      How does offering a referendum coerce anybody?

      Secede ? If the UK left the EU it would rejoin it via the EEA. Anti EU people do not like to mention this since it makes their obsession look stupid and pro EU people do not like it because it might make people think they can safely vote to come out.
      The EU exists and is not going to go away and we have to have a relationship with it.
      We are not going to be a part of a fiscal monetary union, provided we keep labour out of power and so negotiations and a referendum are inevitable. we are either in but semi detached or out but closely linked.
      there is not much difference and certainly not worth splitting the anti left vote and letting in pro EU labour.

  • Collamore

    If Labour was smart (they aren’t) they’d vote FOR Wharton’s meaningless bill and the toothless referendum it promises.
    In the alternative, they could propose their own referendum bill.
    They’ll do neither.

    • David Lindsay

      Oh, there will be a Labour referendum commitment, probably after this silly little Bill from a silly little man has disappeared into the parliamentary sausage factory and never emerged from it.

      But Labour ought to propose that a straight In-Out referendum be held on the day of next year’s European Elections.

      Together with repatriation provisions to come into effect regardless of the outcome of any referendum – http://londonprogressivejournal.com/article/view/1527/not-the-wharton-bill

      • Colonel Mustard

        “A non-partisan journal of the left”.

        ROFLMAO. You people are just too funny. And “progressive”! How to take liberties with the English language – all too literally unfortunately.

      • Fergus Pickering

        And what would you say are the odds of your party doing that, David. Come on, give a wild guess.

      • telemachus

        Fascinating how some previously respected posters have evolved firstly to Makhnovism from revanchist and now sadly simply demean other posters whose views tend to the reasonable
        As we see on Panorama cerebral decline is slow and sad even in those drilled in the discipline of the military
        I am upset

  • nationalexistance

    Almost as disingenuous as the “better together” campaign in Scotland.

    • Wessex Man

      I wondered how long it would be for someone to twist it around to their obbsessive subject north of the border!

  • Ian Walker

    Surely that’s the point? Have a referendum Bill go before the house, have Tories support it but let it fall to Labour/Limp Dem oppositiion, then remind the public of that, daily, until the election.

    • David Lindsay

      Except that Labour has always made it clear that it intended to abstain on this piece of nonsense to come into effect long after Wharton had lost his own seat.

      And no Parliament can bind its successor.

      Will there even be a vote? Who will stand up and demand one? Who, exactly?

      • HookesLaw

        Labour abstaining simply does the same job that Mr Walker outlines.

        And thank you for reminding us that Labour can undo all the Tories’ good work. We need to keep Labour out.

        • Ian Walker

          They’ve even been on the news the last few days with the brilliant message: “The Tory spending plans aren’t working…but we’ve committed to sticking to those spending plans!”
          So in other words, their plan is to deliberately do what they think will harm the country?

  • anyfool

    John Cryer, who chairs Labour for a Referendum

    The only reasons for them to abstain is.

    A. they do not really want a referendum.

    B. they want to have their cake and eat it.
    This is par for the course with Labour.

    • David Lindsay

      This Bill is a gimmick. It should just be ignored.

      • anyfool

        That would be so if it was your lot involved in its presentation, but they are not which means that even if it fails, it is another reminder to the public of the downright deceitful way your sour faced band of Brothers operate.
        And a few more deserters from your ranks make the chance of a return to office a little bit more difficult.

        • David Lindsay

          Fails? Will there even be a vote? Quite possibly not. Technically, then, it will have gone through on the nod.

          Only to run out of time, as almost all Private Member’s Bills do eventually.

          No one in the real will notice.

      • HookesLaw

        Which is what the whips are saying. Good of you to follow the party line and for showing that Ms Hardman is looking at the story through the wrong end of the telescope.

        • Wessex Man

          Poor David, like most of the Labour Party has still not got it that the country don’t want them back. If they did they would be running away with the opinion polls.

  • David Lindsay

    You have to feel sorry for a man whose parliamentary career is going to end when he is 31.

  • David Lindsay

    Clearly the LetBritainDecide campaign is an excellent opportunity

    Determined to flog that dead horse, aren’t you?

    Apart from Coffee House readers, and tweeting Tory MPs so obscure that they have quite possibly been made up, who has ever even heard of it?

    • HookesLaw

      Really upset at the prospect of a referendum aren’t you.
      The EU is changing and the prospect of an ever closer fiscal and monetary union means that the UK will have to make a new relationship with the Eurozone-centric EU.

      • David Lindsay

        Good of you to agree with Gordon Brown at last. Or with Tony Benn, Peter Shore and Michael Foot at long last.

        • Wessex Man

          He’s going to write a book about it called The Golden Years!

        • HookesLaw

          You are making a rather large jump to a spurious conclusion

  • Donna InSussex

    If the Tories DO put party politics ahead of a genuine effort to secure a referendum, surely it will be time for the Group of 81 to finally come across to UKIP? The Conservatives will have proved themselves to be a truly cynical party when it comes to the EU – pretending to be sceptics to secure votes, but secretly as pro-EU membership as Labour and the Libs. This would leave UKIP as the ONLY British party currently opposed to membership of the EU, and therefore the natural home for those 81 likeminded Conservatives

    • David Lindsay

      On present trends, an extra 81 people would double the number of UKIP voters in the entire country.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Such an ineffectual party that you feel the need to comment disparagingly about them in 5 posts out of 9. Hmm.

        • David Lindsay

          It aids digestion.

          • Smithersjones2013

            I can understand how you would give people indigestion…..

      • Wessex Man

        Send in the clowns!

    • HookesLaw

      Labour are reported as going to abstain in the vote so there would seem to be no danger of it failing. The other procedures it has to go through are still extensive.
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/jun/13/labour-abstain-eu-referendum-bill

      The bill itself is fatuous without a tory majority at the next election. It is in fact labour whips who are playing politics saying the bill is a gimmick and Cryer is just following the party line.

      Just what exactly are UKIP opposed to? And don’t say tax avoidance – it will only make me laugh.
      If UKIP are proposing membership of the EEA then their will be little difference to being OUT as opposed to being IN.

      • fubarroso

        I don’t think membership of the EEA presents anything like the threat to national sovereignty that membership of the EU does. We would get our own fishing grounds back for a start. If UKIP do end up proposing EEA membership it will only be an interim measure until bilateral FTAs are agreed.

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