Having refused to take part in a head to head radio debate with Lord Dobbs over the EU Referendum Bill, Peter Mandelson took to the airwaves alone on this morning’s Today Programme (strangely with no mention of his sizeable EU pension).

In a typically Mandelsonian about-turn, he has abandoned his brief support for a referendum and instead produced every spurious argument going against letting the people decide. I’ve listed them below – along with the obvious responses:

  1. “What the public want” is for “politicians [to] give a decisive lead on Europe”, not “grandstanding over a referendum”
    That’s despite every poll showing that what a large majority of the public want is a referendum. Politicians have been deciding our relationship with the EU for almost 40 years – there’s no sign that voters are happy with the way they have done so, hence the demand for an in/out vote.
  2. “Holding a pistol to Europe’s head” by threatening to leave isn’t “the right way to win” a renegotiation
    I very much doubt the EU will be willing to give much of value in any negotiation – particularly an end to ever-closer union, for example – but how exactly is ourposition weakened by having a sanction on the table if we don’t get what we want? We would hardly be stronger if the message was “we’d like these changes, but if we don’t get them that’s fine.” (Perhaps this approach is why he had so much trouble negotiating in the “bra wars” with China when he was EU Trade Commissioner.)
  3. Euroscepticism is driven by anxiety over “the current economic climate”
    In which case, why has euroscepticism risen constantly over the years regardless of the economic cycle? Why does it continue to rise even as economic optimism grows?
  4. Holding a referendum is putting the decision in the hands of “a lottery”
    Or, as it’s also known, the democratic choice of the voters of this country. How sure is Lord Mandelson that his dislike of asking the people isn’t because he can’t predict the result, but rather because he can predict the outcome – and it is one he doesn’t like?

Sad to say, Evan Davis didn’t challenge him on even one of these points, still less all four. Instead, his questions included asking whether Mandelson agreed the pro-EU case was strong but could be expressed better.

All in all, an extremely unenlightening episode – but a forewarning of the conditions eurosceptics will face when the referendum does eventually come around.