Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne were interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning and they both ruled out a referendum on the EU Treaty. It appears that it’s not only Gordon Brown who can’t keep a promise.
The unwillingness to trust the people on this important constitutional change underlines one of the big gaps between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Both of these former MEPs are fully signed up to the further loss of British powers to the European Union (see this essay from Lee Rotherham).
Other big differences between the two parties were discussed earlier this year on ConservativeHome’s Platform pages:
- Peter Franklin warned that LibDem europhilia – and associated support for the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy – was bad for the environment;
- David Dundas attacks the LibDems’ blanket opposition to nuclear power;
- Jeremy Brier highlighted the LibDems’ weak approach to the war on terror;
- Martin Sewell focused on the third party’s soft approach to drugs;
- Robert Colville analysed the LibDems’ inadequate understanding of localism; and
- William Norton wrote about the party’s belief in proportional misrepresentation.
Nick Clegg used his Marr interview to reject the popular, and not unfounded idea, that he’s on the right of the Liberal Democrats. He attacked Thatcherism as "soulless". He was "appalled" by it, he said, and the former Prime Minister’s famous (and grossly misrepresented) ‘There is no such thing as society’ ethos. He represented Sheffield, he continued, and will never forget the "ravages" imposed on the city by Thatcherism.
"Now it’s quite possible that we never hear of this policy again and that it changes nothing. The Tories may run scared of it (though I doubt Labour would). But it is also very possible that this policy becomes a massive problem for the Lib Dems during an early election campaign. It’s one of the very few proposals they could have come up with that has the potential to cut-through. And if it does it would be a disaster for them in quite a number of seats."
I couldn’t agree more.
PS William Hague was also on Andrew Marr. He said that the party still hadn’t decided what it would do if the EU Treaty does become law. All Tory efforts were focused on defeating the Treaty and he highlighted the possibility that the Lords might yet frustrate Gordon Brown’s ambitions to pass the slightly-altered Constitution. The Shadow Foreign Secretary reiterated his pledge to change the law so that any further transfers of powers to the EU would automatically require a referendum.