By Mark Wallace
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Getting an in/out EU referendum was always going to be made more complicated due to the arithmetic of a hung Parliament. To deliver a national vote will require a Parliamentary majority in support of James Wharton's Private Member's Bill – which in practice means persuading wavering Labour (and even Lib Dem) MPs to back it.
We've already seen the launch of Labour For A Referendum, which reportedly has the support of up to half the Shadow Cabinet as well as quite a few Labour backbenchers. They are having an intense internal debate about Ed Miliband's confused position on the matter.
Today, Grant Shapps has launched a campaign to increase the pressure the electorate place on MPs to support a referendum.
The LetBritainDecide website is to the point:
- It is almost 40 years since the people were last given a say – and European integration has raced on in that time, beyond anything that was agreed in 1975
- The vast majority of voters want a referendum
- While the Conservatives want a referendum by 2017, Labour and the Lib Dems are opposing letting the people decide
- If you want a referendum, it has to go through Parliament – so voters are urged to use the site to lobby their MP to support the Wharton Bill.
The campaign brings a welcome simplicity to a debate that is often bogged down in unnecessary complexity. It will add to the difficulty of Miliband's tortured position on the EU, as well as putting the Conservative Party into contact with many more eurosceptic voters.
The uncomfortable truth for Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP alike is that there is currently only one party bringing legislation before Parliament to give the people the referendum they want. Shapps is right to remind voters of that – and wise to apply pressure to the growing cracks within the Labour Parliamentary Party.