Labour peers in the House of Lords have filed more than fifty amendments to the EU Referendum Bill as it makes its way through the committee stage in a transparent and bold-faced attempt to filibuster the bill, defy the clear wishes of the British people and to save their hapless leader, Ed Miliband, from having to take a firm and unambiguous stance on the issue.
The Telegraph reports:
David Cameron’s plan to give the public a vote on membership of the European Union could be defeated within weeks after Labour peers tabled dozens of outlandish amendments that could halt its progress in Parliament.
More than 50 amendments were tabled for the committee stage of the EU Referendum Bill, including holding a petition of a million voters, posing the questions in Cornish and giving prisoners the vote, the Telegraph has learnt.
As a private member’s Bill, it has a limited time to pass through Parliament. It can only be debated on Fridays and must be approved by both houses by February 28.
Dirty parliamentary tricks such as this have been used by all sides at one time or another, but it is dispiriting to see them deployed against a bill that merely seeks to return power to the people on an important issue of sovereignty such as this. There is no need to wait for a petition of a million votes before proceeding, we know that a vast number of people support a referendum. Neither do we need to pose the referendum question in Cornish, Klingon or any other obscure language. And topics such as the re-enfranchisement of prisoners currently serving custodial sentences deserve their own hearing and debate, not just to be used as ammunition in childish political games.
I remain genuinely torn on the issue of Europe. Whilst I see the EU in its present form as nothing but a scandalously wasteful talking shop in pursuit of a closer union never formally sanctioned by the citizens of any of its member states, the issue of a potential British withdrawal would be very thorny. Though none of the worst-case scenarios peddled by the pro-European scaremongers are anything near accurate (all of our trade with the EU vanishing overnight, sudden diminution on the world stage among others), there are real questions that need resolving around the realistically achievable options for future relations between a seceded Britain and the remainder of the EU. At its most basic, we need to know the terms on which Britain can continue to remain a part of the common market and free trade area whilst subscribing to as little as possible of everything else that the EU has taken it upon itself to do.
When they are not busy accusing eurosceptics of being little Englanders or xenophobes, those on the pro-European side of the fence are forever issuing mea culpas, saying that of course the European Union has flaws and needs reform, but that the only way to tackle this is from the inside as a fully engaged player. But the day to press for such reform never seems to come, or when it does come Britain finds that her interests on a key point do not align with other key players in the union, resulting either in gridlock and inaction or another painful debit from the “give” column in the give and take of our membership, the price, we are told, of being part of the club.
I am exceedingly unwilling to spend another year, yet alone another 5-year stretch between general elections, being fobbed off in this entirely predictable manner. Yes, what happens if Britain crosses the Rubicon and votes to leave the EU is of tremendous importance for our country, and those on the “leave the EU” side need to flesh out this part of their argument more fully in order to be more convincing to those such as myself who are genuinely torn. But the fact that these questions have not yet been fully addressed is no reason to delay the referendum, in the same way that contempt and distrust of the British people is also not a legitimate reason.
I often get the sense from the words and actions of the Labour Party that they are convinced that they know what is best for me far better than I do myself. But nowhere is this self-righteous superiority combined with ruthless determination to promote their vision of Britain over all others more evident than in the current manoeuverings of the Labour peers in the House of Lords.
The people deserve their say, and if Ed Miliband cannot muster the courage to take a public stance one way or another, he should at least call off his ennobled lackeys and prevent them from impeding the wheels of British democracy any further.