Labour’s policy on the European referendum means death on the doorstep

by Kevin Meagher

An in/out referendum on Europe is “not in the national interest” according to shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander on Radio Four’s World at One earlier. Securing recovery and providing stability for investors is more important than political game-playing.

There will be some measure of satisfaction at the top of the party that here is an issue where Labour look serious and resolute, particularly with business audiences. Privately, they will praise Ed Miliband for his fortitude. ‘We don’t want the uncertainty’, they will tell him. ‘You are right to hold out.’

He should not be seduced by their platitudes. What he should tell business leaders is that they will need to get their hands in their pockets and pay for a show-stopping pro-European campaign ahead of any vote in 2017.

He should explain that the ball has been threaded between the legs of pro-Europeans (and I include myself here) and we are left running to catch-up. The referendum is now essential to rebuilding trust with the electorate on an issue where the governed and the governing have become dangerously unstuck.

Ed should also tell them that Labour remains positive about Europe and that the vote that can be won.

The underlying problem is that the cause of closer integration has always been an elite pursuit and there has never been any real attempt to explain and, if not popularise, then normalise our membership of the European Union. For Ed Miliband, it can be a genuine One Nation cause.

As it stands today though, Europe is a proxy for all the antagonisms the public feels towards its governing class. Like immigration, it’s something that has changed a traditional British way of life without the public ever feeling they were offered the choice, let alone gave their consent. That sort of anger doesn’t dissipate, it festers.

For Labour, the party’s refusal to accept any of this means death on the doorstep. All the Tories and UKIP need to do in next year’s European elections is frame Labour as the party that won’t give the electorate a say. It will ensure there is little scrutiny of UKIP and provide the Tories with an attack line that will resonate in all parts of the country with all groups of voters.

A rum state of affairs, then, for a self-proclaimed people’s party to find itself in.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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17 Responses to “Labour’s policy on the European referendum means death on the doorstep”

  1. Ex-Labour says:

    I’ve said repeatedly on here that Miliband is on the wrong side of public opinion on every issue. He believes he is right and the public wrong. Listening to his car crash radio interview a couple of weeks ago proved this to anyone who has the faintest knowledge of politics. My friends are still hardcore Labour voters and supporters, but even they were left bewildered by the stubborness, nay arrogance of the man.

    Politicians believe they are there to govern us when in fact they are there to represent us. When the public hear Miliband say ” no but you dont understand” to someone asking a perfectly reasonable question (to which there was a very straight forward answer) they know they are no more than fodder for the political elite.

    Every party has lied on the question of European membership. We are told that treaty changes will trigger a referendum, but change comes and no referendum. The public want it, UKIP know we want it, Cameron knows it and his party know it which is why senior politicians are speaking up. But where does Miliband stand…..alone trying to push back against an ever rising tide telling the public they don’t know what they are talking about.

    This is just the EU issue, dont get me started on immigration, welfare etc. It will come back to haunt him when the real election campaign starts but is anyone telling him this ? I think not.

  2. swatantra says:

    What Labour needs to state quite clearly and unequivocally is that if a Referendum is agreed to in a Labour Manifesto, and whatever the result of the Referendum is, the the subject will not be revisited for another 50 years.
    In other words, entrench the result by Statute so that the British People will not be able to change their minds yet again for another 50 years.
    This will introduce certainty on which to plan Britains role in the World. This will concentrate minds wonderfully and force the British People to think very carefully before deciding one way or another, before they finally decide to Vote Yes to stay in Europe.

  3. bob says:

    What is Milliband afraid of, he is an employee of the public not an employer and all governments should be afraid of their people. If he thinks companies in the EUSSR would not want to export to the UK he is deluding himself, BMW VW Siemans Citroen Renault and the rest are business people first. We actually import more from the EUSSR than export, the argument that we export more there is flawed, as anything that goes through Rotterdam is counted as an export even if it is going to a none EUSSR destination.

    We are net contributors to this parasitic entity, we need to leave and look after ourselves, not half of Europe. And, before anyone raises the false argument that the EUSSR has kept the peace in Europe since 1945 is foolish, that has been achieved by NATO which includes America Canada and Turkey, with France for some years opting out. The debacle of EU intervention in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia shows the EUSSR is impotent and unable to protect people or project force, this was only sorted out under NATO mandate with the help of the Americans and Canadians. People Labour and socialists despise.

    Time to leave, forge trade links world wide, the EUSSR is imploding, look at Greece Spain Portugal Ireland, mass unemployment and poverty due to the EUSSR and its policies. Hopefully people will rebel and leave a couple of their leaders meeting a rope and a lamppost.

    Time to leave this entity to die on its own, we need to leave soonest by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty or repeal the EEC Accession ACT and leave, what could they do to us?

  4. McCurry says:

    We need to be clear that we don’t want a referendum. The Tories are all over the place. Let them hang themselves. We should be clearly against a ref. No ambiguity.

  5. Felix says:

    Fewer than 1 in 10 spontaneously mention EU when asked what they see as the issues facing the UK, say Ipsos Mori, as well as their polls showing that Labour are seen as having the best policies on Europe.

    Finger on the pulse Labour Uncut? Pah!

  6. Kevin says:

    Thanks Felix – I also heard that remark on WATO. Think it was Ban Page(?) who said that fig doesn’t include issues like immigration, which most voters blame on the EU. Once again, the panjandrums of pro-Europeanism smile patronisingly and deny the electorate a say.

  7. aragon says:

    We need to leave the EU.

    The current half-way house between nation and supra-national causing significant stress. For example while a member of the EU we cannot control immigration internal to the EU or external (rest of the world).

    The ever closer union logically concludes with a superstate called Europe a path continental Europe has already embarked up, and continues to proceed towards.

    And this superstate is to be dominated by Germany and we have seen the consequences of German economic policies for the periphery.

    Like the frog in slowly heating water, you can choose when to jump or to be boiled alive.

    On Dan Hodges, Ed’s problem is he is representing someone elses vision without the intellect (or agreement and support of the source).

    On immigration he is toast because as I have explained that is a European issue over which people can only posture while we are in Europe.

    On Welfare, every Government presses down on welfare (but not housing costs which impact welfare). So there is no slack to cut.

    The Tory and the Tory press has made a mountain out of a mole hill on welfare, and it is still a mole hill. The rich collapsed the economy and the rich are still doing very nicely thank you.

    As for spending the public don’t care how you do it, just do it and get more money to the 99% who are not super rich.

    If that means slightly less for the top 1% who will notice as they extract fewer rents through Privatisation, PFI and asset inflation etc.

    The two Ed’s won’t move a millimeter from the status quo, or convention, so don’t expect change from those two, in the mean time I would like my rhetoric back, they do it badly and wouldn’t dream of following through.

    Of course I am not the party leader, shadow chancellor, head of policy, or a professor of economics at oxford who wants to delegate economic policy to academics, or even (stand in) bottle washer, so I guess my views don’t matter.

    As the song says: Think I’ll go and eat worms!

  8. Robert says:

    I tend to agree that Labour should offer a referendum in about 2017. The UK needs to settle this issue for a generation. I will vote to stay in the EU with very little enthusiasm.

  9. Renie Anjeh says:

    Ed Miliband has a choice. If we refuses to trust the people, then the people will simply ask, ‘why should we trust Ed Miliband?’
    On some issues, Ed has remained in step with public opinion but on others he has been slow to understand, which is why ex-Labour is wrong like on press standards, NHS reform, cost of living, unemployment and actually on the VAT cut (it’s a policy I don’t actually support anymore, but the public do). Sometimes, you have to stand against ‘public opinion’ and make the case for why you aren’t with them but you have to make a strong argument – but on the big issues he has to be rooted in the real world. He should call for a referendum and take the Eurosceptics on, and with the support of business, the Lib Dems and Tories with an actual functioning brain. I hope that he moves Ed Balls to Shadow Foreign Secretary – that job is one that no politician could refuse, and Balls is actually right on everything European it is actually a very great strength that he has. I hope Balls gets his way on Europe.

  10. Patrick James says:

    I think the question of whether we in Labour should support having a referendum is a difficult one.

    However I find myself leaning against the idea.

    The reason for this is that the vast majority of people in the UK don’t really think much about the EU. This is a fascination for a group within the Tory party and for UKIP.

    The Labour position is a good one. That we have got much more important things to think about, namely the economy.

    That is what concerns people, not issues of sovereignty.

    I know that the people who think about the EU all the time will say that Labour is not offering a choice (like the Conservatives or the Lib Dems) but most people I know don’t think about this issue and don’t see having this choice as very important.

    It is a tough decision, should Labour support a referendum or not, and I don’t envy Milliband having to make it.

    It is not a neat clear-cut thing.

  11. Mike Homfray says:

    Labour should not offer what it cannot put into practice. As a pro-EU party it would be hypocritical to offer a referendum which we could not then implement.

    If people want to leave the EU then they will have to vote UKIP or Tory

  12. John Reid says:

    Ex labour , if you’re right and Labour lose ,then Ed I imagine would stay on and change his policies,it’ll be like Kinnock changing his view in 88′ the problem was he lost ,as no one felt he. Was sincere

  13. Ex-Labour says:

    @ John Reid

    Like I say the question is do they govern us or respresent us ? For those commenting on here that the EU is not an important issue, then read the polls because the public do.


    Why would you be against a referendum when the public clearly want it ? The smart thing for Miliband to do is for once listen to the public. But there again he’d have to make a decision and oooooh that would be so hard for him.

  14. Paul J says:

    Europe has moved away from us, if anything.
    It’s becoming the bankers plot the old left always thought it was.

  15. Anon E Mouse says:

    For the first time ever I agree with this author. Milibland will alter his position though – he’ll have to. As for Dougie Alexander the sooner Scotland gets it’s independence and he is sent back the better. The man is more annoying than Ed Balls and that’s saying something…

  16. Kevin says:

    Anon E Mouse – ah, we get there in the end.

  17. Anon E Mouse says:

    Very good Kevin… lol…

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