Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Tale of Two Referendums, by David Lindsay

Whatever arrangement with the EU has been renegotiated to the satisfaction of David Cameron will be horrendous from the point of view of British workers and the users of British public services.

But then, our economic, social, cultural and political power cannot exactly be said to have increased since 1973.

Not for nothing did Margaret Thatcher support accession, oppose withdrawal in the 1975 referendum, and go on, as Prime Minister, to sign an act of integration so large that it could never be equalled, a position from which she never wavered until the tragically public playing out of the early stages of her dementia. “No! No! No!” was not part of any planned speech.

In anticipation of Cameron’s Single European Act on speed, all of the candidates for Labour’s Leader and Deputy Leader need to demand immediate legislation.

First, pre-emptively disapplying in the United Kingdom any Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Britain can and should strangle the wretched thing in its cradle.

Secondly, restoring the supremacy of United Kingdom over European Union law, using that provision to repatriate industrial and regional policy as Labour has advocated for some time, using it to repatriate agricultural policy, and using it to restore the United Kingdom’s historic fishing rights of 200 miles or to the median line.

Thirdly, requiring that, in order to have any effect in this country, all EU legislation be enacted by both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or the other of them.

Fourthly, requiring that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Fifthly, disapplying in the United Kingdom any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament. That would also deal with whatever the problem was supposed to be with the Human Rights Act.

Sixthly, disapplying in the United Kingdom anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs who had been certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.

Thus, we should no longer be subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, of neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, of members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, of people who believed the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland, and of Dutch ultra-Calvinists who would not have women candidates.

And seventhly, giving effect to the express will of the House of Commons, for which every Labour MP voted, that the British contribution to the EU Budget be reduced in real terms.

All before Cameron had even set off for his renegotiation, never mind held a referendum on that renegotiation’s outcome. Only one of two referendums that Labour ought to advocate in this Parliament.

The Conservative overall majority makes it practically certain that the number of MPs is going to be reduced such as to abolish 30 Labour seats. Labour needs to be ready with an alternative proposal, demanding that the two be put to a referendum, with the more popular becoming law.

This is not about “sore losers”. The Government itself proposes to change the rules.

It should be proposed that each of the 99 areas having a Lord Lieutenant would elect five MPs, with each of us voting for one candidate, and with the five highest scorers elected.

In addition, the sixth highest scorer would also be elected in the 40 most populous areas, the seventh in the 30 most populous, the eighth in the 20 most populous, and the ninth in the 10 most populous.

There would be 595 MPs in total.

In place of the House of Lords, each of those areas would elect six Senators at the same time and by the same means, there being only one day on which the British can be guaranteed to turn out and vote in any numbers, namely the day of a General Election to the House of Commons.

Each of us would vote for one candidate, with the six highest scorers elected. There would be 594 Senators in total.

Money Bills would continue to be the sole province of the House of Commons, where they would require a three-fifths majority.

Constitutional Bills, which are already identifiable for procedural purposes, would require a two-thirds majority in each House, or a three-quarters majority in the Commons.

Beyond that, the powers of the two Houses would be as at present, except that, while Ministers would be required to appear before the Senate, they would not be drawn from it; thus, all Ministers would be required so to appear.

Committees of each House would reflect the political composition of that House. The term would be reduced to four years, as for everything else in this country.

Senators’ remuneration would be fixed at that of MPs, and Senate candidates would be required by law to live in their areas, although candidates for the Commons would not be, as they never have been.

Vacancies would be filled by nomination of the party for which an MP or Senator had been elected, or by a First Past The Post by-election in the case of an Independent.

The ordinary nomination and deposit system would be waived where a party had submitted its internally determined shortlist of two to a binding, independently administered ballot of all registered electors. These could all be held on the same day, Super Thursday.

No local government ward would return fewer than two councillors, and each of us would vote for one candidate, with the requisite number elected. Where it existed, the eccentric practice of electing certain councils by thirds each year would be discontinued.

Labour needs to insist that the electorate be presented with this radical alternative, to chose between it and a crude gerrymander that was, as much as anything else, contrary to the principles of Burkean Toryism.


  1. Important point that the Tories are trying to change the rules (even though they won under the current ones) so it is not sore losing to propose an alternative change.

    What you suggest would have delivered 90 Ukip MPs this time but there is never going to be another 2015 Election and Ukip will barely exist by 2020. Your scheme would greatly benefit the left, the real left not the Greens or SNP, with left candidates filling many sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth seats in more populous areas.

    At the same time the guarantee of a Labour MP and Labour Senator everywhere, and the selection method you propose for those candidates, would give our rural people their voice in Parliament and the party.

    Exactly 1000 words. Not 999, not 1001. You old pro.

    1. We aim to please.

      And thank you. Your comment is very interesting.