The People’s Pledge - a campaign for an In/Out EU Referendum
Today, a cross-party referendum campaign is re-launched. The 'People's Pledge' asks everyone to sign up to pledge:
“I will only vote at the next election for a candidate who publicly promises to support a binding referendum on our EU membership and to vote for it in the House of Commons”The website is useful as well: when you sign up, you are navigated straight to a page of information about your local MP, detailing how they have voted on various European issues in the Commons.
His Grace was invited to the launch, but, having no corporeal presence, was obliged to decline. But there is reason to believe that this initiative may succeed where Sir James did not, not least because, although the Prime Minister has ruled it out altogether, Labour is open-minded about an In/Out referendum. Once their front benchers realise they are no longer in government, the logic of supporting such a poll, and positioning themselves on the right side of public opinion, might be overwhelming.
The campaign has attracted many Labour figures, as well as Greens and trade unionists. Some of these wholly support the UK’s continuing membership of the EU, but not without democratic legitimacy.
There is also the sheer state of public opinion: polls consistently find that a majority (around 60 per cent) of the country want this referendum. Indeed, more than twice as many people want an In/Out referendum on the EU as want a referendum on AV. The People's Pledge is a practical way of forcing an in/out referendum onto the agenda.
Of course, the initiative has its detractors. But Dr North is long in the tooth and takes an awful lot of convincing. He is right to ask ‘And then what?’, but politics has become a nudging game, with incremental gains – sometime micro-movements – towards a pre-ordained end, because the people have been conditioned to believe that revolution inspired by philosophical purity, doctrine or dogma is a form of terrorism.
And so one proceeds one step at a time. While the Prime Minister has embedded his feet firmly in the concrete, at least this group has a degree of momentum on the most important political issue of the age. It may not succeed; it may be half-baked and lacking intellectual credibility; they may not have given one iota of thought to how they would actually win a referendum against the might of the BBC and the rest of the Brussels-adoring media and Establishment. But it’s all we’ve got. And there’s nothing to lose. So, why not make the pledge?
One reason: Sir James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party was pledged to govern to enact just one law: an EU Referendum Bill. Once on the statute books and the referendum held, the party was pledged to dissolve itself and call a general election in order that tribal politics may proceed as usual. Whatever the outcome, a sovereign people would have spoken and either voted to restore their sovereignty or surrender it.
With the People’s Pledge, you are committing to voting for whichever candidate from whichever party has sworn to support an In/Out Referendum. Will Tories vote for a Labour candidate, with no assurance at all that this initiative will succeed? Will Socialists vote Tory? Will anyone vote LibDem? There is no doubt that UKIP and BNP candidates will be bending over backwards to portray themselves as the true defenders of democracy: in constituencies where the only candidate supporting the initiative is the BNP, the People’s Pledge asks voters to commit to voting for them.
Perhaps Dr North is right: it lacks an intellectual base.
But it’s all we’ve got.