Whilst the Lib Dems news policy of a referendum on out continued membership of the EU might be inspired, it serves merely to gloss over the fact that we promised a referendum on the EU Constitution, and as has been shown by various reliably sources, the EU reform Treaty is virtually identical to the EU constitution. So shouldn't we support the referendum we promised ? Others I know feel the same way too.
I am not sure that Nick Clegg should be held to manifesto pledges made in the name of a party led by Charles Kennedy in 2005, but I do think we are as a party being led by the nose because of a clique of people, on high, who are so in love with the EU that they cannot bare to see it questioned.
The policy of a referendum is, as they know, a referendum they will win handsomely, which is why the party supports it. it will not take a lot of selling to convince the people of the UK that our continues membership of the EU is in our best interests. However, a referendum on the EU constitution is going to be much harder to sell. It will require pro Europeans to make the case, and work damned hard in order to get people to vote in favour of it. You'd imagine that pro Europeans would be up for this challenge wouldn't you ? But no. Obviously not.
We cannot pick and choose which things we do and don't trust the population on according to whether we will win or not. Politicians are held in low enough esteem anyway without politicians promising that the people will decide, only to change their minds when they realise the people will decide differently to them. What does this say for the future of the Lib Dems too. Will anyone believe our pledge to have a referendum on EU membership if we couldn't stick to our last pledge ?
I've been consistent in my support of a referendum, even when at the time I was being accused of being disloyal to Ming, but I think we, the Lib Dems, have a chance to prove we truly listen to the public on issues here, and we are gifting the opportunity to the Tories.
In 1993 we were suckered in to voting for the Maastricht treaty, even when it was turned in to a confidence vote in the House of Commons. It sickened me at the time that our MP's could be so easily duped in to supporting John Major's Tories in what he said would be seen as a confidence vote. i also remember at the time canvassing for a local election and was met with derision by people who saw us as not being a party they could trust. That did quickly pass, but it struck me as being a situation to avoid again and proved that as Norman Lamb said to Party conference some years ago, well before he was elected, "When it comes to Europe, we lose all critical faculties"
Come on Nick Clegg, prove that the Lib Dems trust the public and let's not appear to be running scared.