Peter Hoskin

How will the public react to being denied their referendum?

How will the public react to being denied their referendum?
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In an interview on today's Politics Show, David Miliband reiterated the government’s opposition to a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, claiming that:

“The reformed Treaty is there for parliament to scrutinise and then to pass .... Obviously, people will put down an amendment and parliament will have to decide, but I don't think this Treaty meets the bar of fundamental constitutional reform that should be the basis of having a referendum.”

Miliband's stance – although hardly surprising – is going to be disappointing for groups such as I want a referendum.com, as well as, I'm sure, for many Coffee-Housers. The question now is of how the wider public respond to the news, and I suspect that this will almost entirely depend on how the Tories act in forthcoming weeks. 

If David Cameron can marshal his party into presenting a unified front, then Labour's failure to deliver a (manifesto-promised) referendum will be one of the best lines of attack afforded the Conservatives in this parliament or in any other. However, should the traditional Tory schism over Europe occur, then Gordon Brown's spin machine will increasingly be able to portray his single-mindedness (w.r.t the referendum) as strong leadership rather than duplicity. Either way, the issue will have a tremendous impact upon next month's polls.