The Spectator

Referendum politics

Referendum politics
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As Matt points out below, whether we have a referendum or not is a political not a legal question. In ruling one out, Gordon Brown is banking on David Cameron not wanting to risk looking Europe-obsessed by banging on about the need for one. (I can already hear Brown taunting Cameron at PMQs with lines like, “he wants to talk about the arcane details of European treaties, we want to talk about schools, hospitals and the other issues that make a difference to the lives of the British people.)

Whether Cameron decides to go all out in calling for one depends on if he’ll be charging the Brownite guns alone. If on Monday, The Sun and The Daily Mail demand a vote Cameron will likely come out of what, as Tim notes, is his self-imposed purdah.

If the papers downplay its importance, Cameron will probably keep his distance. He’ll not want to expend political capital in a futile quest for a referendum.

Objectively, there must be a vote. All three major parties ran at the last election promising a referendum, to now deny the electorate this choice would be to reinforce every negative stereotype about politicians and the value of their promises. Also, as Iain argues, if the North East assembly is worth a referendum then surely this treaty which unpicks the Maastricht settlement deserves one.