If, as seems likely, the Irish vote Yes in their approaching second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, what will the Tories do? If Lisbon has not been ratified by the next election, they say, a Conservative government will hold a referendum on it. But if it has been, the Tory position is of the vague, ‘will not stand idly by’ variety. I have just discovered exactly how anxious the party is to avoid this discussion. As part of the Daily Telegraph’s series on Europe this week, the Euroenthusiastic John Gummer had happily agreed to do an email dialogue with me, but when he received my first message, which raised the referendum question, he suddenly decided not to. Then Michael Heseltine agreed to take part, but exactly the same thing happened, presumably because of party advice. It will be strange if the next Conservative government begins with the bad faith over Europe which would bring back the divisions of the 1990s.
One of the consequences of our growing disrespect for parliament is that judges and lawyers feel ever freer to make up policies and impose them on the rest of us. Last week, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the ‘president of the Supreme Court’, as he is now renamed, said that he supported assisted suicide. He admitted that this was ‘simply my personal view’, but when the top judge expresses his ‘personal view’ on a matter which currently comes before him professionally, he is close to turning that view into law. Sure enough, in the summer, Lord Phillips led the Law Lords (as they then were) in allowing Debbie Purdy’s appeal and instructing the Director of Public Prosecutions to produce a ‘custom-built’ policy about what would happen to her husband if they ever felt like going to Switzerland so that she could be killed.