Tebbit backs Lib Dem Euro policy

Former Tory party chairman Lord (Norman) Tebbit has urged David Cameron to follow the lead of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg in demanding the British public be allowed an ‘in or out’ referendum choice on the UK’s membership of the EU. Okay, Tebbo didn’t put it quite like that… but, still, the effect’s the same:

David Cameron must promise a referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union, former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit is expected to say. In a speech on Monday, he will call on the Conservative leader to show “Thatcherite courage” on the issue. This should happen “within two years” of a Tory election win, he will add.

Writing for the Guardian back in February, here’s how Nick put it:

The debate about Europe has been a thorn in the side of British politics for decades. Now the wound has become infected. Europhile and Eurosceptic trading blows about the Lisbon treaty in grand rhetoric that obscures the facts. If you’re pro-European, as I am, you’re accused of being a sellout. If you’re anti-European, like most Conservatives, you’re accused of being a headbanger. It isn’t new, but it isn’t edifying either.

It’s time we pulled out the thorn and healed the wound, time for a debate politicians have been too cowardly to hold for 30 years – time for a referendum on the big question. Do we want to be in or out? Nobody in Britain under the age of 51 has ever been asked that simple question. None of them were eligible to vote in that 1975 referendum. That includes half of all MPs. Two generations have never had their say.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.


  • Clegg's Candid Friend 26th Oct '08 - 9:34pm

    Nothing more than a reflection of the degree to which our policy was designed to pander to the Europhobes.

  • So, some inferred support for the whipped abstention on the Lisbon treaty vote.

    It’s a shame that it is a bit belated, but it’s a welcome acknowledgement of our consistent policy stance nonetheless.

    It’s also a shame this contradicts their earlier attacks on our position – they just keep slip-sliding every which way – will we ever be able to trust a tory?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 26th Oct '08 - 11:07pm

    “So, some inferred support for the whipped abstention on the Lisbon treaty vote. ”

    Of course there isn’t!

    Tebbit doesn’t say anything about Liberal Democrat policy. He’s just calling for a referendum on leaving the EU – which just happens to coincide with the device adopted by the Lib Dems to avoid voting for or against the Tory motion for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

  • Mark Littlewood 27th Oct '08 - 2:22am

    CCF’s point is biting – but not wholly unreasonable.

    I’m not at all sure that we should have supported a referendum on the constitution. But having done so, it is bizarre not to support one on the Lisbon Treaty, which is 90%+ the same.

    The three line whip to “sit on your hands” was just embarrassing.

    But where Nick Clegg and Ed Davey are onto something is that a NO vote must be prescriptive.

    If you/we/the country vote NO, then it needs to be plain what we actually want. It is useless if it’s just a collective scream.

    The simple – and fair – solution is to always revert to the 1975 wording. It kills two birds with one stone.

    “Given the changes negotiated by the British government in the Maastricht/Nice/Amsterdam/Lisbon Treaty, do you wish the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union?”

    Yes or No?

  • While there are arguments for an in out referendum, they aren’t in my view either particularly compelling or helpful to the Liberal Democrats.

    The real debate is indeed about what sort of European Union people wish to see.

    For example, I want to see one where the accounts are signed off, where it doesn’t waste millions moiving parliament once a month, where fish aren’t caught and thrown back dead into the sea, where MEPs expenses are properly controlled.

    I suspect that the vast majority of Uk voters share this view. It is only frustration that drives them into the arms of the europhobes. Lets remember even Tebbit was pro-EU at one time.
    Had some of the measures that people can grasp outlined above been included in the Lisbon Treaty it would have sailed through.

    Personnly, despite some good thing in the Lisbon treaty, I’d have voted against because it needed to be a whole lot better than it was.

    Gosh, I can even agree with Mark Littlewood :-)except, I’d go further, the 3 line whip on absention was a huge lost opportunity.

    Nick Cleeg could have backed a referendum, had the call been lost, he would have leats shown that he was promoting a new type of politics that listened a bit more and lectured a bit less, that wanted voters to have more say. Had a referendum call been passed, and surely it would have got throught the Lords, Nick could have been centre stage in the pro or anti Lisbon campaign
    explaining what type of EU he wished to see. Even more than David Steel in 1977, he would have got a truly national profile.

  • passing tory 27th Oct '08 - 8:39am

    The fact that a party has aligned a policy with Norman Tebbit should be a cause for concern amongst its member, not celebration. Maybe you will consider some his other ideas too? Or are you just cherry picking for the moment??

  • passing tory 27th Oct '08 - 8:42am


  • simon wilson 27th Oct '08 - 11:04am

    I am not sure that Norman Tebbit’s support on this policy is something to be proud of!

  • A lot of Tories, such as our old friends Letters From A Tory & Newmania, have views which logically lead straight to Better Off Out. They criticise the EU relentlessly, & many think there is no hope of reforming it, but are still within a party with no real policies on the matter.

    Consevative Home often try to reconcile Camoron with the right wing by boasting about how EU-sceptic he is, but I question whether he really is. It hardly matters what his views are if things go on relentlessly, & many Tory concerns, like immigration, are largely controlled by the EU anyway, so an in/out referendum would sow discord.

    It would be good to put them on the spot & avoid the fudge Camoron is prone to using.

    A referendum on the Lisbon treaty, or even two referenda, might have been better though. I’m somewhat dubious about this policy. I myself have reverted to my native EU-scepticism as I do not consider this organisation to be liberal & can’t see any realistic prospect of it becoming so, which keeps me semi-detatched form the LDs 🙂

  • People should ask themselves this question. If the Lisbon Treaty were to be enacted by all EU nations would there be a constitution? Probably not. It can be argued that by dealing with most of the arguments put forward for having a formal constitution simply by having a further amending treaty it has been shown that a formal constitution is not necessary. For those who would like to see a proper constitution the treaty would seem an ersatz substitute and delays the day for a formal constitution ever happenning. Whether a referendum on the treaty was necessary seems to depend on which way you look at it. As the EU will continue to evolve it may be that any constitution will need to be amended from time to time in any event.

  • CCF,
    don’t you know what an inferrence is?

    Passing Tory,
    Hilarious – how can you be so sure as to assert that our party ‘has aligned’ with Tebbit when he is following in our wake, albeit to achieve the opposite ends?

    Julian H and everyone else,
    How else do you advise we promote our reforming credentials?

    that’s good for starters.

  • passing tory 27th Oct '08 - 10:28pm

    Orangepan, I rather imagine that Tebbit held the very same views before the Lib Dem party even existed, so you can’t really accuse him of following in your wake… you just have to face it, you have come round to his viewpoint (after all, I distinctly remember your last manifesto commitment being slightly different 🙂

  • PT,
    I just love it when you start squirming.

    Please tell us, in your imaginings, why is this news if Tebbit has been proposing the same thing for 30-odd years?

    Please will you also answer for us, in your imaginings, albeit that similar means are proposed, are similar ends desired?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 28th Oct '08 - 12:34am

    don’t you know what an inferrence is?”

    I know what a false inference is, all right.

    Of course Tebbit would not be in favour of abstaining on the Tory amendment calling for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty!

  • passing tory 28th Oct '08 - 7:17am

    Orangepan, ??? what does outcome have to do with it? The article that we are commenting on quietly ignores the issue of outcome and deals only with headline policy. As for newsworthiness, I was not the one putting out a blog post pointing out the policy similarities. You would have to ask Stephen why he suddenly thought it worthy of a piece.

    Or maybe you should just quit commenting on surreal subjects; they require a lightness of touch that you just don’t seem to have quite grasped yet.

  • The supposed outcome has everything to do with this story.

    Firstly, I think all sides should be able to agree that we need to end the current policy ‘drift’.

    Secondly, Tebbit has taken pause after the failed Tory amendment and has come to accept that our proposed direction is actually a more correct approach to the issue.

    I welcome his repentance on the tactical method, though I am disappointed that the sinner hasn’t seen the error of his ways on the substantive points.

    In response to Mark, it isn’t embarrassing to be seen running in the opposite direction to the crowd, especially when crowds have a recent track record of being wrong on the policy of intervention in the ‘war on terror’ and on monetary and regulatory policy in the lead up to the credit crunch – in both these major areas there is unanimity that serious mistakes were made, so we should definitely be having doubts about the judgement of those who formed the majority in favour of the actions taken then!

    That a difference of opinion still exists over whether the Lisbon Treaty was a constitution or not means the debate failed. It showed that the government and official opposition both failed to lead and both failed to sufficiently engage public opinion about the choices and the consequences on offer – therefore the issue of ‘drift’ persists and needs to be addressed in a more fundamental way.

    We represent the only real alternative to this stalemate, and with Tebbit coming on board it is clear we are the only party able to build a workable consensus – the sensible approach in such situations is to reach out across party and ideological lines even if this is limited to doing in a pragmatic way so on a case-by-case basis.

  • passing tory 28th Oct '08 - 9:10am

    Secondly, Tebbit has taken pause after the failed Tory amendment and has come to accept that our proposed direction is actually a more correct approach to the issue.

    You what? This does rather imply that this wasn’t Tebbit’s line all along, And remember that the reason that the Lib Dem amendment was not included was because it was deemed to be a separate topic, so we are not really comparing like with like anyway.

    But keep on trying.

  • So now you contradict your earlier argument while trying to divert attention from what you’re doing.

    If I were you it would be advisable to stick to the substantive points rather than trying to portray a role – we can judge relevance and reliability for ourselves.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 28th Oct '08 - 10:08am

    “Secondly, Tebbit has taken pause after the failed Tory amendment and has come to accept that our proposed direction is actually a more correct approach to the issue.”

    There’s nothing in the article to suggest any such thing. Specifically, the article doesn’t mention the Tory amendment – in fact it doesn’t even mention the Lisbon Treaty. It certainly doesn’t mention the Liberal Democrats.

    It simply calls for a referendum on whether we should remain in the EU. Which just happens to coincide with a tactical expedient the Lib Dem parliamentary party (in the Commons only) adopted a few months ago in an unsuccessful attempt to get itself out of an awkward situation.

  • Clegg's Ardent Admirer 29th Oct '08 - 4:45pm

    I’m waiting for the list of other Constitutional issues we are going to have refferena on because noone “has had their say” recently. Womens sufferage ? The Third Reform Act ? No one in my generation has ever had a say on the abolition of University Seats.

    To Archiac ? Does the the Human Rights Act not have constitional ramifications ?

    The fact is we have a Parliamentry Democracy and the only two genuinely Euro Sceptic manifestos of recent times ( Labour 1983, Conservative 2001) got buried in Landslides.

    By Conceding an In or Out referendum and giving sucour to the likes of Lord Tebbit we are just validating the central Europhobic proposition. That its all a vast constitutional outrage rather than a hotch potch of agreements that have slowly evolved and been ratified by parliaments over 35 years.

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