My first instinct is to defend Ming and be loyal to him. It's terrible I know, and goodness knows what I am doing in the blogging community with that instinct. I should be writing his press releases, I know. (No - correct that - Stephen Tall should be writing his press releases).
I have just come back from a family funeral. It was for my Godmother, who was a beautiful lady - inside and out. It is marvellous how funerals throw things into proportion.
Having reflected and read the comments of the Norfolk Blogger on a couple of my posts about Ming and the EU Treaty, I now realise that I was overly kind to Ming on Wednesday. On reflection I tend towards the Stephen Tall camp. Ming made a pig's ear of the original announcement on Wednesday.
I still contend that the Treaty itself doesn't need a referendum if taken in isolation from our 2005 manifesto commitment. I just think Ming handled the original thing so badly that he left the whole party's reputation hanging on the rather fragile, and fiendishly difficult to argue, contention that the "constitution" we promised a referendum on in our 2005 manifesto was completely different from the "treaty" now on offer.
So it is a relief to read the Friday clarification from Ming. I think we can move on now - just.
It is ludicrous to have a referendum with the question purely on a revising treaty. It would be a proxy question, used by UKIP/Cameron to ask people if they want to withdraw from the EU. The formal answer to the referendum would be a stonking "no - we don't want the treaty" and this would be interpreted as meaning "we want to withdraw from Europe". So the only honest referendum is the one Ming is proposing on the whole EU constitution. I do not agree with Jonathan Calder that this would be a re-run of the 1975 referendum, because of the all the intervening treaties. The 1975 referendum was on membership of the "Common Market", not the "European Union".
And I do think a referendum is necessary given all the succeeding treaties.
Again, on reflection, I am very concerned about the way this has been done and I hope Ming has learnt his lesson. I am not sure what "soundings" he took before his Wednesday declaration, but whatever they were, they weren't very good. A decision of that magnitude should be taken without some sort of vote of the the party, whether it be the parliamentary party or the full conference or the Fedex or whatever. But then again, we elect leaders to lead and at least he was showing some leadership, but it did it in a disastrous way.
I still think Ming needs to repeat his explanation of the difference between his current position and our 2005 manifesto commitment.
Lest we forget, even Paddy was wont to have the odd "I lead you follow" moment which infuriated the party. I remember when I was Newbury constituency party president or chair (forget which) when I had to almost use water cannon to quell the indignation of the local LibDem troops at some "getting into bed with Tony Blair" moment which Paddy had towards the end of his leadership.
By the way, Andy has written very well of the advantageous political tactical side to this, which I alluded to in one of my posts.