Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ming's position on the EU referendum is not the party's position

That was the main nugget I took from the meeting with Ming on Sunday, when the shortlisters for the "LibDem blogger of the year" award interviewed him.

Alex Wilcock, drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of the party's labyrinthine policy procedures, pointed out that the party, as we spoke, was having a consultative session on Europe including:

13. In either case, would a referendum as part of the ratification process (of the constiutional treaty) be (a)appropriate or (b) unnecessary?

Why, Alex asked (and I paraphrase) has Ming been pontificating on this subject before the party has deliberated on it?

Ming robustly answered that if you are leader of the party and you are asked a question by Paxo, the Humpster or Naughtie-boy you can't just say "I don't know - I am waiting to be told what to say by the Consultative whatsit of the party" (again I am paraphrasing).

Fair point (but as Fluffy has pointed out, it is a good idea to make sure this is clearly pointed out in these situations).

Ming then repeated the argument against a referendum on the current EU treaty under discussion, and for a plebiscite on the whole issue of the UK's membership of the EU. He finished by saying with great aplomb:

That is my own position.

That prompted me to ask (sneakily - as Mark Webster was trying to wind things up):

You say that's "your own position" - so it's not the party's position then?

"The party have yet to vote on the matter" (meaning - no it's not the party's position) was Ming's response before repeating that, as leader, he has the right, indeed sometimes it is beholden on him, to express his own view.

So that's it then. All this referendum stuff is Ming's view - not the party's view. Anyone got any sellotape to reform the odd membership card?

However, I am curious as to how long this issue will meander on before there is a proper vote by the party. The consultative process on Europe is targeted to produce a document for the autumn conference next year. I would have thought the next spring conference is the only time we could take a vote on this issue. But it would have to be some sort of shoe-horned-in item on the agenda, I would have thought. One for the conference committee.

One other small point about the interview (apart from the fact that my brownie point reservoir at home is now on "full" due to my nearest and dearests witnessing the Mingster interview with great excitement) is that Ming swore - if "bloody" is a swear word, that is.

He spoke about the grammar schools issue which, for the Conservatives he said, was the "keystone in the bridge", adding:

Pull that out and the whole bloody thing falls apart


  1. You are looking a gift horse in the mouth here, Paul. Lib Dems all campaign for a Yes vote if the question were staying in, or for a No vote if the question were withdrawal. (Wouldn’t you?)

    The Tories, on the other and, would probably split organically, with Cameron’s federalist zeal (as proclaimed on Newsnight not so long ago) exposed, and with mass defections to UKIP or to a new party.

    And might not Enoch Powell live again in the forms in Simon Heffer, Peter Hitchens, Janet Daley, et al? This one could run and run, and really could kill off the Conservative Party once and for all at the next Election.

    Don’t you want to do that? If not, why not?

  2. I am pro-referendum on most things where one is suggested. I understand Ming's view and will support party policy when it is decided.