A few days old, but blogging Eurosceptic Labour MP Austin Mitchell raises some very good points (as well as a few suspect ones) about the way the government is treating the constitutional referendum.
It does, it must be admitted, rather appear as if the government is trying to prevent a proper parliamentary debate about the constitution. A proper debate should, considering that the government claims that people are anti-constitution because they don’t know about it, be a great opportunity to raise public awareness. So what are they playing at? Over to Austin:
“The carefully stage managed Maastricht debates look like a festival of free democratic debate compared to this exercise in obfuscation and suppression…
“To facilitate this Bum’s rush we are being deprived of essential information. Government promised a commentary on the Constitution as a Command Paper in advance of Government’s second reading to be available to key opinion formers. As of now the paper hasn’t emerged. Merely 500 photocopied pages from the Commons Vote Office. Most people, even most MPs, won’t see this.
“The Constitution itself is an enormous, almost unreadable, document of 448 articles, 36 protocols, two annexes and 50 declarations, all with the excitement and intellectual coherence of cold porridge. Yet government hasnï¿½t yet given us its own analysis or its views on the many new provisions which have been smuggled in.”
I disagree with many of Austin’s conclusions about the contents of the constitution, but it is very hard not to agree with his fundamental point:
“[the government] should listen to the views of Parliament and people and allow full and free debate in Parliament before any referendum… You can’t win wholehearted consent by confidence tricks, half truths and closing down debate.”