Yesterday will go down in history as the day our politicians surrendered most of what was left of Britain’s sovereignty and trusted the nation’s future to a European superstate.
It will also go down as one of the blackest ever for our democracy.
With honourable exceptions—though far too few to affect the result—both Government and opposition MPs deliberately broke the solemn pledge they made to the electorate in 2005.
Every Labour candidate went into that election committed to an unequivocal pledge to call a referendum on what was then called the EU Constitutional Treaty—now known, after a few cosmetic tweaks, as the Lisbon Treaty.
Their manifesto said: “It is a good treaty for Britain and for the new Europe. We will put it to the British people in a referendum and campaign wholeheartedly for a “Yes” vote to keep Britain a leading nation in Europe.”
Not much room for misunderstanding there, was there?
Yet last night, the great majority of Labour MPs trooped through the division lobbies to vote against a referendum.
What hope is there for democracy, when MPs pledge one thing to get elected—and then do the exact opposite when the voters have given them their trust?
The LibDems’ official position, under their pathetic new leader Nick Clegg, has been every bit as morally contemptible—perhaps even more so.
Here, verbatim, is the party’s 2005 election pledge: “We are therefore clear in our support for the constitution, which we believe is in Britain’s interest—but ratification must be subject to a referendum of the British people.”
That didn’t mean, as Mr Clegg now pretends, the LibDems would demand a referendum on whether or not Britain should remain a member of the EU. It meant a commitment to a national vote on the constitution.
Yet last night, Mr Clegg ordered his MPs to abstain—thereby ensuring the treaty would be ratified without voters’ consent.
Breathtakingly, Mr Clegg tries to convince us he’s behaved honourably by demanding a referendum he never promised, while refusing to vote for the one he unmistakably did.
If he finds himself in big trouble today, after the rebellion by his less abject MPs, he richly merits it.
As for the Tories, most deserve credit at least for keeping their pledge and voting for a referendum. But, oh, what a half-hearted campaign they ran to persuade wavering MPs to back them.
As every opinion poll shows, there is huge support for a referendum. Yet the Tories totally failed to exploit it, while ducking the question of whether a Conservative government would call a national vote after the treaty has been ratified.
What we witnessed last night was the political class ganging up against the voters who gave them power.
The result—barring a miracle—is that Britain will now surrender its veto over 60 important areas of policy to the unelected bureaucracy in Brussels.
Meanwhile, we will be obliged to take orders from an unelected President of Europe—who, God forbid, may even be Tony Blair.
As the pettifogging regulations flood in from Brussels over the years ahead, there will be absolutely nothing we can do about it. And all because, on Wednesday March 5, 2008, British MPs decided en masse to break their word to the people—and surrendered the national independence for which their forefathers laid down their lives.
Is it any wonder that more and more Britons are losing their faith in the political process?