• 25 OCT 2011
By Mark Seddon | Huffington Post UK
Before history is quickly re-written and the essentials forgotten, the vote that took on Monday night in the House of Commons on whether British voters should be allowed a referendum on membership of the European Union came about because a petition of over one hundred thousand electors demanding just that had been collected.
There would of course be no binding vote and no legislation; the debating device was designed to allow MPs to let off steam. The device would have the added benefit of allowing the professional political class to go through the motion of listening to unpopular, unfashionable opinions from the great unwashed without having to lift a lazy finger.
Except as we know, the Prime Minister, David Cameron decided to elevate the popular demand for a referendum into a trial of strength, and one which he would have lost had not Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg come racing to his rescue. Cameron insisted on a three line whip, egged on by the Coalition's chief hostage taker, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and supported by the leader of Her Majesty's astonishingly loyal Opposition, Ed Miliband. What a lost opportunity! What an apology for an Opposition! The late John Smith, Europhile that he was, never lost an opportunity to harry the Major Conservative Government to the near bitter end over the Maastricht Treaty.
In the end over eighty Conservative MPs rebelled against their leader. They were joined by a record number of Labour MPs - not that they were deemed worthy of mention by much of the media, since it is pre-ordained that the issue of Britain's relations with the EU is primarily an issue for the British Right.
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