Membership of the EU, Scottish independence, electoral reform... Alex Hern looks at David Cameron’s inconsistency on whether referendums are good or not.
The government has some inconsistencies that it ought to clear up between his response to an EU referendum and his response to a Scottish referendum, not to mention the holding of the alternative vote referendum.
On the European Union, David Cameron’s stance has been clear:
“I completely understand and share the frustration that many have about the way the EU goes about its business, about the costs, about the bureaucracy.
“Of course we, the Conservative party, are committed to the return of powers from Brussels to Westminster.
“We are also committed as a government that if power passes from Westminster to Brussels, there would have to be a referendum. That promise is good for the whole of this Parliament and beyond.
“But I do not support holding a referendum come what may. That is not our policy and I will not be supporting that motion.”
A principled stance from the prime minister, and one that history will look favourably on. So why doesn’t the government take the same view on the referendum on Scottish independence?
The Scotsman reported on Saturday:
Senior figures in the UK government are seeking to seize control of Scotland’s referendum from the Nationalists, The Scotsman has learned.
Westminster is exploring holding the poll on its terms, provided the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition can secure the support of Labour to create a joint pro-Union front. […]
A senior government source told The Scotsman: “If they [Labour] support the referendum should be done in Westminster, then we [the government] will go ahead with it.”
The source said the reason for a Westminster intervention would be to ensure a simple Yes/No question on whether Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom.
When it’s in their interest, the government are steadfast in sticking to their policies, in declaiming ‘expensive’ referendums, and in calling for complex decisions to be made by politicians, not the public. But when they think they might win, those principles go out of the window.
Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
• Five reasons why Commons Euro vote is not Cameron’s Clause IV moment – Daniel Elton, October 24th 2011
• Salmond tells Westminster it’s time to end interference in Scotland – Ed Jacobs, October 24th 2011
• Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policy – Ed Jacobs, October 19th 2011
• Scottish Labour needs to wake up to the threat of independence – Ed Jacobs, October 17th 2011
• Supporters of the Union must wake up to the real prospect of independence – Ed Jacobs, September 5th 2011