If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Natascha Engel, me like

Better-looking than Ken Clarke, too

Natascha Engel, the Labour MP who is Chairman of the Commons Backbench Business Committee has spoken, and she has spoken remarkable good sense.

The e-petition to demand a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU reached the required 100,000 signatures and, as promised, it has gone before the Committee and will be debated in Parliament. I am cynical about the whole process - after all, debating something is not the same as passing legislation that the public actually wants - but it is a start. And it's the Daily Mail that is reporting it, so a reality filter needs to be applied to that too. But what really struck me was what Ms Engel said about it.
Committee chairman Natascha Engel, a Labour MP, said: ‘Given the crisis in the eurozone, this issue has become more relevant than ever. There is a clear majority of backbench MPs who want to debate this and we have to respond to that.

The EU today is completely different from the one the British people voted to join in 1975. It is time to examine the position again. For years it has suited successive governments to avoid debating whether Britain should leave the EU. The whole purpose of my committee is to make sure the big issues of the day are aired in Parliament. People in pubs and shops all over Britain are discussing our membership of the EU and it is time MPs openly debated it too.
About time this was said. And from a Labour MP, too. Colour me gobsmacked.


  1. "The e-petition to demand a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU"

    Bread and circuses. After signing the Lisbon Treaty all the locks are now in place. You can no more have a 'relationship' with your right foots connection to your leg than you can have a 'relationship' with the EU.
    You're either IN or OUT. The EU doesn't need our authority for anything and can ignore any of our wishes for a change in our 'relationship'.

  2. I think it's often forgotten that Labour, and indeed some Lib Dems, are also opposed to the EU. During the Lisbon Treaty 'debate' the most spit party was the Lib Dems, and Labour certainly have a better history of opposing the EU than the Tories do.

    That said, I share your pessimism Richard - it's conference season and a bone is being chucked to the Tory faithful to keep 'em quiet. All of which is largely irrelevant - in my view, the EU will collapse in some form or other before we even get a chance to have a referendum on the matter.

  3. Don, I don't think you can dismiss it completely as panem et circenses. The locks are all in place, I know, and Cameron's refusal to revisit it is the reason why I have lost all confidence in the Tory party to have British interests at heart, despite Cameron's protestations this morning. I would agree that is is IN or OUT with no middle ground. But we have reached a point where Parliament are debating something that until very recently was dismissed by the Govt and most of the media as extremist and bonkers. We can't rely on our 'leaders' to act in our interests or according to our wishes, and it will need a massive upsurge of popular feling. While the issue is undiscussed at Govt level, this will never happen, but a debate in Parliament may ignite something in the country at large, and that is our best hope - in fact, our only hope. For this reason, I think my cautious welcome of the move is justified. Time, of course, will tell.

    BF, I remember the days when Labour was passionately anti-EU because it was a cabal of capitalists and a conspiracy to do the workers down! I think that might have been in the pre-Kinnock days, har har. I'm pretty sure that it was in the early days of Blair's premiership that Labour began taking membership = good as for granted, and I found that pretty shocking. Of course, now the EU is revealed to be more Socialist than Michael Foot's radical brother, Labour's acceptance of it is less surprising. It was therefore a bit of a shock to see that a Labour-led committee was willing to support the holding of this debate. Ms Engel now joins Kate Hoey in the ranks of Labour People Who Aren't Too Bad.

    I'm hoping that this debate is the start of a big change, a movement, a campaign, whatever. It certainly couldn't happen without it. Maybe people will see it in the breaks from X Factor and take a slight interest. But, at last, we have a debate.

  4. Labour's 're-evaluation' of EU membership occurred in 1988 when EC President Delors gave a notorious speech at the TUC conference, which basically said that the EU could roll back Thatcherisim without Labour ever having to win another election.

    The subsequent u-turn by Labour was so large that it was visible from space. There are though some Labour as you say that retain their principles and oppose membership.

    Conversely the Tories have always loved EU membership and have fully approved of it since day one.

    Agree though that a big debate is due and much needed and hopefully this will lead to big changes.

  5. At least it's being spoken about. That's progress of a sort.

  6. So if the English are so dead keen to leave the EU, where does that leave the Scots, Welsh and Yorkshire folk?

    It was refreshing to have spoken to an Irishman in a non-schengen passport queue at Frankfurt airport recently and he did not blame the EU or the ****shock horror**** Euro for the demise of the Irish Economy. He blamed the Irish! Greeks please note!


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