Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Of Referenda and Railway timetables

Robert Colville has an excellent article here about why lots of people on both sides have been pre-judging the results of David Cameron's re-negotiation of British EU membership in advance of the EU Referendum.

I've noticed signs of this for a while, particularly on the "out" side.

I must admit my immediate interpretation was that people who despise the EU so much that they would still vote to leave if DC negotiated a deal which included complete independence and autonomy for Britain on all the contentious issues, and a £1000 bonus from the EU for every family in the country, were doing the groundwork in advance to be prepared to rubbish the results of the deal whatever comes out of it.

Apparently there is a bit more to it than that. Electoral Commission rules appear to have forced people who would have likely to see what came out of the negotiation before condemning it to come off the fence now.

Robert argues that people who expect to be campaigning for Brexit but had until very recently intended to wait to see if anything worthwhile came out of the negotiations, have instead been forced to come off the fence because if they didn't start putting an "out" campaign together now, the Electoral Commission was likely to hand the position of "Designated Lead Campaigner" (e.g. the public money, TV broadcasts, etc) to Arron Banks, Nigel Farage, and the kind of "Out" campaigner who is a huge asset to the "In" campaign.

Hence we have got ourselves, thanks to Electoral Commission rules, into a position when any concessions David Cameron negotiates have even less chance than usual of being assessed on the tangible benefits they may actually bring.

"Rather than being assessed on their own merits, each of the concessions he secures will be cheered by one side and howled down by the other without any regard to their actual merit." he writes.

It's all rather like historian AJP Taylor's opinion about the causes of the First World War.

Robert Skidelsky once attended a lecture in which Taylor considered and dismissed one theory after another about why the war had happened.

And then "After exactly one hour, he said: ‘Well, there’s one last thing. The chauffeur of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand did take the wrong turning in Sarajevo. Had he not, the Archduke would not have been killed. Had he not been killed, there would have been no war in August 1914’. With that he sat down."

His better known theory is about the railway timetables and plans for mobilisation: AJP Taylor made a surprisingly convincing argument that the railway timetables for the plans the great powers had to mobilise their conscript armies in the event of a crisis, and particularly the plans of the German General Staff, were sufficiently inflexible that, should a diplomatic crisis lead to the great powers mobilising their armies, it would be extremely difficult to prevent war from following. There is a summary of the argument here.

It seems remarkably similar to what Robert Colville argues has occurred in the bid for the leadership of the "out" campaign

2 comments:

Jim said...

It was always going to be difficult for me not to respond to the 2 most recent pieces (this one and the next one) I was going to reply to only one of them, however, I think there is a lot of ground to cover in them both, so I think it better I reply to the points raised in both seperatly.

So, "pre-judging the results of David Cameron's re-negotiation of British EU membership in advance of the EU Referendum."
well, yes, that is true and its a fair point, we do, but why? well the answer to that is DC has no wiggle room left. He needs to call a referendum before the end of 2017, yet the only way for any treaty change to take plece before then is to use the simplified procedure of Article 48, though that is not on the cards. So now what? well Really from Junkers much ignored (at least by the legacy media) "state of the Union" speech we know that there is a treaty change in the air, its one that is to be a fiscal type treaty to further integrate the Eurozone, but where does that leave the none EZ9, well it would leave us on the outer circle of a 2 tier EU, in a position of "Associated membership", thus we have the outer core and the Inner core Eurozone, the inner pushing much harder for continued integration, leaving the outer core on the "slow train" to ever closer union, but this will require a full blown treaty change, which will go through IGC first, ending around the summer of 2017, thus allowing DC to state his intention to negotiate "his deal" which of course will be a push to allow the public to allow him to negotiate the future terms of the new treaty. Promising a second referendum to ratify it or not. So we can see from this the date of the 2017 Referendum, its autumn 2017 (no earlier as the Legacy media, cant seem to grasp). We are pre-judging as he has no room for anything else, you note his recently announced 4 key points? remind you of anything yet?

Apparently there is a bit more to it than that. Electoral Commission rules appear to have forced people who would have likely to see what came out of the negotiation before condemning it to come off the fence now.
Not quite, there is more to it than that as well. the likes of Matt Elliot and co are pushing to build up a database of "LEAVE" voters (that is a subtle reminder this is a LEAVE/REMAIN referendum not a YES/NO or IN/OUT one it is LEAVE/REMAIN. The campaign to leave will be called the LEAVE campaign.) Anyway this database will be of enormous value to the owner, and will earn a lot of money come the second referendum, that is why Elliot is so desperate to get his mits on it. Yes that's the same Matthew Elliot who almost lost the un-losable NO2AV campaign and needed to be bailed out by the PM.

"Rather than being assessed on their own merits, each of the concessions he secures will be cheered by one side and howled down by the other without any regard to their actual merit."

well to be honest there is only one concession, the EU not to be a supranational organisation, (do a wiki serch for Supranation Union and you see the example given. However to end that would be a bit like joining an angling club and trying to reform it from within to stop fishing. The best and most honorable thing to do for all parties if that is your intent, is in fact to leave the club, wishing it and its members all the best for the future as you head for the door.

Chris Whiteside said...

Don't agree that NO2AV was unlosable - I think it was the pro-AV side's referendum to lose and if the people running the pro-AV campaign hadn't blown it I think they would have won.

Accept your point that unless the Electoral Commission change their mind a second time it will be Leave versus remain rather than In versus Out.

Not keen on a two-referendum solution, partly because I think the electorate will hate it. My guess is that they will expect both sides to give them a clear plan of what happens if they vote for that side with no further referenda.

If one side gives them such a clear plan, and the other fails to do so, then my money is going to be on the side which manages to clearly explain to people exactly what a tick in their box means they are voting for. In my experience voters hate uncertainty.