Thursday, 3 September 2015

EU Referendum: BBC Speculate On An April 2016 Poll


Allegra Stratton, Political Editor reported on BBC Newsnight on the 1st September that an early referendum might be possible in April 2016. She begins:
[The] Conservative Party look like they're in a bit of a hurry. I am told that some of David Cameron's advisers are looking at the idea of an early Europe referendum, possibly as early as next April [2016].
Apparently, according to Stratton, the Tories are in a hurry as to try to outmaneuver Corbyn should he win the Labour leadership. Here we can clearly see the BBC is unable to escape from the confines of UK domestic "biff-bam" personality politics over what is the most important and powerful vote the UK public have in their lifetime - membership of a supranational organisation.

Not that we would know it from the BBC but it's a decision that will have enormous ramifications on the UK's economic and political relationships with the rest of the world.

Stratton then continues to justify her 'insider knowledge':
For the government to have a referendum in the middle of April the following elements have to fall into place like absolute clockwork. They have to kickstart the campaign in early February; that allows for the legal minimum of 10 weeks that they have to have for any campaign...That means that this legislation is receiving Royal Assent in early January or mid January... Government insiders believe this very tight schedule is possible but difficult.
We wouldn't dispute the implication that the EU Referendum Bill is unlikely to receive Royal Assent before Christmas. Yet the assertion of allowing for "the legal minimum of 10 weeks that they have to have for any campaign." clearly overlooks the recommendations of the Electoral Commission (EC).

Here we have to look at the EC's report on the Scottish Referendum which we previously noted (my emphasis):
... that in planning for any future referendums, not only in Scotland but also those held across or in other parts of the UK, governments should aim to ensure that legislation (including any secondary legislation) is clear at least six months before it is required to be implemented or complied with by campaigners, the Chief Counting Officer, Counting Officers or Electoral Registration Officers.
Thus "a reasonable period" according the Electoral Commission amounts to six months, as it argues to allow for (again my emphasis):
The benefit of this additional time was passed on to campaigners, EROs and COs in preparing for their respective roles at the referendum:
Campaigners were able to engage constructively with the legislative process and had time to develop an understanding of the relevant guidance and rules, before they came into force. EROs and COs benefitted from sufficient time to put robust plans in place for the delivery of their responsibilities under the legislation, from targeted public awareness activity to the booking of polling places and the training of staff.
In addition the Electoral Commission also recommends (again my emphasis):
2.39 Following the 2011 referendum on additional powers for the National Assembly for Wales and the Parliamentary Voting System for the House of Commons, we recommended that for future referendums the detailed rules should be clear at least 28 weeks in advance of polling day, based on a statutory regulated referendum campaign period of 16 weeks.
Stratton fails to take into account the EC's recommendations that six months is required for the designation process - to nominate the official "remains" and "leavers" campaign.

Thus a April 2016 poll is now impossible on the current timescale. It's disappointing to say the least when a highly paid BBC journalist doesn't know the basics and doesn't inform us. Then again this is exactly why the legacy media were caught out when the EC recommended changing the question, despite the EC's reservations being made public in advance.

Thankfully we have the internet...EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

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