Tuesday, 8 September 2015

EU Referendum: Bloggers 1 Cameron 0

Despite the BBC trying to report last night's vote, yet again, through the prism of Tory splits (contrary to the criticisms of the Wilson report of 10 years ago) what we actually saw was a cross party consensus of Parliament holding the executive to account over purdah. In other words Parliament doing its job. EUReferendum.com notes:
It is a measure of how much the Government had misjudged the House that its removal of purdah was opposed by MPs who supported membership of the EU and wanted to see the UK remain. But they were insistent that the referendum should be fair, and seen to be fair, otherwise it would lack legitimacy.

Sadly, this victory can't ensure that the referendum will be fair, but at least after the joint efforts on many MPs, we can say that, after last night's "spectacular victory", it will be a little less unfair.
Naturally many will try to take the credit, but in truth the dispute over purdah originated from a comment on EUReferendum by Tony_E reproduced below:
A brief look at the Bill reveals this little gem in the schedules:

25 (1) Section 125 of the 2000 Act (restriction on publication etc of promotional material by central and local government etc) does not apply in relation to the referendum.
The 2000 Act, the Political Parties, Elections and referendums Act states in 125/2
(2)Subject to subsection (3), no material to which this section applies shall be published during the relevant period by or on behalf of—
(a)any Minister of the Crown, government department or local authority; or
(b)any other person or body whose expenses are defrayed wholly or mainly out of public funds or by any local authority.
Now of course, as both sides of the campaign will be in receipt of public money, naturally 125/2/b would have to be addressed. But the addition of section (a) into the new bill suggests that the full weight of the civil service and local government will be at the disposal of the YES campaign, and during the declared campaign period.

If I'm reading this correctly, as predicted, the government is stacking the deck in favour of it's own chosen course.

Free and fair referendum?
It's interesting and encouraging that a comment on a blog then became information which then found its way to Owen Paterson, who via the Times and the Daily Mail alerted other MPs to Cameron's deception. And as a consquence with cross party consensus we saw a 37 Tory rebellion and a defeat for the government.

As we've seen before blogging and the internet works, and Cameron shows no signs of fully understanding it.

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