Leading article: Unstatesmanlike behaviour

Share
Related Topics

Nick Clegg will have some explaining to do today when he briefs the Parliamentary lobby on Liberal Democrat policy towards a referendum on Europe and, more specifically, on last week's Commons walkout.

To recall, Mr Clegg staged the latter in protest against the Speaker's refusal to schedule a vote on a referendum, not on the Lisbon Treaty, as the Tories are demanding, but on Britain's membership of the European Union.

Mr Clegg will doubtless defend himself against the charge that his walkout came close to resembling a stunt of the type once associated with the rump of irreconcilables on the hard left of the Labour Party.

He may well say that the Liberal Democrats, as a staunchly pro-European party, are right to call for the nation to vote on the EU itself in order to end uncertainty once and for all over Britain's commitment to Europe. At the same time, the Liberal Democrats will make it clear they intend to flush out the anti-Europeans in the Tory party who they believe are cynically concealing their contempt for the whole European project under the guise of opposing the Lisbon Treaty.

Fair enough. The problem is that there is an element of recklessness at the heart of the strategy. It may be true that the Tories are papering over rifts in their own ranks on Europe by uniting behind the demand for a referendum on Lisbon. But there are serious questions to be asked over whether it would be wise to plunge the country into a national debate on the issue of EU membership as the Liberal Democrats demand.

Far from ending the European debate, as Mr Clegg and his supporters contend, the likelihood is that a referendum on the EU would do incalculable damage to Britain's standing in Europe, again reviving Britain's reputation as a semi-detached, unreliable player.

As for the effect of such a referendum at home, it would surely turn into a Pandora's Box, offering a megaphone to a host of undesirable right-wing extremists who would have a field day airing their racist and anti-immigrant views as part of a so-called debate on the EU. The Liberal Democrats have a dilemma on Europe. Unwilling to side with the Tories in calling for a referendum on Lisbon, and equally unwilling to side with Labour in flatly opposing that demand, they strive to find a third way and think they have found it in a referendum of their own devising. They should beware of getting what they wish for.

They should also reconsider such tactics as walkout. They do indeed whip up a little much-needed publicity but hardly appear statesmanlike or appropriate for a party that claims it is ready to form the next government.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most