LETTER : Goldsmith's private party

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From Mr Graham Watson

Sir: It is hard to compete with Sir James Goldsmith's millions, but his advertisement in yesterday's Independent cannot go unremarked. Extraordinary though it was, it was most notable for what it omitted. Throughout the text, Sir James is careful to gloss over the fact that one of the existing parties is in favour of a referendum - the Liberal Democrats.

We have repeatedly said that if next year's Inter-Governmental Conference produces recommendations for genuine constitutional change, then we would favour putting its proposals to the people.

So one has to ask, what is the point of Sir James's party? Why bother with a political party composed of self-confessed single-issue obsessives and political ingenues who are unlikely to win more than handful of votes in any seat?

Sir James's answer would no doubt be that, as a Europhile party, the Liberal Democrats could not be trusted to frame a referendum question that was, in his terms, "fair". But we, too, would consult with diverse and independent sources before setting the question. After all, a referendum would be self-defeating if its terms were widely held to lack popular legitimacy.

Yours faithfully

Graham Watson

MEP for Somerset and

North Devon (Lib Dem)


25 October