Democrat March-April 2008 (Number 107)
Lobby of Parliament for a referendum on the EU Constitution
(aka Lisbon Treaty)
Around 3,000 people went through the House of Commons Lobby on 27 February to press their MPs to support the demand for a referendum. People travelled from across the country and some had arranged coaches.
The event included a rally and was sponsored by a broad platform from right to left consisting of: I want a referendum, Democracy Movement and Trade Unionists against the EU Constitution. Many other organisations supported the event and had encouraged their members and supporters to join the lobby. Many CAEF members attended and help organise parties to the lobby.
The lobby and rally was opened by Tony Benn who made himself known to the queue as they entered parliament telling them "This is how you get democracy".
The rally took place in Central Hall Westminster across the road from Parliament. This lasted from 12.30 until 5.30 and was packed for the whole period.
The meeting was opened by Derek Scott chairman of 'I want a Referendum', and former adviser to Tony Blair, who said "MPs who have met their constituents today should listen and remember the promise of a referendum which they made at the last election".
Speakers came from across the political spectrum and included columnist Christopher Booker and shadow Tory Foreign Minister William Hague MP.
Amongst international speakers were Roger Cole from the Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance explained why they opposed the Lisbon Treaty and would be working for a No! vote in Ireland. "We're having a vote in Ireland and people in Britain should be allowed a say too". PANA's main concern is the "militarisation aspect of the Lisbon Treaty and we will be supporting the Irish No! campaign".
Thomas Rupp from Germany and the European Referendum Campaign stressed the need for all EU Member States to have the democratic right to hold a referendum. "It is great that so many people are here. This is about democracy, and this is about accountability." An MP from Sweden said peoples across the whole EU should have the right to decide about the Lisbon Treaty as a democratic right which should not be trampled upon.
Stuart Coster from the Democracy Movement said: "People have given up their time to send a message to politicians. Now it's time for MPs to listen. Democracy is at stake here in Britian."
The labour and trade union movement was represented by two speakers: Alex Gordon from TUAEUC who explained why trade unionists wanted a referendum and the impact of the recent European Court of Justice decisions against collective bargaining and the right to strike.
John Boyd from CAEF made clear why the peoples of Britain and the labour movement in particular should decide in a referendum whether or not to go ahead with participating in the EU super-state. All the implications including the loss of the right to self-determination, national independence and democracy were likened to having or not having buoyancy. He outlined the tricks and deceptions used by the Government to make out the Lisbon Treaty was different from the EU Constitution. These included not changing the name 'European Union' to make people think nothing was being altered when in fact a lot was being changed.
Businessman Simon Wolfson CEO of Next plc, told the meeting "It's great to see so many people turn out to make politicians listen to the people."
The media in the form of TV, radio and newspapers paid scant attention to the lobby and meeting despite TV cameras being on hand. They reported at length the roof-top protest on the House of Commons conducted by protestors to the third runway at Heathrow Airport. Was this a contrived coincidence? Another news story which conveniently grabbed the headlines was pure speculation and dealt with the Jersey Orphanage.
It would seem the very future of Britain and its peoples and democracy itself are continued to be treated as minor news. Demonstrators scaled a crane in Parliament Square in the early hours of 3 March in a protest over the EU Treaty. The activists scaled the structure and unfurled banners proclaiming "Referendum Now" and "Give Us Our Vote".