Friday, 25 January 2008

Deep Down

Geoffrey Robinson, whose Eurosceptic leanings have long been known (as have those of all Brownites, pretty much by definition), not only told the Question Time audience that he had been "no great advocate of adopting" the European Convention on Human Rights, but then went on to give the Lisbon Treaty an endorsement several degrees below lukewarm. The man with whom he has shared a relationship of mutual patronage for very many years did not, of course, attend the votes on that Treaty this week.

All in all, Robinson gave the latest in a long and expanding signs of deepening scepticism - or, rather, of the open expression of a deep scepticism which has always been there - on the Labour (and, to a lesser extent for now, Lib Dem) benches, including among those with the closest links to the very heart of government, and not just about the EU, but also about connected matters such the loosening of the United Kingdom. So don't expect anything radical on electoral reform or on replacing the House of Lords. And don't even think about trying for further devolution, never mind a referendum on Scottish independence.

Meanwhile, Oliver Letwin's failure to promise a future referendum on the Lisbon Treaty should the Tories ever return to office was not just utterly unsurprising, but also very telling. The Cameroons want this Treaty. They want anything that the European Commission wants, as expressed through its emissary, their Svengali, Michael Heseltine. But they can't say so, for fear of such activists and core voters as their party still has left. So they are relying on this Treaty's already being in force before the next Election, so that they can go into saying that there is nothing that they can do.

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