Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote


10:20 am - October 22nd 2011

by Paul Cotterill    


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Yesterday, Caroline Lucas submitted an amendment. to the EU referendum bill.

She has spotted not just that the ‘status quo’ option (a) and the ‘nutter’ option (b) are unacceptable.

She has also spotted that the midway option (c) is still a Conservative ‘free trade’ option, under which the neoliberal norms embedded in the current Lisbon Treaty and the devalued but still dangerous Growth & Stability Pact would remain, while at the same time allowing for an assault on the things that Europe has done well, such as the freedom of movement within borders and (some) worker rights.


The bill, complete with the Lucas amendment now reads:

This House calls upon the Government to introduce a Bill in the next session of Parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the UK should: (a) remain a member of the EU on the current terms; (b) leave the EU; (c) renegotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation; (d) [Lucas amendment] seek to build support for radical reform of the EU, increasing its transparency and accountability, refocusing its objectives on co-operation and environmental sustainability rather than competition and free trade, and enabling member states to exercise greater control over their own economies.

By adding her own amendment, focused on her Green agenda, she emphasises that she is a seriously different politician, reflecting a seriously new political agenda, and she should be congratulated on her initiative.

More importantly, however, Labour should now follow her lead, perhaps by stressing that, while the Lucas amendment is worthily intentioned, it is not appropriately worded.

This is for the simple reason that the Bill, were it to be approved, would form the basis of the Referendum that the government is then tasked with calling.

Yet no government in their right mind could accept a wording which is more manifesto expression than referendum question, as is the current Lucas amendment. This then creates the opportunity for Labour to provide its own amendment, with a simpler form of words and with a proper sense of Labour’s objectives in it.

I would advocate something along the following lines:

renegotiate the terms of its [the UK’s] membership in order to create a new relationship based on peaceful co-operation, democratic accountability, citizen rights, economic and environmental sustainability.

This wording is perhaps more red than green, though still wide enough for coalition building. What, after all, is there to object to in it? It also avoids some of the wooliness of Lucas’s desire to ‘build support’. Success in ‘building support’ is necessarily dependent on the will of other states, and does not therefore fit well as an instruction from this parliament on what the UK government should do in the interests of its own citizens.

More than anything, though, it is a third option that you might actually expect to see on a referendum ballot paper, alongside the straight ’yes’ and the ‘no’, and could become the hallmark of Labour’s distinctive vision of what Europe should be about even after it is voted down.

Labour’s key message can become, now that Europe is much more ‘real’ for most people, that Britain will better off under a Labour government seriously engaged with reforming the EU than under a bunch of lunatic Tories whose key concern is the EU’s latest ‘ban’ on irregularly shaped fruit.

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About the author
Paul Cotterill is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at Though Cowards Flinch, an established leftwing blog and emergent think-tank. He currently has fingers in more pies than he has fingers, including disability caselaw, childcare social enterprise, and cricket.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Europe ,Foreign affairs ,Green party ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments


The point is that 1 Green MP has made a bigger impression in this whole sorry debacle than 250 Labour MPs.

And she’s offered a far more constructive, yet principled, attitude, in contrast to Ed Milliband’s anti-referendum broadsides.

More Green MPs, please.

This is Sunny’s abridged version. The full post is at Though Cowards Flinch http://t.co/rK88Ni9k

V good piece. Just one problem: What makes you think that there remains anything seriously red about Labour’s agenda these days? (Apart from idiot headlines in the Express.)

So you want the EU rules bureaucracy and anti democratic imposition of faddy crap without the access to markets and property of free trade
Do you have any idea just how stupid an idea that is, how out there , how absurd pointless and onanistically self regarding that is …and you call people concerned about sovereignty “nutters”.

5. Manon ClaphamOmnibus

Interesting idea from Ms Lucas. The idea that ‘member states to exercise greater control over their own economies’ is pretty much what Greece (and everyone else fiscally has been doing) isnt it? .I feel this will inevitably lead to the break up of the Eurozone. Good job too,given the european states have never represent a common economic area in my opinion, and without exchange controls has led to greater inequality. Ulimately, Caroline Lucas is asking for the breakup of the union since its very fabric is predicated on the belief of free trade and the concentration of capital.

” (d) [Lucas amendment] seek to build support for radical reform of the EU, increasing its transparency and accountability, refocusing its objectives on co-operation and environmental sustainability rather than competition and free trade, and enabling member states to exercise greater control over their own economies.

By adding her own amendment, focused on her Green agenda, she emphasises that she is a seriously different politician,”

And by what she’s got in the amendment she shows that she’s an ignorant nutter.

“Co-operation” and “trade” are the same damn thing.

So, let’s co-operate in getting drunk then, shall we? Tell you what, I’ll grow the apples and you actually make them into cider. Then once the cider’s made we can get drunk together. Mine’s a pint please.

Now, do you see what we’ve done there? We’ve co-operated. Worked together in order to achieve a common goal. We’ve also traded. I’ve traded my ability to grow apples with your ability to make cider and that’s how we’ve achieved our common goal.

And that really is all there is to trade. We divide labour so that we can specialise in it. We then trade the resultant production which is how we co-operate with each other and co-ordinate our specialities.

Trade *is* the method by which we co-operate and not understanding that, trying as Lucas does to state that they are opposites, is simply ignorant nuttery.

Now you can wibble (as she did in one little video from the EU Parliament) about how we should have co-operation but we must have trade rules about what foreigners can do. All that is saying is that we should co-operate with people but not with Johnny Foreigner. Which is either stupid or racist, your call.

No, (d) is now the nutter option.

Is this filthy sh!t parade ever going to F*CKING end.

“This wording is perhaps more red than green, though still wide enough for coalition building. What, after all, is there to object to in it?…

…it is a third option that … could become the hallmark of Labour’s distinctive vision of what Europe should be about even after it is voted down”

If it’s a woolly enough statement that nobody could object to it — and it is — how can you also claim that it could be “distinctive”?

Sorry, but this is vapid politics, Obama style.

1. Elliot Folan

> More Green MPs, please.

Hear, hear.

If we want a fair, sustainable society there is no other party that is going to offer it. The LDs are dead to the electorate and does anyone think that Miliband is anything other than Tory Lite?

Surprised that the usual idiots haven’t already turned up in this thread to try their usual dishonest smear campaign that the Green Party are “anti-science”. 5,4,3,2…….

You don’t need to worry about anti-science smears when you trumpet the Green’s own irrelevancy by claiming the Lib Dems, a clearly bigger and more popular party than the Greens, are dead to the electorate.

@ Tim Worstall

Observe as I bend the laws of logic to my will: trade is a method by which we co-operate. Therefore co-operation and trade are the same thing. So calling for emphasis to be placed on co-operation rather than free trade is ignorant and nutty.

And for my next trick: improving street lighting is a method by which we reduce crime. Therefore crime reduction and street lighting improvement are the same thing. So calling for emphasis to be placed on crime reduction rather than street lighting improvement is ignorant and nutty.

Alas, back in the real world, the logical possibilities that 1 – trade can be a way of doing things other than co-operating, and 2 – there are ways of co-operating other than through trade, remain open.

“there are ways of co-operating other than through trade, remain open.”

How? We have to trade something with each other, time, expertise, something, or we can’t cooperate.

14. Leon Wolfson

@10 – Sure, after all the poor have frozen to death.

And it’s not a smear – on many areas, such as energy, using statistics (like, oh, the terrible safety record of wind, and the great one of nuclear) gets purely emotive howling.

Germany’s showing where the Greens would go on Energy anyway – coal.

@11 – We’ll see. Because halving their MP’s is very possible if Labour have the remotest bit of a clue.

14. If Labour want to help secure a Tory majority, sure, they should go right for that. After all focusing on the Lib Dems too much rather than the Tories in 2010 really helped them get in to power, didn’t it?

16. Elliot Folan

@10 It’s not the usual anti-science nonsense, but Leon (@14) has come out with the usual ignorant comment:

“Germany’s showing where the Greens would go on Energy anyway – coal.”

Of course this ignores Germany’s target for 100% renewables by 2050 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/07/germany-renewable-energy-electricity) and the fact that Germany’s renewable energy drive has cut prices while fossil fuel costs are rising (http://www.esi-africa.com/node/13557).

Look at facts, Leon. Kicking the nuclear addiction is not hard. Presenting it as a choice between dirty unsustainable coal and slightly less dirty unsustainable nuclear power is a false choice that ignores the true situation.

17. Leon Wolfson

@15 – Do the math based on the position of the LibDem seats. They’ll lose at least a third anyway. Unless Labour actively chase away voters – and that’s what it’d take – they’ll take a few additional seats.

It’s the combination of gerrymandering methods which will ensure Labour loses. Nothing else. There ain’t enough LibDems to make a difference, after the boundary changes, so the question is if the backstabbers live or die as a party. Crush em!

Paul Newman seems to have a read a rather different amendment from either Caroline’s or the one suggested in the piece 😉

“It’s the combination of gerrymandering methods which will ensure Labour loses. Nothing else. There ain’t enough LibDems to make a difference, after the boundary changes, so the question is if the backstabbers live or die as a party. Crush em!”

It’s almost like you’re actually just Darrell Goodliffe. The stench of rhetoric over facts is overwhelming.

Also, none of your anti-Lib Dem stuff actually addressed the point that if the Lib Dems are “dead” then the Greens are even more so.

20. Leon Wolfson

@18 – Sure, give the gerrymandering a pass then. Er…

I think you need to read this, Leon.

http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/4043

22. Leon Wolfson

@20 – They’re using uniform swings. That’s basically useless in majoritan voting systems. What matters are the contested seats.

23. Leon Wolfson

Moreover, 40 for the libdems? Just lol.

@ Leon Wolfson

Thanks for not disappointing! That’s the kind of stupidity I was talking about!!

The argument that renewable energy = people dying of hypothermia is certainly one of the dumbest around.

Scotland is @30% renewables now and targeting 80% by 2020. And we won’t stop at 100% – we’ll be exporting south of the border which you’ll be grateful for when you realise the shitfest your nuke policy is going to land on you. 🙂

25. Leon Wolfson

@23 – Absolutely! I mean, it’s true, the Greens have to froth and lie about it! High energy costs don’t make people turn their utilities off over the winter, it’s propaganda from the giant lizards from another star!

….

Tell me when you come back to reality, thanks.

And yes, it’s SO terrible that the UK will have to provide base-load power for Scotland. While Scotland gets the uneconomical renewable-obligation generators installed to allow the British companies to generate the actual power you need.

Coal, coal, coal – that’s green policy for you.

Rather than safe, clean nuclear energy. You’re about job security, nothing else.

More than anything, though, it is a third option that you might actually expect to see on a referendum ballot paper, alongside the straight ’yes’ and the ‘no’

That just highlights what an incredible stupid idea it is to have a vague, nebulous, means bugger all option on a referendum ballot paper as a third choice. How would that have worked with AV? Should the UK change to an AV system for parliamentary elections 1) Yes 2) No 3) Maybe, but maybe there’s something else that would be better, also fairer and more green, more child-friendly and nobody would dislike, and we’ll work out what it is after you’ve voted for it.

o quote Ed Miliband:

He has attacked David Cameron for not seeking a place at next week’s crucial eurozone summit, describing the crisis in the single currency region as a “hugely dangerous moment for the world”.

In an interview with the Guardian, the Labour leader accused the prime minister of an abdication of responsibility and said he should be “banging on the door to maintain British influence” over the future shape of Europe. Ed Miliband says he is seeking to save Cameron from his “barking” Tory eurosceptics, who have been urging the prime minister to keep his distance.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/21/ed-miliband-david-cameron-europe?newsfeed=true

Absolutely. “Barking” is too mild a description IMO. This is no time for a referendum costing £80 millions. The EU will still be there afterwards deciding the regulations and standards which will apply to Britain’s trade with the EU.

Why do you advocate for a new amendment to Labour’s partisan advantage? Why don’t you instead advocate that Labour support the Lucas amendment? Is it because you’re a partisan fuck? Probably!

@25, @26 and others

But there isn’t going to be a referendum. That’s the whole point.

The Tories/LibDems have opened up a convenient space, not least by imposing a three line whip, in which Labour can set out a distinctive approach to the whole question of the EU. All the strategic advantage is then Labour’s, without any of the downside, because it allows Labour’s voice to be heard in a way which actually reflects its 2010 manifesto commitment:

‘Our belief is that Britain is stronger in the world when the European Union is strong, and that Britain succeeds when it leads in Europe and sets the agenda for change. Sullen resistance and disengagement achieve nothing…….But we reject any attempt to renegotiate or unravel social rights for the British people, and believe that economic strength and social protection go hand-in-hand – a modern EU must enhance competitiveness and growth while guaranteeing security and fair rights at work.’

It doesn’t really matter whether the wording would ultimately make for a coherent referendum (and the same can be said of the Tory rebel) wording, except in as much as making it more ‘referendum-like’ than Caorline Lucas’s duff attempt legitimises it as a ‘red’ replacement to hers.

This point comes across better in the non-abridged version at my place, of course.

Tim Worstall:

“How? We have to trade something with each other, time, expertise, something, or we can’t cooperate.”

Hmm. What’s being traded for what if I co-operate with Royal Mail by taking a parcel in for next door? Or with a stranger in lifting her pushchair off a train? Or if the French authorities co-operate with the German police by forwarding relevant documents to them?

Basically your point is that a Green had a good idea so the corrupt and degenerate Labour party should nick it, not because it will make any difference to people or politics, but because the Labour Party will benefit.

I dunno, doesn’t that seem like the kind of thing that a party hack for a wasted organisation that can’t come up with its own ideas would say? I think it does! Turns out that might be what you are. Sorry to have to point it out.

@27: Who is the “you”?

This isn’t the time to add a referendum, costing £80 millions, to all the other uncertainties affecting the European economies right now – and which will undoutedly affect the fragile climate of confidence for investment decisions. And the EU will still be there after the referendum deciding the regulations and standards that apply to Britain’s trade with the EU, with or without Britain’s representatives negotiating around the table.

IMO Ed Miliband is absolutely right to call the Conservative Eurosceptics “barking”.

Their cards should be permanently marked: Dangerous Animal. This is the loony “right” just as there was a loony “left” in the 1980s.

@30: The Labour party would benefit, certainly, by gaining a wider audience (though I’m realistic about how wide initially) for a more mature approach to the EU than the LibDems or Tories can manage. But the country as a whole will benefit from the opening of a somewhat more mature debate.

There is no question of nicking from Caroline Lucas. I say in my non-abridged version that she should be thanked for taking the initiative, but it is quite reasonable to point out the shortcomings in her amendment.

As for the personal insults, I’m not interested in who or what it suits you to think I am.

34. Leon Wolfson

@32 – “But the country as a whole will benefit from the opening of a somewhat more mature debate.”

Sure, how many billions in investment do you want to scare off under that banner?

I wasn’t saying it because I thought you’d have a sudden change of heart. I was saying it because it’s a position only a partisan hack could hold, and that’s worth pointing out.

1. Labour are about as likely to do what you suggest as they are to call for the UK to invade France.

2. the only option I would vote for if this were a referendum is the amendment tabled by Lucas. without that I would refuse to vote at all.

@34 I’m not a party hack, though, am I? Oh never mind…..

More relevant to the debate, you;re insinuatin that Caroline Lucas is either some kind of party hack, or else that she genuinely believes her amendment may pass. Either way, quite insulting.

Just after 9am on a Sunday morning, someone has pushed through my letterbox a multicoloured printed leaflet on poster-sized paper (A3) pressing for a referendum on leaving the EU. The apparent cause is an organisation called People’s Pledge.

Many, but not all, of those on its “Advisory Council” are Labour stalwarts like Austin Mitchell, John Cryer, Graham Stringer and Bryan Gould. The Conservative MPs include Hannan and Goldsmith.

As Ed Miliband said: Barking.

@36. But Sunny is…

News update on the BBC website:

This weekend an estimated 3,000 people dressed as zombies took to the streets of Brighton. It’s the latest proof, if any was needed, that the undead are really on the march – culturally at least.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15418899

Brighton is where Caroline Lucas comes from, isn’t it?

Paul Cotterill: “renegotiate the terms of its [the UK’s] membership in order to create a new relationship based on peaceful co-operation, democratic accountability, citizen rights, economic and environmental sustainability.”

But wouldn’t the EU say this is already what the relationship is meant to be based on? This just highlights the emptiness of soft left social democracy.

Tim Worstall: ““Co-operation” and “trade” are the same damn thing.”

Ludicrous semantic games. I know damn well what she means and most people do. Neo-liberal free market ideology is quite obviously about a lot more than “trade” as a broad abstract concept.

“All that is saying is that we should co-operate with people but not with Johnny Foreigner. Which is either stupid or racist, your call.”

And by extension anyone who opposes the creation of a total worldwide free trade area with total free movement of goods, capital and people is either stupid or racist also. Which makes just about everyone except the most hardline free marketeers stupid or racist. I suppose it’s good to know that if the consequences of unregulated free markets worldwide were realised, it’s nice to know that only stupid or racist people would suffer the results.

@41:

“But wouldn’t the EU say this is already what the relationship is meant to be based on? This just highlights the emptiness of soft left social democracy.”

Well. it’s supporters might well say that, but that’s the whole process of opening up the debate. That’s a good debate to open because those supporters would be wrong.

Just as one example of democratic accountability, the bare fact is that the Lisbon Treaty removed democratic accountability my making the Euro Parliament only an advisory body on the Council’s power to instruct the ECB on supervising credit institutions, whereas the Treaty of rome had required parliament’s consent. A small change of wording, with potentially huge impacts (http://thoughcowardsflinch.com/2009/10/13/whats-really-in-the-lisbon-treaty/)

And when it comes to economic sustainability, I think there’s a pretty strong argument that this is precisely NOT what the current economic model of the EU – which is codified in both the Lisbon Treaty and the Growth & Stability pact – is based on.

Far from being ‘soft left social democratic emptiness’, I’d contend that my proposed amendment is actually based on at least some proper understanding of what’s in the EU’s agreements.

@ 24,

Scotland is only at “30% now because it assumes that every bit of electricity exported (either to England or Northern Ireland) is “dirty” and every bit of electricity it imports is clean and green.

I think thats a bit disingenuous.

Its also a 100% target by 2020, using the same fixed rules.

“Far from being ‘soft left social democratic emptiness’, I’d contend that my proposed amendment is actually based on at least some proper understanding of what’s in the EU’s agreements.”

Having read your explanation, I do regret using that phrase, since I think we agree on far more than we disagree – but I still think “economic sustainability” is a woefully vague term.

The trouble is that almost anything at all can be argued to fit (or not to fit) that definition – it depends what you think is sustainable in economic terms. If someone happens to think that the only logical economic policy is extreme austerity, elimination of the minimum wage and privatisation of virtually all state functions – well, then those policies must be required for economic sustainability.

45. Leon Wolfson

@43 – No, it’s true. And you’re building ever more uneconomical renewable-obligation generators, while English companies provide you with base load power. Typical Green policy…NIMBY.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Elliot Folan

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  3. The People's Pledge

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  8. DPWF

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  9. ellariayn

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  10. ruthdavis27

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  11. Aegir Hallmundur

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  12. Kristofer Keane

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  15. Kitty

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  17. James Harvard

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  18. Lianne

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  19. Camden Green Party

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  22. Paul Francis

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BFokT305 Good for Caroline, I say

  23. Nick Taylor

    This is why everyone should vote Green http://t.co/vLqpsB3V None of the other parties even speak our language, let alone address our issues

  24. Andrew Thompson

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  25. Perth Greens

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  29. George Czernuszka

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BFokT305 Good for Caroline, I say

  30. Sam Mesquita

    This is why everyone should vote Green http://t.co/vLqpsB3V None of the other parties even speak our language, let alone address our issues

  31. Andy S

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  32. Tom Parnell

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BFokT305 Good for Caroline, I say

  33. Clare Richards

    This is why everyone should vote Green http://t.co/vLqpsB3V None of the other parties even speak our language, let alone address our issues

  34. acute tomato

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote ~ http://t.co/J0EncGad

  35. jeffreynewman

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BFokT305 Good for Caroline, I say

  36. Naya Thrace

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  37. Casper ter Kuile

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote http://t.co/Vf3bjLQ8 via @libcon

  38. Nick Taylor

    – Amply demonstrated by The Greens' response to the UK EU referrendum http://t.co/vLqpsB3V We need to start structuring our own choices

  39. Tom Bailey

    Why Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU vote | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/lxpiq7iC via @libcon

  40. Tories rebel on Europe, Labour drops below 40 per cent in the polls, and 50 years of PMQs: round up of political blogs for 22 – 28 October | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    […] of the EU to be the sole preserve of the Right. Liberal Conspiracy writes that Caroline Lucas has outflanked Labour on the EU question and Jonathan Roberts at Labourlist thinks that pro-Europeans must make their case before time runs […]





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