My friend John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, is among the many influential people who have joined Vote 2004 to demand a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution. Other member states have permitted their citizens to weigh in on the document prior to its ratification, but the UK government continues to refuse to let its citizens be heard on the subject. So for those 80 percent of Brits who have already indicated that they want their voices heard, there is Vote 2004. Heres what I know about Vote 2004:
Vote 2004 is a cross-party campaign group urging the UK government to hold a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution, which will determine how the EU is to be run and its relationship with its member states. Nine out of 10 voters want this referendum. But the EU Constitution was not discussed during the last general election campaign, nor was it mentioned in the Labour partys 2001 manifesto.
It would represent a major and irreversible political change for Britain and for Europe.
Vote 2004 is working with other pro-democracy campaigns across the EU to ensure that such fundamental change cannot take place without the explicit support of the electorate. In the UK, they are seeking to build the broadest possible alliance - bringing together politicians from all the main political parties, business people, faith communities, trade unionists, diplomats, environmentalists and leading figures in the arts and media.
Visit the Vote 2004 website to find full briefings on the implications of the Constitution, lists of their supporters and details of the campaigns latest activities (including a short film which features, among others, Labour donor Felix Dennis, Big Issue founder John Bird, design guru Stephen Bayley and historian Antony Beevor, as well as Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, SNP and Green politicians).
Neutral on the Constitution
- Vote 2004 does not take a view on the merits of the Constitution. Some of their supporters oppose it, others welcome it.
- At their party conference in September 2003, for instance, the Liberal Democrats - consistently the most pro-EU party in British politics - came out strongly in favour of a referendum on this Constitution.
- Vote 2004 will never take a formal position on the Constitution itself. They just believe that the people must have the right to vote on it.
- This Constitution is supposedly intended to silence criticism that the EU is out of touch with the public, and to increase popular support for Europe by simplifying the way in which it works.
- The draft Constitution begins, "reflecting the will of the citizens," so it would be inconsistent - hypocritical even - to deprive the British people of their say.
- Ministers have indicated that they intend to use the Labour Party machine to press through the new Constitution in a series of whipped votes in Parliament.
- If the government is serious about connecting Europe with the public, it must give people a direct say in the big decisions about their future.
- Having a proper debate - and giving the public a real choice - would be good not just for our relations with the rest of the EU, but good for politics in Britain too.
- The turn-out at elections has been falling and confidence in parties and politicians is at an all-time low, particularly among younger voters. Too many people have lost their faith in the political process, and we urgently need to put politics back in touch with the people.
A referendum would revive public interest in politics. It would provide a mandate for future changes, and it would offer a unique opportunity to educate the public in a full and honest debate. It would also give people back a sense that they, not the politicians, are in control. In the modern world, people can make their own decisions. Its a simple question of democracy.