Referendum: How the Government rigged the Question-Without
eurofacts - March 11th
Vol 10 No 11
The outcome of the referendum on the [New European]
Constitution could depend on the readiness of eurosceptic politicians to admit they
do accept the question”, Michael Howard, Reuters 26th February
certainly seems a fair question” Theresa May, Today programme 26th
question seems straight forward” Michael Ancram, The Independent 27th
think that sounds a very neutral, balanced question to me. It enables the
argument to be enjoined fairly and squarely on both sides”, Charles Kennedy, The
Independent, 27th February 2005.
realists may justifiably breath a sigh of relief that the question to be asked
in the 2006 referendum will be a fair one”, Jeffrey Titford MEP UKIP.
Letter to The Times 27th February 2005.
Leader of the UK, Independence Party today said that the referendum question on
the EU Constitution was apparently benign, but masked the consequences of a
‘No’ vote. Roger Khapman MEP said
that while the question was neutrally worded, it simply raised another
question-what does a ‘No’ vote mean? UKIP Press Statement, 27th
must be acknowledged the question is neutral”, Daily Telegraph, 27th February 2005.
can so many people who ought to have been on their guard have been so
wrong? In articles in our two previous
recent issues we suggested that the question chosen by the Government hands a
huge advantage to the “Yes” campaign.
explained why we believed this to be the case and pointed out that when the
pollsters put it to voters the result was a tiny majority against the
Constitution while the polls, which employed a genuinely neutral question,
produced a majority against the Constitution of around two to one.
at the time we were not aware of a poll carried out by ICM on behalf of the
‘NO’ Campaign, whose findings (see below) demonstrate even more clearly how
cleverly the question has been skewed to get the result the Government
poll shows that if the Government’s preferred wording was put to the electorate
the responses would be evenly split between those for and against, while the
neutrally worded question produces a massive majority against.
Q1. Should the United Kingdom approve the treaty
establishing a constitution for the European Union?
Yes ----------------------- 39%
No ------------------------ 39%
know --------------- 22%
Q2. If there was a referendum tomorrow would you
vote for Britain to sign up to the EU Constitution or not?
not to join--------------54%
Quite how the Government succeeded in both rigging the
question while convincing others that it had done no such thing is now a little
20th January 2005 the Financial Times, perhaps the paper closest to
the Blair government reported that the Government was likely to produce a question
that was blatantly biased to the ‘Yes’ vote.
Elsewhere in the Press, there was speculation that the question would
contain a reference to the Constitution’s endorsement by Parliament-with the
aim of influencing voters.
on 25th January 2005, the Government published the European Union
Bill containing the actual referendum question
the United Kingdom approve the Treaty establishing a Constitution for the
European Union?”- there
was an audible sign of relief.
Perhaps-s this was because none of the cruder methods for rigging
referendums had been used.
True, the use of the “yea-saying” phenomenon is quite
explicit, and this should have been immediately apparent but otherwise those
who drafted the question have been subtle.
Many eurosceptics consequently concluded that the question
was fair, or at the least, that it was a lot better than might be expected from
a Government well-versed in spin and media manipulation - and they expressed
their satisfaction with it.
apparently they did not notice that the title of the Treaty: -
“Treaty Establishing a
Constitution for Europe “-
has been changed to:
Establishing a Constitution
for the European Union”
Or indeed, that this formulation is a reflection of the
Government’s strategy. After all, a
constitution, which governs the European Union, has very different connotations
from one, which controls the political life of Europe.
Meanwhile Mr Straw was busy on the Today programme
assuring listeners that the Constitution was indeed a way of halting the
runaway tendencies of European Federalism and that was its great virtue.
On 26th February the Daily Telegraph,
which apparently did not notice the modification of the Treaty title, declared
in an editorial:
“It must be acknowledged that the question is neutral.”
This may go some way to explain why the entire Tory
Front bench has taken the same view.
Extraordinary though it seems, no one on the Tory benches or the
Conservative Research Department and no one in the leadership of UKIP seems to
have examined the wording of the question with the intense scrutiny that it
[Well! with the Conservatives(?) there is no excuse - all
they had to do was ask Kenneth Clarke and chums -I’m sure they were not
in the dark over this jiggery -pockery by the Pro-EU constitution
enthusiasts in all the Parties at Westminster-YES!- ALL -New
Labour- Conservatives- but we reserve our opinion on the LibDems for now.
While mentioning the LibDems we must correct our previous
observation that the LibDems were for a compromise on the suspension of our
rights and liberties from Magna Carta.
We now understand that they in fact fought to the end to save our
liberties and did not consent to the traitorous compromise antics of the New
Labour and the Conservatives (?) It is
a great tragedy that the LibDems with their passion for ‘Liberty’ are not
fighting for the ‘No’ campaign on the EU Constitution and for withdrawal. Many
of their great statesmen of the past must wonder what had happened to TRUE Liberal
Five days later on 3rd March-the Electoral
Commission gave the question their blessing - despite the fact that the wording
breaches its own guidelines. (See
our Bulletin Board for details.)
When the Electoral Commission was asked to justify its
conduct by eurofacts and by others it either refused to reply or failed
to keep its promise to do so at a later date.
Electoral Commission is a Public Body answerable to the General Public and more
so than most because of their important status as a watchman to protect the
integrity of Elections on behalf of the People.]
How, precisely the Government came up with the wording
of the question remains something of a mystery. It seems inconceivable that a government that has put spin
and the manipulation of opinion at the heart of its programme did not roadtest
the referendum question as one of a number of possible questions.
We know it was not devised by the Electoral Commission
and that the Government did not consult Opposition parties or the ‘No’ Campaign
-despite the obvious need to build confidence in the referendum arrangements.
But we do not know what professional advice, focus group
or polling techniques it employed. A
series of questions put down by eurosceptic Labour MP Ian Davidson on these
matters has produced a Government denial that it used polling data in
formulating the wording.
In our last issue we suggested that the government’s
referendum question is open to criticism on three grounds:
exploits the ‘Yea-saying phenomenon’
distorts the title of the treaty in order to create the impression that its
purpose is to control EU institutions.
the absence of an objective summary or the mailing of the Treaty Text to
voters-it is unintelligible.
Neil O’Brien, campaign director of the ‘NO’ Campaign
has suggested a further criticism, which should be taken seriously:
the Government’s wording gives the impression that the Treaty is already in
Since the publication of the European Union Bill the Dutch
Government has published the question it will ask in a referendum. Despite the europhile convictions of
Dutch Ministers and the major Dutch political parties this is infinitely fairer
than the question chosen by the British Government.
“Are you for or against The Netherlands agreeing to the treaty to
establish a constitution for Europe.”?
Many of the points made above were made in our two
previous issues. We repeat them because it seems unlikely that the passage of
the European Union Bill will have been completed before a General Election is
called and that the Bill will therefore have to be reintroduced in the autumn.
It is devoutly to be hoped that by then those politicians
who gave the question their blessing when they should have known better will
emerge from their collective stupor and revisit the issue of the referendum
question. Britain’s political future may depend on
their readiness to admit they were wrong.
* * *
[Font altered-bolding &underlining used-comments in
our Bulletin Board for further details:
Under latest bulletins for
Commission violates its own fair rules on referendum Question with faulty
Referendum Question needs a change of words as it will decide whether we will
be Free or Slave.’
* * *
Daniel Hannan - Forming an OPPOSITION
to the EU
WITH THE ONLY PARTY WITH A MANDATE
TO SET YOU
TO RECLAIM YOUR DEMOCRACY DON'T VOTE
FOR THE TRIPARTITE PARTIES IN WESTMINSTER
SMALL PARTIES THAT SPEAK THEIR MINDS
WITHOUT SPIN AND LIES.
Home Rule for
HOME RULE for
[All underlined words have a
THE QUESTION THAT THE VOTER MUST ANSWER
‘DO YOU WISH TO BE GOVERNED BY YOUR OWN PEOPLE, LAW AND CUSTOM OR BY
THE CORRUPT ,EXPENSIVE UNACCOUNTABLE AND ALIEN BUSYBODY BRUSSELS’
-SIMPLE IS IT NOT?