The Fatal Lure of the 'Femme Fatale.' (Referendums in UK politics)(Column)

By Richards, Steve | New Statesman (1996), October 16, 1998 | Go to article overview

The Fatal Lure of the 'Femme Fatale.' (Referendums in UK politics)(Column)


Richards, Steve, New Statesman (1996)


It promises to be a momentous autumn. In Europe, the final touches will be made to the single currency before its launch in January. Closer to home (much closer, as Britain will be playing no part in EMU's early evolution) Lord Jenkins will release his proposals for a new voting system. Yet the government, in spite of its great majority, will be addressing these huge issues with both hands tied behind its back.

The decision to hold referendums means that whether or not ministers wish to join a single currency or introduce a new voting system is largely irrelevant. The only option available to this mighty government in the coming months is delay and prevarication until the wretched referendum becomes winnable.

Lord Neill's proposals to tighten the rules governing referendum campaigns are a peripheral consideration. Tony Blair will have to be virtually certain of victory before calling a referendum irrespective of how much money can be spent by opposing sides.

Referendums are the femmes fatales of British politics. From a distance they appear irresistibly enticing, but the closer political leaders get to embracing them, the more dangerous they become.

So several years ago, Tony Blair announced a referendum for a single currency and gave his backing to the proposal for one on electoral reform. At a stroke the distant beauty had done her work: Eurosceptics could support Labour knowing that they could still scupper EMU in a referendum. At the other end of the vast new Labour coalition, Paddy Ashdown and Roy Jenkins could be kept on board with a promise of a referendum on PR without Blair having to commit himself either way on the issue. Earlier John Smith, an opponent of change, had proposed the referendum on PR as a way of uniting his party. The lovely creature did her duty then as well: for a while the party was united.

But now the time has come when referendums might have to be called and they appear in a different light, as treacherous, threatening harridans. The main reason that the single currency was ruled out for the whole of the first term last autumn was because no safe moment remained, even then, to hold the referendum. Forget about the economic factors. They played their part in the decision (a correct one, in my view) not to enter in the first wave. But the longer-term delay was based on a cruder calculation: in mid-term a referendum would not be winnable because the government was bound to be unpopular and no sane leader would risk one in the run-up to the general election itself.

Now the thinking in government circles is that a referendum would be winnable in the honeymoon of a second term. But there is no reason why that should be so. If Labour is returned to power it is likely to be with a reduced majority. The Tories and the Eurosceptic media would interpret the narrowing of the gap as a vindication of William Hague's hard-line stance on a single currency. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Fatal Lure of the 'Femme Fatale.' (Referendums in UK politics)(Column)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.