Friday, 28 October 2011

Talking Shop

I don’t know much about boxing. However, I’m willing to bet if you had put Vladimir Klitschko up against David Haye for the unified world titles, and told him he couldn’t punch anyone, but must restrict his assaults to insightful witticisms and maybe some unusually ferocious mime, then the “Haymaker” might still have a belt that’s too big to fit through his belt loops. On the other hand, just winning one round with those odds against you would feel like a moral victory. But surely the result gives power to nobody’s elbow, if one person’s hands are tied. 

In the 1975 referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Economic Community, Harold Wilson allowed his ministers to vote with their consciences. In this weeks vote on a referendum on the European Union, David Cameron was not so generous.

 The debate was triggered by the government’s e-petitions scheme, by which any petition of 100,000 signatures will trigger a Commons debate. Democracy at it’s best, you might say. But, the vote carried a three line whip, so you have to do what you’re told, or sit on the naughty step at playtime. And it will be a busy step. 81 Conservative MPs defied their orders. Wit and mime were never going to win this day, but a round on points to the rebels, perhaps.

The vote went against a referendum, 483-111, but given the alleged strong arm tactics of the whips, definitely more than five strokes in the last furlong, it was always a foregone conclusion. This left many MPs squeezed from both sides, under pressure as they were from constituency associations over the European issue. Some of the great disgruntled in the Tory trenches might quietly favour diverting NHS funding into making the Channel a bit wider instead, but a referendum would at least be a chance to have your say.

So, no referendum, but cheer up voting fans, we still have the X Factor. With so much control being lost to Brussels, the bank manager, or down the back of the sofa, at least on Saturday night, armed with little more relevant ability that the possession of a telephone, we can make or break the careers of tomorrows stars of light entertainment. In an uncertain world, when faced with rising unemployment, the rising cost of living, and rising in the dark till spring, it is strangely reassuring. We may no longer be the masters of our own destiny, but for a couple of hours a week, we can be masters of someone else’s. The universal balance is restored.

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