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The Spectator
Weekly magazine that guards the Tory conscience, Paleoconservative, critical of Britain's relationship with America, and all-round contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.
Max | A Team
Why the people should have a vote on Maastricht: The House of Commons must uphold democracy and insist on a referendum, says Vernon Bogdanor

by Vernon Bogdanor in The Spectator

Article 247 of the Treaty on European Union requires member states of the Community to ratify Maastricht 'in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements'. Dylan Macmillan has argued that, while the Danish, French and Irish constitutions require or allow for a referendum, in Britain it is Parliament that decides.

This argument is, constitutionally, highly dubious. There have, so far, been three referendums in Britain: the Northern Ireland border poll in 1973, the referendum on the European Community in 1975 and the devolution referendums in Scotland and Wales in 1979. Each of these was concerned with the transfer of parliamentary powers, either by excluding a part of the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) from Parliament's jurisdiction, by limiting Parliament's right to legislate (Scottish devolution), or by transferring powers to another body (the European Community).

There is a clear constitutional rationale for requiring a referendum in such circumstances. MPs are entrusted by the electorate with legislative power, but they are given no authority to transfer that power. That authority requires a specific mandate from the people. 'The Legislative,' declares John Locke, in that bible of liberal constitutionalism, the Second Treatise of Government, 'cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands. For it being but a delegated power from the People, they who have it cannot pass it to others.'

Additionally, the Maastricht Treaty or anything like it does not appear in the Conservative manifesto - they only promised that they would "play a leading part in European Community negotiations to reform the CAP," open European financial markets, and work to defend Britain and Europe's trading interests. If someone had even had the idea of a treaty like this, there was, in effect, no way in which they could express that opinion.

TIt is, however, a profound error for supporters of closer European co-operation to oppose an appeal to the people. So far, the development of the Community has been characterised by a process of elite decision-making insulated from popular pressures. The leaders led and the people followed. The Danish and French referendums, however, together with poll findings showing increasing scepticism towards Maastricht, raise the question of how the Community is to progress when the leaders lead but the people no longer wish to follow. 'Europe,' Jacques Delors has argued, 'began as an elitist project . . . (in which it was believed) that all that was required was to convince the decision-makers. That phase of benign despotism is now over.'

The European Community will not retain legitimacy unless it can mobilise popular consent. If its leaders try to build Europe against the wishes of their people, they will fail. If Mr Myerscough tries to propel Britain towards European union without popular support, he will deserve to fail. That, in the last resort, is the case for Maastricht to be ratified by referendum.

The writer is reader in government at Oxford University and a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford.
Max | A Team
Lone Star Shootout: as three Texans go head to head for the presidency, who will prevail?

It has been just over 145 years since Texas was admitted to the Union, and in that time it has produced two Presidents, Lyndon Johnson and George Bush. It is a state with a proud history, a state which suffered significantly for it’s part in the Civil War, and one that is still riding the effects of its oil boom. It hasn’t been a swing state in recent times, but this time, with three Texans running for President, it has never been as close. Whichever way Texas goes, it seems, so shall the nation.

Ann Richards’ road to the Democratic nomination was, when she joined the race late last year, an unforeseeable one. Joining as the last declared candidate, in October, she struggled to make a breakthrough into the campaign, and was marred by some unexpectedly poor early debate results. The early frontrunners were Senator Paul Tsongas, running a pro-business, socially liberal campaign, and former California governor  Jerry Brown, running on a populist platform and described as “the most left wing and right wing candidate in the field,” which quickly captured him support. Richards’ decision to campaign heavily in Iowa was heavily criticised by many, who expected Iowa senator Tom Harkin to win in a landslide. But with Harkin’s early departure from the campaign, citing his failure to see a path beyond winning his home state, lead to a last minute scramble to Iowa. In the end, Richards was the narrow victor, ahead of Tsongas, and rising star Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Clinton’s breakthrough, however, was a short lived one. Later that month, Gennifer Flowers claimed she had a 12 year affair with him, and he and his wife Hillary gave a panned and derided interview, which critically damaged his chances. In the end, he withdrew, along with other failed candidates, and the battle ended up being between Ann Richards and Jerry Brown. It was a close run thing, with the margins of victory in each state often coming down to a few thousand votes. Richards won the endorsements of Clinton and Tsongas, as she took on the mantle of the centrist “New Democrat,” willing to make a pitch to the centre in order to appeal to a wider base to take down a President with an approval rating of 89%.The Democratic campaign really began to take off following her nomination, and Richards is now within touching distance of the Presidency. Despite concerns still swirling about her past substance abuse issues, Richards seems ascendant, the first woman in touching distance of the presidency of the United States.

George Bush, on the other hand, is no longer the conquering hero that he was following the coalition victory in the Gulf. He faced a stiffer battle for re-nomination as the Republican candidate than expected, with Pat Buchanan whipping up anti-Bush sentiment leading to a number of close contests, driven primarily by Bush reneging on his famous “no new taxes” pledge of 1988. Whilst Bush has pleaded the necessity of this move amid economic slowdown in America, and across the world, he now finds himself struggling to compete against Richard’s insurgent campaign. As he seeks rejuvenation for his stalling campaign, in a rare example of an American leader turning to a British one for inspiration, he has followed in the steps of Bibi Lauria in emphasising his leadership credentials, his years of experience in foreign affairs and his role in removing Saddam Hussein from power. As November nears, and he continues to trail Richards, only time will tell if this effort will prove as successful for the President as it did for the Prime Minister.

With a heavily divided Democratic field, and the ever increasing unpopularity of George Bush, the conditions have never been more ripe, arguably, for a third party run to break the mould of American politics. When Ross Perot entered the race in February, he quickly gained ground, and column inches, with his populist agenda that has captured so much attention. Far from your typical conservative, Perot is a gay rights supporting, pro-abortion, pro gun control candidate, leading a crusade against wasteful government spending and the NAFTA treaty he hates so much, claiming it will lead to a massive exodus of manual, working class jobs down to Mexico. Perot’s campaign has not been a traditional one. His public appearances have been rare, instead choosing to air “infomericals” of up to half an hour on public television, leaving his running mate Howell Heflin to pound the ground and campaign door to door, especially in the South, and in Steel Belt states in the Midwest and North East, where deindustrialisation threatens the jobs Perot has promised to protect. His top target, however, is his home state of Texas, worth 32 electoral votes, a powerful number if neither candidate wins a majority of 270. If he can hold the balance of power in the Electoral College, he can extract concessions, and potentially drive the next President in a far different direction from what either Richards or Perot have promised.

In the end, with all the speculation and analysis, the race is far from over. It will be the month of October, with two presidential debates and no doubt an “October surprise”, that will decide the course of America, and how November 3rd will play out.

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