No democracy please, we’re MPs: parliament approves EU consti-treaty

Oh, you knew it would happen. Come on, did you really think that enough Labour MPs would have the balls to defeat Brown?

The Illiberal Undemocrats were totally opportunistic – new neo-con leader Clegg whipped them into abstaining from the vote on having a referendum on the consti-treaty. As a result

The Tories were just as opportunistic, refusing to back the Illiberals’ plan for a “in/out” EU vote, and challenging the government safe in the knowledge they would not win. (Don’t be taken in by the talk of Cameron being dragged along by Euro-sceptic backbench MPs – he’s a Euro-federalist, no mistake.)

So despite 88% backing a referendum in experimental polling, a clear majority in all other surveys and polls, and various direct action protests, parliament voted to deny the sovereignty of the people…

From The Cardigan:

Labour rebels were tonight defeated in their attempt to force the government to “keep a promise” to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

But in an unexpected turn of events, a separate Tory amendment received virtually the same level of support as the Labour call for a referendum.

While the Labour amendment was defeated by a majority of 64 (311 against, 247 for), the Tory amendment was defeated by 63 votes (311 to 248).

To the embarrassment of Gordon Brown, the result suggests a number of Labour rebels backed the Tory bid to have a referendum, as well the one tabled by Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow South West.

While the Tory proposal favoured a straightforward referendum, Davidson’s amendment set out measures to put in place a referendum on the Lisbon treaty and also allow the possibility of another referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The results put to rest an issue which has caused bitter divisions within both the Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

MPs in both parties are uncomfortable with their leader’s insistence that respective manifesto commitments to hold a referendum were null and void because the promise had been made on the basis of the constitution, not the EU treaty which replaced it after the constitution was abandoned.

About two dozen Labour MPs and 10 Liberal Democrats had been expected to defy their respective leaderships and vote in favour of a referendum, amid a series of polls which suggest widespread public support.
Speaking in the debate earlier today, Davidson told MPs they were “honour bound” to hold a referendum.

He said: “If we want to stop the disillusionment and cynicism about politics, we’ve got to recognizes that the people out there expect us to keep our promises when we make them and that’s why, on this side of the House, I believe we are honour bound to abide by our commitment to a referendum.”

But foreign secretary David Miliband said there were “big differences”. The structure of the constitution abandoned all previous treaties that governed the EU, but the Lisbon Treaty did not,”he said.

“Secondly, in respect of a range of policies, notably on justice and home affairs, the content is different.

“Thirdly, in respect of the consequences, the constitutional treaty was alleged by many Tory MPs to be a slipway to a superstate.

“Under the Lisbon Treaty … there is an agreement there shall be no further institutional reform for the foreseeable future.

“So in structure, and in content, and in consequence this is different.”

In his first real test of leadership, Nick Clegg saw a number of Lib Dems defy a three line party whip to abstain on the amendments.

Three of his front bench are already believed to have quit their post to vote with the Tories for a referendum.

David Heath, the justice spokesman, Tim Farron, the countryside spokesman, and Alistair Carmichael, the Scotland and Northern Ireland spokesman, were among the most senior MPs to indicate they would rebel.

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Minimum wage increase not enough – living wage needed!

Good news and bad news in one: the minimum wage will rise by 3.8% from £5.52 to £5.73 an hour.

For 18 to 21-year-olds the rate will be £4.77, up from £4.60, while 16 to 17-year-olds will get £3.53, up from £3.40.

So, the good news is, it’s going up.

The band news is, it’s not high enough to be a living wage.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, wanted to see the rate increase to more than £6.

“This rise is well below current RPI inflation and projected pay increases, which both stand at 4.1%,” he said.

“At a time when inequality is rising up the political agenda and business leaders are awarding themselves record pay rises, the lowest-paid workers continue to slip back. This cannot continue.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “There is no doubt that this increase will benefit thousands of working people.

“However, it falls short of its aim to protect the poor from the constant price rises in essentials like fuel, food and housing.

“A much more realistic figure would be a minimum wage of £6.75 an hour, which would lift many more families out of poverty and off means-tested benefits.”

The GMB’s General Secretary Paul Kenny was quick to issue this comment:

“In view of the rising prices of food, energy, water, transport and travel this increase is not enough to meet the additional bills much less help meet the higher tax bills that will result from the abolition of the lower tax rate of 10% in April 2008 for those on the minimum wage. The living standards of the lowest paid will fall behind again. GMB would have wanted to see at least another 10 pence per hour so that the living standards of the lowest paid in the UK could at least stand still.

GMB policy is that the National Minimum Wage should be moved up to £7 per hour to become a living wage.”

The Morning Star‘s editorial repeats Kenny’s point that

Mr Brown’s Robin-Hood-in-reverse move to abolish the 10 per cent lower income tax rate for the lowest paid will all but wipe out the measly minimum wage increase.

The Tote(mic) privatisation

This story demonstrates two things: 1, New Labour’s slavish devotion to privatisation and antipathy to public ownership; 2, the erosion of sovereignty represented by the supremacy of EU law, something which is accepted without question. (It’s also a story of interest to my blogging comrade, the journalist Neil Clark, a supporter of public ownership and a fan of horse-racing.)

The state-owned bookmaker, the Tote, is to be sold on the open market, the government has said.
It turned down a bid from a racing consortium because the offer was lower than the £400m price tag.

The sale could not go ahead under EU rules, because the bid was below its independently assessed value.

Betting firm Coral has told the BBC it would be interested in bidding, but the Racehorse Owners Association says the Tote must stay within racing.

The minister for sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, said the government had declined the racing consortium’s offer with “great regret”.

The Racehorse Owners Association, who were part of the association bidding to buy the Tote, expressed concern it may now be sold to a commercial bookmaking company.

“The announcement… should mark the time when everyone in racing backs a campaign to keep the Tote within racing,”

“It is not acceptable to have a bookmaker owning the Tote, especially with a seven-year exclusive pool-betting licence,” president Paul Dixon said.

Bingo and betting firm Gala Coral said it was the government’s decision to open up the sale and confirmed it would be interested in bidding.

“The opportunity to buy the Tote would be welcomed,” Coral spokesman Simon Clare told the BBC.

When the Tote is successfully sold off, half the proceeds of the sale will go to the racing industry.

Manifesto promise

The sale of the Tote is part of the government’s plan to end its direct involvement in the administration and financing of racing.

The government made a commitment to sell it in its 2001 election manifesto.

“The Government promised in 2001 that the proceeds of the Tote would go to racing,” shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said

“After seven years, they are now effectively back to square one.”

The Tote, or Horserace Totalisator Board, was founded by Winston Churchill in 1928. It was intended as a safe haven for punters, controlled by the state, and beyond the reach of illegal bookmakers.

It employs more than 4,000 staff and has a major presence on all of Britain’s racecourses.

HOW THE TOTE WORKS
* The winner is paid according to the size of the stake in the pool
* The Tote subtracts expenses and tax then pays the remainder equally among winning tickets
* The greater the number of winning tickets, the lower the payout to each winner
* Last-minute backing of a particular horse can dramatically change payouts
* The pot increases with the volume of bets, so if nobody wins, the jackpot rolls over
* There are no limits on prizes

Missing: war criminal turned “peace envoy” Tony Bliar

Snowball, whose blog Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism is always enjoyable, asks a pertinent question: “Where was Blair?” (Alas, he misspells Bliars name.)

The former UK Prime Minister has not been making a song and dance about the latest Israeli “incursion” into Gaza, despite his role as Middle East peace envoy for the Quartet (UN/US/EU/Russia).

Perhaps it is best that he keeps his mouth shut on this – I mean, “Tony Bliar” isn’t a name you associate with halting violence…

And what’s more, Bliar’s pivotal role in enabling the bloody “regime change” in Iraq might cause people to wonder about the US and UK governments – and the EU – support for Israel’s efforts to oust the democratically-elected Palestinian government – essential reading on which is “Engineering a coup in Gaza” by The Heathlander and David Rose’s Vanity Fair article, “The Gaza Bombshell“.