Mr Sheerman Indeedbut I found myself observing the way in which the various

Mr sheerman indeedbut i found myself observing the

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Mr. Sheerman: Indeed—but I found myself observing the way in which the various speakers in the debate reacted to each other’s contributions.
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I shall vote for the Bill tonight. I must confess—this is a confessional, is it not, for Members who have been around as long as I have?—that I originally voted against Europe in that referendum when we had a choice. It was a long time ago, when I was a callow youth, a young university teacher, and I got it wrong. The more experience I have had of politics, of being a politician and of being in this place, the more embarrassed I have felt about the fact that I got it wrong on that occasion. However, I have never liked referendums. I know that they have been described as a creature of Napoleon, but I believe that if we refer to antiquity we will find that certain Roman emperors used a form of referendum to get their own way, and I know that the Italians used them under Mussolini. In the Labour party, I blame Tony Benn. I had the room next to him in the House at one stage and I got on with him extremely well personally, but I never liked his politics, and his recounting of history through his diaries showed a world that I did not recognise and do not remember. I think that one of the great disservices that he did the Labour party was when he persuaded Harold Wilson, at a time when Harold Wilson was vulnerable to what was happening on the left of the party, into thinking that a referendum was the answer. During these debates I have heard many people say that it is all about expediency, but we, as parliamentarians, are politicians, and there have been times when I have 11 Mar 2008 : Column 229 seen all parties acting in a politically expedient way. The official Opposition might be doing that at present. I listened intently to the speeches on Second Reading and I was impressed by the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). He is the best entertainer and performer in the House at present; he is an outstanding debater. However, when I subsequently read the Second Reading speeches, and thought about them and took out the humour, I found that there was not much substance to tell me what his position was on Europe. From listening to or reading the contributions of the hon. Members for Stone (Mr. Cash) and for Aldridge-Brownhills and their group, I know precisely where they are coming from and what they believe; they articulate it passionately, although not always politely. I also know the position of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and that little group around him that represent that strong and remarkable tradition in his party of being both liberal-minded Conservatives and pro-European. I do not say this to make a political point, but I share some of their concerns that something is going on in the modern Conservative party and that prospective members who hold similar views to those of the right hon. and learned Gentleman are being screened out from standing for winnable constituencies. I do not know whether that is because of the
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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