I became involved with the eurosceptic movement at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, its negotiations, Major's "game, set and match", the painful debates in both Houses, the campaign for a referendum on the treaty and the disgraceful shenanigans, which ensured that the necessary legislation would pass. To have the man who could have stopped the whole process after the first Danish referendum but who, instead, insisted on a completely unnecessary Paving Motion, who bullied MPs into passing that, who then used every conceivable trick to get the votes and who ended the process by abusing the concept of "No Confidence", all the while participating in the bullying of the Danish people tell us:
This, he said, was an opportunity for a looser union and for the UK to repatriate control over parts of employment law, notably the Working Time Directive; financial services regulation; and control of Britain's fishing industry. EU leaders had to realise, he continued, that 27 member states could not operate in the same unified way as when there were much fewer members.does make one feel quite ill when not indulging in mirthless laughter. Incidentally, it was the Maastricht Treaty that finally enshrined the Common Fisheries Policy in treaty, thus making it impossible to change without unanimity. Furthermore, I do not recall Mr Major, as he then was, fighting particularly hard for the repatriation of control over the fishing industry.
Then there is Lord Hesketh. Ah yes, I remember him well. Simon Heffer seems to be very sympathetic to his Lordship's arguments about how bad the EU has been for the working people of this country. He is not wrong. But the same problem applies to him as it does to Sir John Major.
At the time of the Maastricht debates Lord Hesketh was Chief Whip in the Lords and, as such, exerted his formidable array of various weapons to get the legislation through. One sticking point was the question of a referendum. Again, I have to declare interest: I was heavily involved in the campaign to get their Lordships to vote through an amendment for a referendum on what was obviously a treaty that introduced important changes in the structure of what had been known as the European Community.
The motion was defeated. Lord Hesketh made sure by hiring a coach to bring many "backwoodsmen" in from the racing course; two thirds of a very full House voted against the amendment. It is a little odd to find out that one of Lord Hesketh's complaints is that the Prime Minister has ruled out a referendum on EU membership.
In St Luke's Gospel we read:
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.But politics is not heaven. Far from it. So, maybe, we should have a little explanation from Lord Hesketh as to why and when he changed his mind on these matters.