20 April 2008

Long haired freaky people need not apply

The Referendum Commission launched their new Lisbon Treaty website today. The website does not advocate either a 'Yes' or a 'No' vote, but is supposed to be a one-stop-shop for anyone looking for information on the Treaty. Unfortunately the site is pretty lightweight, skimming the surface of the Treaty and it's proposed changes, and is not that well designed in terms of usability of layout - it even has embedded Excel tables!

Set-up by John Gormley, the Green Environment Minister, the Referendum Commission is an independent body with a €5 Million budget to promote the Referendum and encourage voter participation. I hope they didn't spend too much of that on the website.

The Government, actively encouraging a 'Yes' Vote, will soon be sending out a 48 page guide to all households in the country, and I can't wait to see how they manage to fill all those pages with the same lack of information that has characterised every other aspect of the campaign so far.

One sad bit of news that I noted during the week was the assault on Proinsias De Rossa, former Democratic Left leader and current Labour MEP, after a Treaty debate hosted by the Labour Party. I have a soft spot for Pronsios although many will never forgive him for winding up Dem Left and merging with Labour back in 1999. Although the party ceased to be many years ago, it's influence is still felt today as Labour leadership since 2002 has mainly been former Dem Left folks (Pat Rabitte, Liz McManus, Eamon Gilmore). Their support of the Lisbon Treaty, while currently a party in opposition, is seen by many as a betrayal of everything they've worked for over the last 16 years, and thus Pronsios was the subject of much heckling during the Treaty debate last week. His subsequent assault had more to do with left-wing infighting than over the Lisbon Treaty.

That is always the problem of the Left, for rare are the days that they can produce a unified front, and most groups are more interested in fighting each other than combating globalisation or really supporting workers rights. I recently picked up an amazing book at a second-hand book fair, "The Activist's Handbook" by Bob Houlton, a guide for UK Trade Union activists from 1975, which contains many gems like this:
"Beware of committees made up of people from widely different educational or class backgrounds. In such a committee people are often determined to assert their individuality and emphasise differences. This they justify by references either to 'fundamental principles' or to the people they claim to represent outside the committee. The only solution is to 'lean on' them until they either conform or leave."
Despite what it says the Left finds it very hard to tolerate diversity. Almost every activists' meeting I've ever attended either starts with, or descends into, a recriminatory farce of People's Front of Judea vs Judean People's Front proportions.

All of which makes it very difficult for me to work up the enthusiasm to get off my backside and go out and actively campaign in this Referendum. That and the fact that even if there is a 'No' vote, the government will just run the whole thing over again until we get it right.

Links
Referendum Commission Lisbon Treaty Site
Bob Houlton's "The Activist's Handbook"

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