The current fuss over a bill to require a referendum in 2017 misses the very first point that all law students learn in their first Constitutional Law session: no Parliament can be bound by the actions or predilections of any predecessor. So the proposed bill, whether it’s a private members bill or is government-sponsored, is entirely pointless.
When we use the word “Parliament”, we mean in essence the House of Commons as it is composed between general elections. It’s a rule that came about during ‘the English wars’ after Charles I was deposed and the Roundheads were keen not to be bound by the parliaments that he had thrown together to do his bidding before his demise. And it’s been like that ever since.
Anyway, back to the point. Why would Tory backbenchers want to introduce a bill that serves no purpose?
What’s really happening here is that the Tories are convinced that if they simply say that they will introduce a referendum bill after the next general election, voters on the doorstep won’t believe them. So they think that if they create a law that requires them to introduce such a bill after the election and they get back in, we’ll be convinced that they have no option but to introduce the referendum bill. Even though the bill now contemplated would, at that point, be unconstitutional and meaningless. And would be ignored were, lawks-a-mercy, Labour to get back in or the Lib Dems be involved in the next Government.
The usual Tory suspects really think you’ll fall for this. Because they really think you are that stupid.
Are you? Well, I guess we’ll see when this issue is debated in the run-up to the next election…