Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Spain votes yes to EU constitution

77% for, apparently. Of course, the ignorance of the constitution amongst the Spanish voters is just as high as it is in the UK. But they also know what it’s like to live under a genuinely totalitarian system, so may welcome the potential for EU-level safeguards (even if, in practice, they may mean very little). Oh, and the fact that Spain gets quite a bit (well, a lot) of money from Brussels may help as well, I suppose…

In short, this result was entirely predictable, and doesn’t really mean much in the grander scheme of things. Nonetheless, Barcepundit has all the information you could possibly require about the vote, and EU Referendum puts the expected Eurosceptic spin on the low turnout. Of course, a 40-odd percent turnout is indeed rather weak.

What would be more interesting would be to see how many of the people who voted have actually read the thing. I’d suspect significantly less than 1%… After all, in a vaguely related thingie (via Hispa Libertas, and a link to a moderately amusing comparison of the US and EU constitutions), and as I’ve said before, the US constitution is one of the finest political documents ever written; the proposed EU constitution is a rambling, confusing behemoth.

There is not a hope in hell that all – even a majority – of the people who voted in today’s Spanish referendum actually understood what it was all about. This is why you generally speaking don’t ask the average guy in the street to negotiate international treaties. Much as I’d prefer a qualified surgeon to be the one to poke around my insides with a sharp scalpel if I had to have an operation, I’d rather major decisions about international treaties were left to experienced statesmen and diplomats. Would you really have wanted Fred and Dora Ramsbottom from Harrogate to have been Britain’s representatives at the Yalta Conference? Would you have wanted Bert Entwistle from Dudley sat alongside Woodrow Wilson at Versailles? So why are we asking for their opinions about our latest international agreement? The mind boggles…

And yes, the fact that I am worried about how important decisions regarding this country’s future are going to be taken by people with little or no knowledge of the issues involved probably does make me both an intellectual snob and a prime example of the self-righteously smug arrogance of the pro-EU lobby.

(Oh, and ta to those of you who left kind words on my previous post. I wasn’t being overly serious – but it does seem that the bloggosphere needs a reality check every now and again. We’re just a bunch of politics geeks when it comes down to it, and are probably no more influential than that guy with the megaphone who rants on about Jesus down by Oxford Circus tube… Some of us, however, sometimes seem to take things too seriously and think we’re more important than we are – that’s all I was really getting at…)


  1. This post has been removed by the author.

  2. I would agree with your comment.

    The Eu Constitution is a very complicated situation (even an ardent EU fanatic like myself don't have a real grasp on what it is really about.)

    And that's what I hate about Referendums. They boil down a complicated situation into a one sentence question, asking the person who is voting to say yes or no.

    What makes me angry is that the lobby who campaigned for a referendum have turned into the No lobby.

  3. "This is why you generally speaking don't ask the average guy in the street to negotiate international treaties"

    That's right, generally, you just ask a proportion of the average guys in the street to take up arms to suppress the revolt, when the truth without and it all goes tits up

  4. Generally, you are correct that one should not ask the man in the street to act in the sphere of diplomacy.

    However, and this is where I believe your argument falls, this does NOT hold for a constitution. If we accept that the people must decide who will form their government, then it follows – logically and in most cases in practice – that they must be consulted about changes to the mechanism by which they are governed.

    This constitution is riddled with gradiose phrases of the form "the people of Europe". The people of Europe therefore require to say whether they concur with this document.

    The fact that the document is over 400 pages long and impenetrable does not mean that the people should not give their direct affirmation of it; on the contrary, it shows the dreadful nature of the document and the contempt its authors have for the people.

    Alun's complaint of Referenda is also a little wide of the mark. The problem arises not because they boil down to a single question, but electorates have a nasty habit of bringing other issues (notably their views on the government of the day etc) into the frame, rather than concentrating solely on the question at hand. That said, I agree with him that referenda are problematic whichever view you take.

    The issue therefore is about the manner in which politics is conducted. It is encumbent upon all the actors in this enterprise to be fair, honest, persuasive, whatever and to focus on the matter and issues at hand.

    Again, I would agree with him if, as I suspect he might, he were to say "Fat chance of that happening".

    Lastly, and more in line with your previous post, this is why your blog is important: it is only in this medium that generally uninformed, opinionated time-wasters like myself can actually test my points of views and see if they hold up to rational, vigorous debate.

    I believe that the blogsphere – nascent though it still may be – in the UK could go a long way to resurrect an "age of reason" and hold mendacious politicos of all shades to account.

  5. come now – totalitarian? Franco? you what?

    Now, Franco was a very bad customer, fit to make Pinochet look like Dennis Kucinich, but don't go throwing the "t" word around like that.

    I distinctly recall diplomatic panties getting in a collective twist a fortnight ago when Rice called Iran totalitarian.

    If Iran ain't it, neither was Spain. NB: Spain chose to sit out the (big) war, focusing on "caudilloism in one country," while Iran has repeatedly (and very recently) made crystal clear its readiness to unleash the gates of hell. common front and all.

  6. Alun – no arguments there.

    Anoneumouse – not really too many arguments there either. The man in the street is always used. And I wouldn't even count myself as a socialist…

    Hew – the thing to remember is that this isn't really a constitution – not by the sense by which that term is generally used. It's merely another treaty by a more grandiose name. A bloody complex treaty, perhaps, but a treaty nonetheless.

    Knenmon – I knew even as I typed it that someone would object to the use of the word "totalitarian". I assume, at least, that we can agree that Franco was fascist, and that being fascist is generally speaking a bad thing? (Iran, I will freely admit, I do not know enough about to categorise.)

  7. Nosemonkey:

    "this isn't really a constitution – not by the sense by which that term is generally used. It's merely another treaty by a more grandiose name. A bloody complex treaty, perhaps, but a treaty nonetheless."

    This is the crucial issue. I suspect that you are better qualified (see my previous comment…) to judge this, but my understanding is as follows:

    Yes, this is a treaty. At least it is at the moment. But that is not the whole story – as soon as it is ratified and comes into force, it does so as a constitution.

    And that is the key point. Once in force, it will treated by the ECJ etc as a constitution, not as a treaty. As a result, we should deal with it as a constitution NOW, on the basis that that is what it will be if it comes into force.

    This is the fiddle – that the document is actually just a complex intergovernmental treaty – that the ghastly Denis McShame is exploiting. (Sorry, nailing colours to the mast a bit there).

  8. Nasopithecus –

    Certainly, Fransisco Franco = Bad Man.

    I do think there's something to be said for reserving "totalitarian" for the very worst, though. Kind of like a standing ovation. Nazi Germany, Cambodia Year Zero, Iraq, North Korea – a certain diagnosis of malignancy. Very few, thank god, have we seen.

    (This may be the old american sin of distinguishing the "authoritarian" from the "totalitarian" – i.e. OUR son a bitch from the others)

    Spain is an interesting animal – simultaneously north african, mediterranean, western, and (let us never forget) home to one of the world's great diasporas/ empires/ what have you. also high water mark and ultimate flowering of islam's initial florescence.

    First witness to the beta versions of our worst tactics, it spent the next 50 years in a weird Brigadoon. Between Spain and eastern europe, a partnership of great use could be forged …