Rule one: everybody must agree

The real purpose of the pro-Europe alliance is to stifle democracy, believes Tony Benn

The announcement that "new Labour" is now totally committed to the single currency and that public money is to be poured into preparing for entry has transformed the parliamentary scene. Last week, the Prime Minister pledged himself to work closely with Michael Heseltine and Paddy Ashdown to push this project through. What he himself called a patriotic alliance is being formed which, for all practical purposes, will be developed and consolidated to cover almost every major issue. Ramsay MacDonald did the same thing out of weakness; the Prime Minister is doing it from a position of strength.

It means that the real issue that will dominate British politics for the next decade is whether democracy can survive against a barrage of political propaganda designed to prove that we cannot afford it, we do not need it and it will damage our economic prospects.

Voters will be faced with a coalition stretching right across the political spectrum. If they do vote for entry in the referendum, parliament will be killed and the central economic decisions transferred to bankers in Frankfurt who cannot be removed through the ballot box.

In future, any elected government will be prohibited by the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty from even seeking to influence the Central Bank in the key decisions it takes. I have long believed that the rich and powerful see democracy as a threat, which is why, for centuries, they resisted universal adult suffrage. Now they have united to sidetrack it. In short, it is not that the advocates of the single currency are reluctantly sacrificing democracy for some supposed economic advantage, but that they want a bankers' Europe in order to destroy democracy.

The second example of this has emerged from the way in which the so-called reform of the House of Lords has been put forward. The hereditary peers, having elected 91 of their members, will find that the people they have chosen will then be ennobled again by the Prime Minister and made life peers.

But to balance the House more evenly, the Prime Minister will then feel free to appoint another 90 or so life peers, thus bringing the level of patronage up to a scale that rivals or exceeds that of a medieval monarch. Those Labour MPs, like myself, who voted for an amendment that would end patronage of all kinds have been asked for an explanation of their vote by the whips and we shall all be expected to go along with the strategy for what is called a "transitional house".

Meanwhile, Lord Wakeham is to chair a Royal Commission rushing through a report by Christmas, supposedly to produce a completely new House of Lords which will replace the transitional house within the next few years. The one thing that is clear is that "new Labour" is determined not to have an elected second chamber in case democracy were to reappear from an unexpected quarter.

Within "new Labour", the process of vetting and selection and exclusion is going on apace with Ken Livingstone to be ruled out as a possible Labour candidate for the Mayor of London even if the overwhelming majority of members of the London Labour Party want him to stand.

In Wales, huge pressure was put on to defeat Rhodri Morgan and some of the unions that had voted for one member, one vote refused to ballot their members. Thus, the Prime Minister's own candidate won and has been set up to lead a new assembly that was supposed to be a monument to the devolution of power from London to Cardiff.

The same has happened in Scotland where Dennis Canavan, a distinguished, long-serving Labour MP who advocated devolution well before it was official Labour policy, has been found by a secret vetting committee to be quite unsuitable to be a candidate, even if the Scots want him.

And in the European elections, the electors have been told that they cannot any longer vote for candidates but only for party lists which have been pre-vetted by the National Executive Committee from the Millbank Tower and who have even been put in order on the list to ensure that the favourites win.

Now that the Prime Minister has made his statement about the euro and committed "new Labour" candidates to that cause, the European elections acquire a completely new significance. For they will, in reality, be the first round of the referendum campaign. Anyone who votes "new Labour" in those elections will be voting for Britain to enter the single currency as soon as the Prime Minister is ready.

And to complete the picture, the City of London last week promoted a bill that would restore the business vote. Wealthy companies in the City could appoint electors in proportion to their wealth to guarantee that the City of London Corporation and the Lord Mayor could never be threatened by the residents who live there by swamping the electoral register with absentee voters, paid for in hard cash.

I do not know how this story will end, but of one thing I am absolutely certain. If people stand by and let it happen they will be actively collaborating in the recreation of the worst aspects of feudalism that the Levellers and the Diggers, the trade unionists and socialists, the Chartists and the Suffragettes spent centuries seeking to replace to give us the vote, the welfare state, social justice and trade union rights.

We had better be aware that removing the welfare state, abandoning social justice, clipping the wings of the trade unions and undermining the rights of the voters is the main motivation of the patriotic alliance that is now being formed.

Next Article