|Is Europe 'Off Limits' for Debate?|
On her Facebook page, the Thanet South MP writes: "I am extremely disappointed that Thanet’s Labour Councillors, including Parliamentary Candidate for South Thanet Will Scobie, have voted to block a council debate on the EU Referendum. Thanet residents deserve a choice on the EU. Not only have Labour Councillors made clear that they are absolutely against giving them that choice, they won't even allow an open and democratic debate on the issue."
Earlier, the Conservatives had issued a press release that expressed concern that Clive Hart's Labour administration had "Dismissed discussion on Europe as a ‘stunt’, the Labour Party, whose policy is to not allow the people of Britain a referendum on Europe, denied Thanet’s elected members their chance to debate this issue of huge public interest."
Why the fuss? Thanet is unusually polarised over the European question at the moment. The county elections this year showed very clearly, through electing UKIP councillors across the island, that the EU was a powerful factor shaping people's opinions and yet, as Laura Sandys comments, the single surviving Labour county councillor and prospective parliamentary candidate for South Thanet, voted a firm "No" to any debate, in a recorded vote on Thursday evening, supported by all his Labour colleagues.
I say 'All' but there was a brief moment of theatre, when young Scobie's partner, Jodie Hibbert's name was called to vote on Julie Marsen's motion of a debate on support for a European referendum or not. "Yes" she said in a firm voice. in quite possibly the first sound we have heard from her in Council since she was elected to my own ward of Westgate.
This caused a brief uproar on the Labour side of the chamber as councillors realised what she had done, as you will soon be able to enjoy from the video of the meeting. Moments later, having realised her awful mistake and having turned several shades of pink, she changed her vote to a more falsetto 'No' causing a ripple of amusement on the Conservative side and a request to the Chair that only her first vote be recorded.
It was not to be, despite Cllr Hibert's brief loss of concentration. Labour narrowly won the vote and as I wrote in my last entry, Europe is firmly off limits for any discussion, as long as we have a Labour administration in Thanet.
This of course leaves a large purple and yellow striped elephant sitting firmly in the centre of Thanet politics, openly visible, to everyone it seems but the Labour group. The reason of course is that Ed Miliband's Westminster policy, like that of the LibDems, is one of liberal immigration, closer ties with Europe and greater political integration with Brussels, quite the opposite in fact of what an increasingly larger proportion of the public, here in Thanet and elsewhere want.
Here in Thanet, we simply cannot avoid the discussion of migration, regardless of the fascist jibes thrown at local politicians who try. We know, demographically, what is happening locally, we know where it is happening and from the passing remarks of a senior police officer in the Council chamber on Thursday, we expect our shrinking local authority resources to be further strained in the New Year. This is no different to the experience of Hastings or Dover or many other equally struggling authorities around the country. If we can't discuss any part of this existing and impending challenge in the Council chamber, simply because it's politically incorrect, then where does this leave us after January, once the immigration rules have been further relaxed for the new accession states?
The feelings at Westminster on this subject are equally strong. Last night, Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi commented on remarks made by James Morris a key member of Ed Miliband's strategy unit‘This shows the contempt Labour and Ed Miliband have for the public. They don’t want to hear people’s views about immigration. 'Instead they want to censor and shut down any sensible and rational debate on an extremely important subject.'
With all this in mind, I would value my reader's opinions. Leaving the primary subject of a future EU referendum aside, should the rapidly changing demographic nature of parts of Thanet and associated financial and social pressures, be a non-subject for discussion or should we have been allowed to debate this and the broader pressing issues, all very much relating to a growing public interest in renegotiating the terms of UK membership with Brussels?
You tell me?