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by RAY FLEMING
DURING Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, the Conservative MP Ann Winterton asked whether it was right that British troops were fighting to establish democracy in Afghanistan while the Prime Minister was destroying it in Britain. Two questions for the price of one! If she had tried harder she might have been able to work in a reference to identity cards. I don't think I have ever seen that noble word “democracy” so abused as it has been in relation to the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Headlines have screamed “A Shaming Day For Democracy” and the Times cartoonist Peter Brookes showed Gordon Brown saying “Democracy!” to Mugabe, Ahmadinejad and Putin but shrugging his shoulders when looking at a piece of paper marked “Referendum”. Because Mr Brown has refused a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty he is accused of demeaning democracy. Additionally, or alternatively, he is accused of defying democracy by not honouring a Labour Party pledge to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution. Such charges are humbug. Referendums have no established place in British constitutional procedures; those who like them so much should go to live in Switzerland where they are held about everything. The Labour Party pledge concerned something that no longer exists; the Lisbon Treaty is a series of amendments to previous treaties, such as Maastricht etc, not a Constitution in its own right. In Britain, MPs are elected to act on behalf of their constituents, not to be by-passed by referendums. That's democracy.