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"The linchpin of democratic consent"

About the author

A freelance writer and editor based in London, J Clive Matthews is Managing Editor of openDemocracy's EU and deliberative democracy blog, dLiberation.

In the real world he has co-authored two books and edited numerous others (ranging in subject-matter from movies to modern Russian politics), been acting editor on a glossy history and travel magazine, editorial consultant for a big name women's magazine, a freelance news editor for AOL UK, worked in both the House of Commons and the European Commission, and contributed to publications as diverse as Starburst and the Times Literary Supplement.

Best known as Nosemonkey online, he has been blogging about British and European politics daily for several years both at his own blog and sites like The Sharpener, General Election 2005 (now defunct), AgoraVox, France 24 and the Washington Post / Newsweek's Postglobal, as well as about movies for the BBC, and has been shortlisted for blog awards by the likes of the Guardian, Deutsche Welle International and the Weblog Awards, amongst others.

William Hague

So the Tories have decided to play to the anti-EU gallery once again, with former leader William "seven days to save the pound" Hague, in his capacity as shadow Foreign Secretary, promising the Conservative Party Conference that the Tories would bring in legislation not just for a referendum on the EU reform treaty, but also that "the next Conservative Government will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that if any future government agrees any treaty that transfers further competences from Britain to the EU, a national referendum before it could be ratified would be required by law."

All nice populist stuff, if you believe the current polls showing majority support for a referendum in the UK, and if you think that following Thatcher's lead once again is likely to prove fruitful for the Tories (what would that be, fourth time lucky after the similar failed tactics of Hague, Duncan Smith and Howard?).

But enough of the Tories' past problems over the EU - they're not the only ones this time, with a whole buch of Labour types also supporting calls for a referendum, from Tony Benn to Keith Vaz.

What's really interesting about Hague's speech is the justification for not handing more power to Brussels - he wants an EU that "can never replace the just claim of national government to be the linchpin of democratic consent".

How is the nation state "the linchpin of democratic consent", exactly? Especially in the UK, with the abysmally outdated first-past-the-post system that ensures that control of the House of Commons can rest on a mere handful of marginal constituencies and the vast majority of people's votes simply don't count...

I've been planning a few posts on the role of the nation state in individual political identity with regards to the EU for a while - expanding on ideas mentioned by Jon in his post earlier today - it now looks like Mr Hague has just given me an ideal opportunity. More to follow shortly...


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