Cameron’s concession on the date of the EU referendum distracts from the more important issue of his attempt to scrap the pre-vote ‘purdah’ period. Effectively allowing a taxpayer funded stitch up in the weeks before the referendum.
Back during the original 2000 debate on purdah, Tory Shadow Leader of the House George Young said a period of neutrality was essential before a referendum:
“to enhance the status, credibility and integrity of the profession of politics… [and not] add to public cynicism about the political process”
The Neil committee recommendations on referendums – backed by the Tories – even insisted that:
“the government of the day in future referendums should, as a government, remain neutral and should not distribute at public expense literature, even purportedly ‘factual’ literature, setting out or otherwise promoting its case.”
Yet now the government say it is fine to use the might of taxpayer-funded state institutions to campaign for an ‘In’ vote.
There is speculation this morning that Labour will abstain if it comes to a vote today, following last week’s split where Hilary Benn favoured the government position but Harriet Harman backed joining the Tory rebellion.
No.10 now says it wants to “address people’s concerns” on purdah. Does that mean a second climbdown in 24 hours or will the stitch up remain?