Labour leader Ed Miliband is said to be considering including a promise to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union in his party’s election manifesto.
When Parliament voted on holding such a referendum in October last year, Labour MPs were ordered to vote against it.
But many broke ranks and backed a referendum – including London backbencher Jon Cruddas, who has now been appointed head of Labour’s policy review (replacing Birmingham MP Liam Byrne).
Mr Miliband, who struggled to impress when he first became Labour leader, has won the right to be taken seriously.
It was once hard to imagine him ever becoming Prime Minister. But he showed good judgment over issues such as the phone hacking scandal, while David Cameron is presiding over an increasingly shambolic government.
So I hope he’s not tempted by siren voices pushing the case for a referendum.
It would be a smart political move in the sense that it would divide the Tories. Those Conservative backbenchers who also want a ballot would demand to know why Labour was prepared to offer a referendum while their own party denied the public a voice.
But it would be a dumb thing for a Government to do – at least, a Government which wants the UK to remain within the EU, which a future Labour government presumably will.
There’s no point holding a referendum for something which you actually oppose, like leaving the EU.
Promising a referendum would look like the actions of an opposition leader – not a future Prime Minister.
Some supporters of a poll claim it would end arguments about Britain’s relationship with the EU once and for all. But this is nonsense.
Despite the apparent growth in support for UKIP, the real debate is not about whether to leave entirely but about whether the EU should foster greater co-operation between independent states or whether it should take on the role of an overarching federal state in its own right. An in-out referendum won’t solve that argument.