Richard North, 24/05/2005  

I enjoyed the French Ambassador's rebuff in The Independent, who slapped down Denis MacShane's "patronising description" of French small towns "depending on low-cost flights and holidaying Britons for their survival" as "simply ludicrous" (offered in an opinion piece on 20 May).

Disagreeing with MacShane's assertion that the French will be voting on anything but the EU Constitution, Gerard Errera writes that, "if he knew France as he claims, he would have noticed that books on the EU Constitution have been topping the country's best-seller lists for weeks." He might have also have noticed "that a truly democratic and passionate debate about the future of the EU is going on across the Channel."

MacShane, though, is not on his own. Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a succession of pundits – mainly on the BBC – talking down the significance of the referendums, both in France and The Netherlands, claiming that the vote is (mainly) a popular expression of dissatisfaction on the respective governments.

It seems to me that the Euro-luvvies are looking for an alibi. If they can position any "no" results as simply "anti-government" votes, it makes it easier – they think – to call for fresh referendums.

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