Richard North, 02/02/2005  

According to George Jones, political editor of the Telegraph, Blair is considering delaying a referendum on the EU constitution, making Britain being the last of the 25 EU member states decide whether to adopt the constitution.

Jones points to the recent Telegraph poll which indicated that Mr Blair faces an enormous challenge in trying to turn round public opinion. We are told that his thinking now is that Britain should wait until September next year, by which time the rest of the member states will probably have approved the constitution.

The rationale is that if a big country such as France voted down the constitution, then it would effectively be dead and there would be no need for a UK referendum while, if all the other 24 member states backed the treaty, Blair would be able to argue that Britain risked being left behind.

This sounds plausible enough, but has all the hallmarks of political kite flying. However superficially attractive it might look, though, the downside is that a protracted campaign might introduce a "boredom factor" turning off voters and driving down the turnout, which could well favour the "no" campaign.

Also, with the Tories calling for an early referendum, it exposes Blair to the accusation of "running scared", which could be exploited by anti-constitution forces. And, of course, it would give the Blogger community another four months to spread the word.

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