15 MARCH 1975, Page 13

Personal column

Humphry Berkeley

I confess that I do not understand the hysterical reaction which appears to have taken grip of most of those who oppose the referendum on the Common Market. Since I am writing in The Spectator whose views have been clearly and trenchantly expressed in favour of Britain's Withdrawal from the Community, I must state that I am, and have been consistently, a Pro-Marketeer ever since the European Free Trade Area negotiations broke down at the end Of the 1950s. The Free Trade Area would, in my view, have produced the best result for Britain. Many of those who oppose the referendum do so because it might produce the wrong result; wrong, that is, from their point of view. I find this an immoral and unacceptable argument because it can, and logically should, be used against ever having a popular vote about anything and would rule out even general elections. Then there are those, including Sir Jock Colville, former private secretary to Sir Winston Churchill, who see in a referendum the end of parliamentary government. Of course if we were to have a referendum several times a Year about any subject that comes to mind this would be so. The suggestion of Sir Michael Havers, the former Conservative SolicitorGeneral, that there should be a referendum on hanging, apart from being quite extraordinarily Silly coming from a former law officer, would Certainly give weight to the fears of Sir Jock Colville and his friends, as would referenda on abortion ' law reform, divorce reform, or any Other scicial issues which are normally subject to a free vote of Members of Parliament.

Special case

The Common Market is, however, a special case and since I argued in favour of a referendum in 1969 when both the present Prime Minister and Mr Heath were opposed to it, I feel entitled to state it. The transfer of Power from London to Brussels was a major Constitutional change unprecedented in our history. Had we had, which we do not but ought to have, a written constitution, such a dramatic surrender of legislative authority from Westminster would almost certainly have required a special vote of consent, beyond a bare parliamentary majority; and a referendum is at least One of the means that the writers of a constitution might have chosen. When Mr Heath won the 1970 general election, he declared that his mandate was "to negotiate and no more." He further stated that he would not take Britain into Europe without the wholehearted consent of the British People." In the end Britain entered Europe through a series of parliamentary measures With, in some cases, a majority of less than ten on a three-line whip.

I have never thought that a general election could settle the matter. The internal divisions Within the Conservative and Labour parties on the Common Market issue are so obvious that the argument need not be developed any turther. How else can Mr Heath's own pledge of Obtaining (or failing to obtain), the wholehearted consent of the British people be tested? Those who believe in electoral reform and rightly draw attention to the injustice of six million Liberal votes in a general election securing less than fifteen parliamentary seats, tshould welcome a referendum under which here is to be not only one man one vote, but, uniquely in the United Kingdom, one vote one value, I look forward to the campaign with

keen anticipation and so, I know, does The Spectator.

Political broadcasts

I have always hated party political broadcasts. I have never understood why the party organisations have fought for them so jealously. When I was a Conservative Party official and later a Conservative MP, ours created in me such a feeling of hostility through their sheer advertising crudity that I instinctively wanted to join the other side. Although I believe that my political career has been consistent I cannot deny a certain mobility as to party. Indeed at one time I may have been technically a member of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party at the same time. My annual subscription to the Labour Party was received before my annual subscription to the Conservative Party had expired even though I had resigned. I never watch Labour Party political broadcasts in case I should have the same feeling in reverse.

Quite by accident, last week I saw the Conservative commercial which launched Margaret Thatcher. I was waiting for the 9 pm television news and after a few minutes of watching, with growing irritation, I switched off the set thinking that I might just as well watch ITV's News at Ten. To my surprise when I switched on at 10 pro there was Margaret 'Thatcher again. This time I turned off the sound and waited until News at Ten started before restoring it. It was like a silent film without the dubbing. I played the game of trying to guess what an onlooker would think it was, deprived of the sound. We saw Margaret (1 am not being familiar, I danced with her on my twenty-first birthday), immaculately dressed in a series of suitable well-cut costumes, her honey-coloured hair silky yet firm, without a wisp out of place. She looked in one direction and then another; she was seen indoors and out, and always the hair was perfectly groomed. It could only be, I decided, a commercial for "New superfine hair spray — special hold for fine hair" and its user did it proud.

Spades and shovels

I have always been irritated at verbal pretensions and their users. I find it tiresome when people say "at this moment of time" instead of "now," or "the answer is in the affirmative" rather than "yes." I have always found it ludicrous when people think it somehow indelicate to refer to natural bodily functions. I was recently shown round a brand new primary school by a proprietorially proud headmistress. She conducted me, with more than a hint of a swagger, around almost blindingly light and spotlessly clean classrooms. We saw gleaming kitchens where lunches were prepared, a gymnasium of which a budding olympic athlete would have been proud. Finally we walked along a white hygienic corridor where my nostrils picked up the abrasive but not displeasing odour of Harpic. Doors were opened and a row of washbasins and lavatories were revealed; the doors of the latter were so low that they did not come much above my waist. "And this," she said, "is where we attenc: to the toileting of the little ones." "You mean this is where they go to the lavatory," I intervened. Her nose crinkled with distaste. "I suppose you could call it that," she retorted. But why call it anything else?