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I vote this poll a total waste of time

PUBLISHED: 11:58 24 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

LAST time the people of Britain were asked to vote in a referendum, I was a few weeks too young to vote. It is not exactly a regular feature of our lives.

LAST time the people of Britain were asked to vote in a referendum, I was a few weeks too young to vote. It is not exactly a regular feature of our lives.

Mostly, our national democracy consists of putting a cross on a paper once every four or five years. We must then trust the elected representatives of our elected representatives - and, often, the non-elected representatives of them - just to get on with the business of ruling.

We are not asked whether Mr Brown should raise or lower taxes. We are not asked whether students should pay higher fees, or none. We are not asked if we want the NHS to have more managers than doctors or nurses.

We were not even asked if we wanted war with Iraq.

We are expected to accept that Mr Blair and his pals know and do what is best for us - even when we know it isn't.

So why, exactly, are we now expected to know a good European constitution from a bad one?

The question is surely way too complicated for ordinary folk like you and me to understand.

And there's another odd thing about Blair choosing to put this particular issue to the vote. He's almost certain to lose.

The referendum, when it comes, won't actually be about whether Britain should be in Europe or not - but that's the way the anti-Europeans will take it. That's a huge, possibly decisive, No vote guaranteed before the arguments even begin.

It will only take a small proportion of the pro-Europeans to quibble with the exact wording of the proposed constitution and its defeat is inevitable.

It almost makes you wonder whether Blair doesn't secretly want us out of Europe so we can cosy up even closer to America - as the 51st state, perhaps?

HERE are some inspiring words - fit to rank with Kipling's poem If as a motivation to sporting heroes.

"The darkest moments of our lives are not to be buried and forgotten, rather they are a memory to be called upon for inspiration to remind us of the unrelenting human spirit and our capacity to overcome the intolerable."

These words were uttered not by a great poet, nor even a management guru, but by a top football coach. They may help England to glory at this summer's European Championship.

They have certainly got under the skin of one of our players - literally.

At 24, Jonathan Woodgate has known some dark moments. Even if he brought many of them on himself, he has done well to put them behind him and become one of England's finest defenders.

Unfortunately, he's also put those inspiring words behind him. They are tattooed on his back.

It's probably the only place they'd fit - you could hardly get all that lot on your knuckles. But it must make them difficult to read.

Even so, he says the words give him inspiration each time he takes the field.

Of course, they're not the words of Woodgate's Newcastle United boss Bobby Robson.

They come from American football coach Vince Lombardi, legendary former chief of the Green Bay Packers.

Lombardi once famously opened a team talk by holding up a ball and explaining: "Gentlemen, this is a football."

You could never imagine the genial Sir Bobby being as cutting as that - any more than he'd come out with anything as meaningful as Lombardi's stuff about the human spirit.

Mind you, the wit and wisdom of Robson deserves its own chapter in a book of sporting quotes.

It would have to include this week's corker: "We're sitting on a slight time bomb."

IT'S nice to know the press can still wield real power in an intelligent and useful way.

No, I'm not talking about the Beckhams again, but about reporter Bob Woodward.

Thirty years ago he uncovered the Watergate conspiracy and so ended Richard Nixon's presidency. Now he's been behind Washington's closed doors again.

People may not be surprised to learn George W Bush was planning war in Iraq earlier than he said he was. It may be no shock that Tony Blair egged him on.

But now these, and other damaging revelations, come with the Woodward stamp of authority.

It seems the old hack's new book, Plan of Attack, might be another slight timebomb in the White House.


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