Referendum Party papers of Angela Kilmartin

Scope and Content

Scrapbooks, publications and audio-visual material relating to the campaign of the Referendum Party both nationally and in the parliamentary constituency of Brentwood and Ongar.

Administrative / Biographical History

Angela Kilmartin stood as the Referendum Party candidate for the Essex constituency of Brentwood and Ongar in the 1997 general election. She came fourth with 2,658 votes (5.24%), the sitting Conservative MP, Eric Pickles, was elected with an overall majority of 9,690.

The Referendum Party was a Eurosceptic political party created by the businessman Sir James Goldsmith in November 1994. Its single purpose was "to obtain a full debate on Britain's future within Europe, followed by a referendum" - once that objective had been achieved the party would be disbanded. Supporters argued that the mandate from the 1975 referendum was no longer valid, as the role of the EU was seen to have changed from a common trading market to a 'federal superstate'. The Referendum Party argued that the 1997 general election would be the last opportunity for the British public to opt to leave the European Union, before proposals to increase the EU's powers came into effect. The Party's proposed question for the referendum was "Do you want the United Kingdom to be part of a federal Europe or do you want the United Kingdom to return to an association of sovereign nations that are part of a common trading market?".

The Referendum Party played an active role during the 1997 general election campaign - fielding candidates in 547 constituencies (then the largest number of candidates fielded by a minor political party), mounting numerous rallies (including one at Alexandria Palace in April 1997, which attracted an estimated 7,000 people), and distributing video tapes to over 5 million households - the first propaganda exercise on such a scale. Despite almost equalling the financial outlay of the Labour Party, the Referendum Party only received a 2.6% share of the total national vote, finishing fourth overall.

The party (renamed the Referendum Movement after the general election) lost much of its momentum after the death of Sir James Goldsmith, its most prominent supporter and largest financial backer, in July 1997. The Referendum Movement merged in 1999 with the Euro Information Campaign to form the Democracy Movement - a pressure group with the motto 'Europe yes, EU no'.

[Sources include: Barberis, McHugh and Tyldesley, 'Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organisations' (Continuum, 2000)]

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

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