Instead, the majority chose to put party whips before the people they claim to represent.
You are, I think, fatally mistaken Dr North.
To my mind it is self-evident that these three-line whips were never intended to discipline sceptics; so that they would be sufficiently fearful of consequences to their future careers so as not to vote with their consciences. (Cameron in particular, has been very careful indeed with respect to candidate selection in a House dominated by a sizeable new intake.)
No. They were intended as a convenient means by which the majority of MPs could hide their Euro-philia; from a public opinion all know is largely against such a sentiment. Or, to put it the other way around, hide their absolute terror at the prospect of having to actually do the job they are paid to do and run their own country.
Commentators and newspapers are full of opinions saying how the party leaders have "gaffed" in placing a three-line whip on a non-binding vote from a non-binding petition on a non-binding proposed referendum. That it was totally unnecessary, and over the top.
But this view underestimates the strategic thinking of Cameron and Miliband, I believe. They may be fools but they are not idiots. (Indeed, they probably cooked it up between them just like the AV vote.)
This way the majority of MPs, who are more than happy to indenture their constituents down to the fourth generation in order to bail out the Euro, can conceal this from their voters, and crucially, their local party associations and memberships and canvassers
. Thus the whole business of us having a referendum in our generation is happily strangled at birth. "Oh how I would have loved to have voted for a referendum, but the dastardly machinations of the whips and my party leadership prevented me from voting with my heart..."
In other words the three-line whips were never intended to head-off the possibility of a euro-sceptic parliamentary revolt, but rather their aim was to avoid demonstrating how out of touch the political class is with the public, by a clear underlining of how little support there is in parliament for exiting the EU.