Tories in a mess on Europe. Again

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It’s quite extraordinary to see the contortions into which Cameron has got his Party over the John Baron amendment “regretting” the lack of an EU referendum Bill in the Queen’s Speech. First Downing Street was reportedly “relaxed” about Tory MPs — and Tory cabinet ministers — supporting the amendment.  It was even suggested, improbably, that Cameron himself might support it.  But the latest position is that Ministers (and PPS’s — the whole payroll vote) are being “advised” to abstain if they can’t bring themselves to oppose it.

In some circles the current fix is described as a “constitutional inanity”.  How could government ministers vote against their own programme?  I think this problem is exaggerated.  As Ministers in a Coalition, Tories may recognised that they are unable to do some things they would like to do.  They can surely omit a measure that Nick Clegg would have disallowed, but later regret that they were obliged to do so?  To insist on taking the concept of joint cabinet responsibility to its limit would suggest that Tory ministers cannot publicly disagree with Nick Clegg, which would be absurd.

Cameron is surely setting himself up for more embarrassment.  I should think that several — perhaps rather a lot — of the payroll vote will conclude that they cannot in all conscience vote against the amendment.  If Cameron disciplines them, his backbenchers, activists and members will be furious.  If he does not, he’ll look impotent.

Let’s remember that this is a Prime Minister who whipped his troops to vote against an EU referendum last time round.  This time, he’s reluctantly (and confusingly) calling on the payroll vote to abstain.  Under pressure from UKIP, he’s promised an EU referendum — this year, next year, sometime, never? — but he’s also said he’ll fight “tooth and nail” to keep Britain in the EU.  And he broke his previous “cast iron” referendum guarantee.  So much for our “Eurosceptic” Prime Minister.

Ed Miliband has hardly covered himself in glory.  Yesterday he said Labour would not offer a referendum (I was on BBC Radio Five Live talking about it last night).  He argued that voters were concerned about jobs and the cost of living, not the finer points of European Treaties.  Yet again he shows himself either ignorant or dishonest (perhaps both), since EU costs and regulation are damaging prosperity and job prospects, while EU policies drive up food and energy costs.  We can see the cost of EU membership every time we open an electricity bill.  Miliband might as well say that householders are worried about flooding, so we shouldn’t be talking to them about rain, or drainage.

Miliband no doubt thinks his clear stand on the issue will be contrasted favourably with Cameron’s ducking and weaving.  But he’s on the wrong side of political tactics, and the wrong side of history.  The referendum genie is out of the bottle, and he can’t put it back.  In just a year’s time, Miliband will be looking at the results of the 2014 euro-elections.  In all probability, UKIP will top the poll.  And if Labour is still holding out against an EU referendum, they may do rather badly.  Certainly if Labour goes in to the 2015 General Election still opposed to a referendum, they will lose.

Meantime the Lib-Dem position is interesting.  Nick Clegg remains on-message, still repeating the lie that “Three million British jobs depend on our EU membership”.  He knows this is not true, but the Lib-Dems have never been sticklers for accuracy.  But Vince Cable is moving to distance himself from Nick’s hard line.  “I think that is putting it in too extreme a way”.  What’s changed Vince’s mind? A change of heart?  Leadership ambitions? Electoral arithmetic?  Whatever it is, he seems a little closer to reality than Clegg.

But the fundamental reason why an EU referendum is on the agenda; why Tory backbenchers (including some who are not the “usual suspects”, but are terrified of losing their seats); why Tory activists are baying for action; why even Vince Cable is shifting his stance, is quite simply pressure from UKIP, and our amazing results in the local elections.  A UKIP vote is a wasted vote?  Of course not.  We’re setting the agenda and driving the debate.  Without a seat in Westminster (yet), we’re making the political weather.

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18 Responses to Tories in a mess on Europe. Again

  1. grumpydenier says:

    What’s changed Vince’s mind?

    Now he can see the accounts maybe he realises that the economic arguments don’t favour staying in the EU.

  2. Clegg has no compunction whatsoever about voting against the “partners”, even reneging on previously agreed moves.
    Cameron is finished,but they say the dead don’t know it.

  3. John Latham says:

    The referendum position is untenable for Tories. UKIP polled well in some local elections recently by setting out simply and clearly some key issues which they will campaign to introduce. What’s needed now is a simple detailed cost/benefit analysis of the in/out situation which the electorate can make a sensible judgement on and vote accordingly. Above all, we need leadership to effect this change and UKIP have such a leader, although having the common touch does not mean just sipping ale in every pub he passes. Let’s get the detail to the electorate now.

  4. Andrew Shakespeare says:

    I’d like Vince to explain this: http://www.libdemvoice.org/vince-cable-on-european-referendum-1609.html

    I loved John Baron’s comparison of David Camoron’s position with a golf-club member who tries to persuade the other members to take up tennis, having declared that he will continue to play golf should the other member choose to ignore him. Spot on, I think.

    A few days ago, Barosso declared his expectation that the federal European superstate would be accomplished within the next few years, including all 27 members, not just the Eurozone. And Cameron is going to persuade them to completely change the ambitions and work of half a century, to abandon the EU’s entire raison d’etre, at the eleventh hour, simply to accommodate Britain’s whims?

    I don’t think I’m “throwing in the towel”. I think Cameron’s delusional.

    • David says:

      Cam. delusional, agree, renegotiate, hes havin a larf.
      Barrososad will I trust never see his dream(Nightmare) realised.

  5. Jane Davies says:

    All three parties are demonstrating how out of touch with the people they are. Do they not read newspapers or the comments that accompany such articles? Do they not read the annotations on the “They Work For You” website? Do they not listen to people in the street who are sick and tired of shelling out £53 million a day to be dictated to by Brussels? They remind me of truculent little boys clamping their hands over their ears and saying la la la loudly so as not to listen. They fiddle while Rome burns…I just hope they all disappear in puff of smoke come the next election.

  6. Mike Spilligan says:

    I think that Miliband is no more trusted than is Cameron on a referendum promise, and in any case there are more hard-line, traditional Labour voters who would be disaffected, despite their party’s duplicitous past on this issue. As a UKIP member, I hope that the vetting of MEP candidates is very strict where former Tories who may think that “changing horses” at this stage is in their personal best interests.

  7. Chris says:

    Here is Dave trying to give an answer on an EU referendum with President Obama.

    • Scaredypants says:

      Had to stop watching at 1.21 because he angers me so much. Thinks we are fools

      • Jane Davies says:

        David Cameron resorting to smoke and mirrors again, which part of “we want out” does he not understand. As for Obama he was struggling for words….

      • Not sure why Obama feels he has to interfere in our status within the EU, particularly after his unhelpful and less than UK friendly remarks over, as he put it, ” the Malvinas”. He is really not a ‘friend’ we need to listen to, if he is prepared to blow hot and cold on the so-called ‘special relationship’. Of course, the fact remains that the UK is the biggest export market for EU goods, thus our position within Europe will be just as strong, and probably stronger, once we are finally out from the yoke of its burdensome bureaucracy and constant interference. We will certainly be more democratic once again

  8. I believe the Labour party have an unspoken strategy relating to any discussion on the EU. Just as Ed Miliband said voters are more interested in jobs and the cost of living, than the finer points of Europe, so Labour’s Stephen Twigg made the same spurious and disingenuous point on Radio 4’s ‘Any Answers’ on Friday evening. There appears to be a concerted effort by Labour to pretend unemployment, the economy, and the cost of living are matters totally unaffected by the EU. It seems that like Cameron, their duplicity knows no bounds

  9. David says:

    Correct Roger.

  10. Cameron IS a closet Liberal , otherwise he would long ago have put an end to the Lib-Dem tail wagging the Tory dog ! His idea of renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU is pie in the sky . He has already made his commitment to remain in the EU come what may as has been made clear in the media , so why try to con people to believe otherwise ? As for holding a referendum in 2017 ; should he still be in parliament at that time he will be no more than a back-bencher !
    As a lifelong Tory voter I will , in all future elections , be they local or national , be voting for UKIP. This because they hold more Tory core values than the current crop of Tories do . I make one proviso to this statement and that is , should UKIP think of joining Labour in a coalition move ( as muted some time ago in the press ) then that would be the end of my UKIP vote .I could not and would not , vote Labour if they were the last party on earth . I sincerely hope it won’t come to that . Nevertheless , all power to UKIP’s arm , you have shaken the major parties to their roots and long may you continue to do so .

    • I entirely concur with your sentiments James.

      Of course Cameron is now happy to offer a referendum, albeit more than a little late, and talk up his plans to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU, because he knows that without full agreement of all member states it will fail! Which of the newest eastern European states will vote to stop their gravy train, where they can not only relieve their unemployment and criminal problems by exporting them to western Europe, but they become net takers from the EU coffers, while their infrastructure is updated by UK taxpayers? It really is a no brainer

    • Thanks for the link Mike. I found some of the comments even more interesting than the fact that there is a group with Labour’s ranks agitating for a referendum on the EU, and I replied to one or two of them, as they were so annoying typical Labour!

  11. Correction to my input of May 13th @9.06pm .
    ( as muted some time ago in the press ) SHOULD READ ( as MOOTED in the press some time ago ). My apologies .

    Jim Hutchinson .

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