Daving in European Waters
The next few weeks could make or break the PM. The speech made last week was certainly a turning point for the better, but only some days later fidgeting was witnessed amongst Conservative backbenchers – something the main mover (aka Adam Afriyie) of which the headlines surrounded, now denies ever being involved in. After such a defining speech, ruffling in the background must be a severe distraction for the remaining drive to destination still unknown.
What we do know about current trends is that it is most unlikely that Cameron will be able to negotiate with the EU the likes of trade-offs that this website might like to see… It is also quite likely that the Conservative leader will be dealt a firm European based slap to knock some sense into him because, actually, the European Union won’t budge for Britain; it’s all about further integration, remember?
So, what will be the future for Dave and the ever diminishing comfortable snuggeries seated amongst his backbench colleagues? Well, I personally think that after the blow from Merkel and friends is swotted across the rippling-red cheeks of the Witney man, Cameron may become a tad more Eurosceptic, further lassoing the voting migrants which drifted over to UKIP during the Conservative dry season.
The PM could be crowned the optimal pragmatist. Cameron didn’t leave Europe in some dogmatic fashion; he tried to renegotiate, but he failed. He will thus return as the champion of Britain in all her glory and sovereignty, the Conservative PM will then declare that the continental beast cannot be reasoned with, a referendum must take place, because that is what the people, and his backbenchers, demand.
Alex MacDonald, Editor
Staying off the (Mili)Band Wagon
Contrary to what many political activists, political commentators, and anyone in UKIP thinks barely anyone cares about the EU. It doesn’t even come in the top 10 issues that people care about. (It actually comes 15th – 2% of the population rank it as the most important issue – 6% rank it as an important issue). Frankly there are much, much bigger fish to fry when it comes to democracy and winning votes.
Ed Miliband does not seem like the master political strategist, but once again, like he did with phone hacking and Murdoch he has taken a gamble that looks like it will pay off. While Cameron has offered a referendum not from principle but from fear of UKIP and his backbenchers, Ed has stuck with his beliefs. Labour too is split over the EU and Ed will not want to lead a party that potentially is in Government that is instantly split and infighting. We don’t yet know if Cameron will gain a long-term poll boost from the referendum pledge, and if he doesn’t, Ed can present the Tories as ‘banging on about Europe’ while he is tackling the concerns of real people.
There are of course down sides to Miliband’s position. The Tories may well attempt to turn the next election into a referendum on Europe – they want to give people a say, Ed doesn’t. The line that Ed doesn’t trust the electorate will sting, and it gives Cameron and Osborne a chance to deflect away their dismal handling of the economy.
Olly Neville, Page Editor
The Limp Dems
Camerons’s pledge of a full in-or-out referendum on Britain’s EU membership has been dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ by the Liberal Democrats. Deputy PM and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said that a referendum is “not in the national interest”, whilst his Foreign Affairs spokesman Martin Horwood went a step further and branded the decision “crazy”.
Of all the main parties, the Lib Dems seem to be the most united on the EU. Although most want some tweaking and reforms, the overwhelming majority want Britain to remain in.
The awkwardness for Lib Dems comes instead from the very idea of referendums: current Lib Dem policy is that a referendum is only required if there is a new treaty. This ‘referendum lock’ was introduced soon after the coalition was formed in 2010. However the Lib Dems had previously offered an in/out referendum in their manifesto. Clegg tried to claim in an online interview that the 2010 comments weren’t actual policies, despite being printed on campaign leaflets. Though try as he might, that previous pledge is going to be repeated an awful lot over the next two years.
Clegg can’t even claim, that referendums are bad ideas in and of themselves. After all, a key concession secured by the Lib Dems in the coalition negotiations was the referendum on AV, which was overwhelmingly defeated, knocking electoral reform into the long grass for a generation. The Lib Dems are going to have a tough time justifying their support for an AV referendum, which few cared about, whilst opposing a referendum on the very sovereignty of the country.
Lee Jenkins, Page Editor