Saturday, May 11, 2013

1995 Redux

David Cameron's troubles with Europe continue, as it appears he can't even rely on his ministers to vote through an unamended Queen's Speech and certainly can't risk sacking anyone who might then become an instant martyr to the Eurosceptic cause and a flagbearer on the backbenches. As we know, Europe has been a problem for the Tories over the past few decades and it remains problematic for Cameron. He won the leadership by throwing the party members the red meat of a withdrawal from the centre-right European parliamentary grouping. He held off from delivering on that for as long as he could, before finally giving in. His promise of a referendum on Europe after the next election, following a period of renegotiation unlikely to bring anything of any consequence, is another attempt to calm the wingnut tendency. 

The only thing it does do is divert attention from the ongoing economic problems in the country. Yesterday's news that we might not have slipped back into technical recession last year doesn't change the central fact that the economy has effectively flatlined since 2010, a record that would surely seen any other chancellor reshuffled. Ipsos/MORI's opinion polling shows clearly that the EU doesn't even figure on the national radar as the most important issue amongst the general public. .

Cameron may be able to satisfy his troops with talking tough on the EU, but the evidence so far is that he always caves in and each time, they want something more. He may need to persuade his Liberal Democrat colleagues to allow him to bring in some sort of bill that sets a pathway to a referendum at some point after the next general election to calm his backbiting backbenchers' suicidal tendencies. 

While there is some short term gain from these diversionary tactics, ultimately, it does make the Conservative party look divided - proved during the 80s by Labour and the mid 90s by the Tories - divided parties at war with themselves do not win elections.