There is trouble stirring in the Conservative party, and amongst their supporters. Head over to The Telegraph‘s comment sections about the EU and the most recommended comment will usually end with “Vote for UKIP!” or something of a similar message. This change has come about only recently, with many feeling that the EU is no longer what Britain needs. Because you cannot drive to mainland Europe from the UK, some feel that we are not part of Europe so should not be part of the EU. Right-wing blogs such as Guido Fawkes are incredibly anti-EU, as are papers such as the Daily Express (which has run laughable “crusades” to remove the UK from the EU) and the Daily Mail. I do not dispute that some of the things the EU tries to implement are ridiculous, like wanting control of the British press. When I read that story I groaned, how could the EU be so stupid? They must know that there is diminishing support for them in the UK and they go and insult those who write about them. Even papers like The Guardian, who are pro-EU, are anti-Leverson. The decision for Brussels to attack David Cameron over a popular decision, especially amongst the press, is beyond stupid.
On this particular issue, David Cameron had to be very careful. The right-wing media (both blogs, like Guido, and print newspapers and magazines, like The Spectator and The Telegraph) are strongly opposed to the EU and would dish out negative coverage if Cameron appeared too weak on the issue (most have already moved over to supporting UKIP). Luckily, David Cameron had a brainwave: schedule the In/Out referendum for after the 2015 election. Genius!
The timing of the referendum is excellent for several reasons:
- It is highly unlikely that the Conservatives will get back into power in 2015. Because of the cuts that have had to have been made (no matter how essential), people do not like the Tories anymore. George Osborne is seen by many as inactive on cutting back the deficit, with some new figures supporting their claims. Granted, UK voters don’t like quick changes of government (Labour was in power for 13 years, with the Tories going for considerably longer before them) but they may make an exception for 2015. A Guardian/ICM poll suggests that the Conservative sit with just 33% of the vote, while Labour has 38%. Another poll, published by Guido Fawkes, shows 38% are voting for Labour, 27% for the Tories and 17% for UKIP. Because the Tories are unlikely to be reëlected in 2015, the 2017 referendum will never happen. In this morning’s Daily Mail, Cameron was praised for his stance on the EU.
- The supposed referendum — see point one – whips the carpet out from under the feet of UKIP. What is the point of UKIP? To get the UK out of the EU. David Cameron has now negated the main reason UKIP exists. If the Tories will offer a referendum, and have better politics on other issues and are more likely to get in, what is the point of voting for UKIP? None. Some have suggested that UKIP are stealing Conservative voters and a “pact” should be reached. After Cameron’s referendum plan, that will stop. UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, “ridiculed” Cameron, but that is just bluster; Farage knows his party will fade back into irrelevance come 2015.
- In point one I focussed on the media, specifically the right-wing variant, giving Cameron stick for not offering a referendum. The other people who were giving Cameron stick were those on his own benches. Ed Miliband suggested that Cameron was “scared” of his back benchers. This may be true, but he has just gone a long way to pleasing them. There was some suggestion that some Tory MPs would defect to UKIP, but why would they do that now? They can stay with a party that represents their views (or isn’t adverse to them) and not have to face losing their seats in 2015. And Cameron’s ruse worked: he won back his Eurosceptic back benchers.
- Cameron has also pleased some business owners by not appearing too anti-EU. Trade within the EU is essential to the British economy, especially when we’re in the midst of a triple-dip recession. Countries such as Germany have already warned Britain that they will be displeased if the UK leaves the EU. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, said Germany will “compromise” with the UK to keep them in the EU.
David Cameron’s EU referendum is genius, for many reasons. He has managed to please both the media (left and right), his back benchers and business owners. This wouldn’t normally happen, but I commend you for your political cunning, Mr. Cameron.