Friday, January 18, 2013
On the EU Tory MPs Have to Say 'We are all Bastards Now'
Poor old John Major has been unfairly labelled a 'weak' prime minister largely because of his right-wing euro-sceptics. When I interviewed John Biffen in the mid 1990s, he reckoned Major 'a very good PM but unfortunate in being in Number 10 at a time when the Conservative Party was ungovernable. Most of us can remember his slightly petulant rant against the 'bastard' euro-sceptics in his Cabinet. Whether the party is approaching a similar state is yet to be revealed but an article in the Economist this week gives us some useful clues.
The journal analyses the different schools of Tory thought which exist on the EU
Europhiles: these are thin on the ground and are limited to Kenneth Clarke, Michael Heseltine and maybe a few more too frightened to declare themselves.
Diplomats This lot want to remain in the EU, fearing that access would be barred to a UK no longer within EU bounds.
Dealers: These seek to re-negotiate terms but are willing to leave if the EU refuses. Fresh Start, recently formed tends to favour this posiiton and has 150 members.
Hikers: This group, numbering maybe 30-40 want to leave right now.
Globalists: these Tories, including some Cabinet members, want Britain's future not in Europe but in new links with Asia and the developing world.
The Economist might have added that the first two categories art least, favour an in-out referendum on the EU. The weight of opinion in the Conservative Party is forcing Dave to be much more hostile to the EU than he is minded to be. Moreover, he is being assailed by advice from Obama and Merkel plus other EU heads, to row back from any initiative leading to the risk of a UK exit. In addition traditional Tory supporters, the business community are solidly opposed to anything like and exit. And I haven't even mentioned Nick Clegg.
How does Dave square the circle? Search me, but he ought to realise two things: only 3% of voters in a recent poll rated the EU as a major problem and that 80% of referendums end up reinforcing the status quo.