Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The next generation of Conservative "Bastards" spoiling for a fight?

John Major must be having a quiet, nostalgic, chuckle to himself:
The Prime Minister will attempt to reassert his eurosceptic credentials by launching an EU Bill promising MPs and the British people their say on any proposed transfer of sovereignty to the European Union.

But the move was condemned last night as a "cosmetic gesture" by Tory MPs who are still furious that Mr Cameron reneged on a pledge to hold a referendum on the controversial Lisbon Treaty, which has already transferred key powers to EU control.
Conservative Home had an interesting piece on the changing face of Euro-scepticism in the party a couple of weeks ago and it's the younger voices (as opposed to the likes of Bill Cash) that he has to be wary of now:
More than two dozen Tory MPs have signed a protest motion and up to 50 could vote against the Government during a key debate on Wednesday asking MPs to approve the Treaty amendments, which give the EU the ability to oversee the budgets of member states.

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley and member of the Better Off Out group, said: "As far as I'm concerned this is spitting in the wind.

"It is the ultimate in shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. We have already given too many powers away. I want some powers back.

"You can't even say this is a step in the right direction, it's just promising not to put another step in the wrong direction."
Too much of Cameron and the government's actions on the EU, right back to the "cast-iron" pledge of a referendum on Lisbon has seemed like PR posturing- giving one message to the party and nation, whilst agreeing something substantially different with Brussels. The inevitable result has been a strengthening of the nihilist wing of Euro-scepticism, the "Better Off Out" brigade.

A large rebellion on Wednesday won't ultimately do Cameron any harm if it forces him to realise the limits of his present approach. If he decides to plough on regardless, then he may soon well be fighting the enemy within as well as the one facing him across the despatch box.


peteram79 said...

I'm currently reading Andy Beckett's "When the Lights Went Out - Britain in the Seventies" (generally excellent stuff, btw)and last night's chapters dealt with Denis Healey at the Labour Party conference in 1976, just ahead of petitioning the IMF for a loan — with the die-hards refusing to let him speak and screaming "resign" at him.

It made me think of those so committed to one particular pet cause that they're prepared to consign the party they purport to back to a generation of unelectability. I wondered if those Healey opponents still alive looked back on the dog days of the Callaghan administration, on Thatcherism, on Foot and Kinnock, and used the benefit of hindsight to regret what they did.

I also thought, inevitably, about the behaviour of the Euro sceptics in the Major administration. The "Better Off Out" group's current agitation suggests, to me, that the Labour militants probably don't accept that what they did in 1976 was counter-productive to the political movement they espoused and, in retropect, hugely damaging. In fact, given half a chance, they'd repeat this mistake. For this seems to be what the Tory Right are also determined to do. What ironic bedfellows...

O'Neill said...

Thanks for the book recommendation Peter.

I am no "Better off outer", I do actually believe in the concept of the EU but I really think Cameron has made a rod for his own back with Europe, tangling titbits (eg leaving the EPP) whilst on the other hand effectively not changing the previous govt's policy on the EU. It's the two-facedness (which is not confined to Europe, sadly) that I suspect is the bigger problem for the Ultra wing of the Euro-sceptics.