Had there been a majority Tory government this time round, Malcolm was laying credit (though not real money) on a referendum on EU matters within the present parliament.
No, hardly on the substantive issue of “in or out”: the bank-rolling hedgefunders and other undesirables of the City wouldn’t have allowed their Tory party helots to go that far. More likely, then, on some symbolic gesture which allowed Cameron to whip in his far right; but then to claim that the whole matter was done and dusted.
Something like that may yet come, unless the AV referendum goes so sour (oh, per-leeze!) that the ConDems go of the idea altogether.
Now consider Barnsley Central result, which John Curtice chews over for the Independent:
… the Barnsley result was surprisingly discomfiting for the Conservatives. The party could blame the near 14-point drop in its support in Oldham on many of its supporters switching to the Liberal Democrats as the party best placed to defeat Labour. That was not true in Barnsley.
Yet the Tories still lost a lot of ground. Meanwhile, Ukip recorded a 7.5-point increase in its support, sufficient for it to overtake the Tories and register its best by-election performance yet.
Barnsley could well prove a warning to the Conservatives that, with the party now in league with the Liberal Democrats, Ukip may become the protest vehicle of choice for disaffected Tories. The last thing David Cameron needs is trouble on his Eurosceptic right.
Added to which, the Tory apologists were making a small haycock over the “finding” that 29 % of the UKIP vote came from Labour defections, even if, on an alternative reading, the Survation figures seem to indicate that should be nearer 2% Labour defections.
Quick out of the blocks to underline Professor Curtice’s punchline comment, here comes the indefatigable Bill Cash:
… the real Barnsley message is one of trend and although the votes cast were low, the reality is that the total Coalition vote was only 12.4% and yet the UKIP vote as an independent party was 12.2%. The BNP, focusing mainly on immigration, achieved 6% (imagine the difference with AV).
The result shows that the Conservative Party needs to think carefully about what is going to happen in marginal seats.
Despite protestations on the European front, it is clear that on immigration and Europe we are not only failing to make progress but we are going firmly backwards. After all, the Conservatives are acquiescing in EU economic governance, ECHR rulings and the Government supporting its Motion on Financial Sector (Taxation) that the United Kingdom Government and Parliament decisions on “direct taxes” are only “primarily” – rather than ‘solely’ – a matter for sovereign governments and voting against my amendments on the sovereignty of Parliament in relation to the EU Bill.
Last month the Fabian Society ran a debate on the pros and cons of an EU referendum. Predictably, it “proved” nothing more than the europhobes clamouring for a referendum, and the rest resisting one. There is, though, a subtle cross-current (Keith Vaz repeating to the Commons his long-standing support, Jonathan Powell in print).
There are very good reasons why Labour should be keeping alive the notion of a full-blown referendum:
- it is what Labour promised at the time of the Lisbon Treaty;
- Only Labour, of the major parties, can do so in the present context;
- It is an issue which will not go away otherwise;
- It is the only way the pro-EU case can be properly presented (and probably won);
- With devolution, all previous decisions are moot: the devolved Assemblies should be able to find their own place on the map;
- It is the most potent weapon for torpedoing the Con-led coalition, and so countering the insidious nonsense about the Labour legacy.
All of which is why the Left should at least be discussing it.