The weekly corrida de toros (always a lot of bull, but today a bit of horse) of Dave and Ed was a nice one today. Only the true die-hard thought Cameron did the business. Even the ranks of ConHome could scarce forbear to fleer:
[Miliband] probably won the exchanges on points, despite Cameron having the better of the arguments. The Prime Minister all but used the “R” word, alluding to consulting the public and gaining the “full-hearted consent of the British people”. His insistence that a Conservative Government would want to take powers back from Brussels, and that a Labour Government would give more away, was right. But my sense is that to the lay voter hinting that you want a referendum in future while arguing that you don’t want one now looks muddled.
That’s Paul Goodman who, despite Malcolm’s partisan sniping is good — and getting better:
Downing Street must be anxious about women’s votes. From the Tory backbenches, John Glen raised the gain which the Government’s proposed pension reforms will bring to some women, and Mary Macleod plugged childcare: I may be wrong, but both questions had the smell of the Whips’ Office about them. Laura Sandys asked about the great horsemeat scandal. Cue the Rebekah Brooks jokes.
That’s another chewy matter, currently being digested across the media, including Slugger O’Toole, where Pete Baker has opened his Boucherie Chevaline. Not surprisingly, it’s a bizarre goulash of serious concern and dismal punning:
- One of the few, very, very, few, successful native industries Ireland could boast of was its meat industry, specifically beef. Following the Irish economic collapse it was about the only economic success story Ireland could point to. This will absolutely devastate it.
- I was just checking my burgers in the fridge there……Aaaannnnd they’re off!!!
For different reasons, Malcolm likes both of those … and had to participate, in part recollecting an earlier post here:
I know two things about a horse
And one of them is rather coarse.
Even so, the presence of real meat (beef, horse, or whatever) in burgers is the least of his worries. It’s not the meat that concerns him: like the 99.9% of known germs slaughtered by household cleaners … the problem lies with the other and unknown bits.
One small wrinkle: the Irish tests which revealed the horse DNA date from two months since. What’s been happening since? Why does it become public only now?
Back to the bear pit
Miliband’s smirk at PMQs must have registered all the way to Brighton: he was winning, and he knew it.
Inevitably the Tory (and other) commentators are getting antsy. Hence the demands for a definitive statement of the Labour position, usually expressed in the whinge: Miliband must commit NOW! To which must go the answer: No chance!
Simon Jenkins (in the Guardian) tried, rather tortuously, to reel in his sprat:
From the moment in 2003 that Gordon Brown stopped Tony Blair joining the euro, Cameron’s speech was waiting to happen. The evolving euro would sooner or later need a tight political corset to enforce fiscal, budgetary and monetary union. Britain and other states would not join this, and would therefore need to negotiate their relationship with this euro-specific regime. Labour’s Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, both party to Brown’s victory over Blair, know this well. There need be no disagreement.
No disagreement? Come, come: that’s not the nature of British adversarial politics.
James Forsyth, Speccie-lating away, would like to see a Tory ploy in the whole thing:
Those close to Cameron are arguing that Miliband has now shut the door to Labour offering a referendum, putting Labour on the wrong side of public opinion. They believe that once Cameron has actually delivered his speech, the atmosphere will change and Miliband will have to say what he would do.
Oddly enough, Benedict Brogan got the message:
On a succession of vital topics raised in the interview, Mr Miliband said he couldn’t answer because we are too far out from an election: we will have to wait for the manifesto.
One has to read the rest of that, in the context of the tormented Torygraph, fully to realise Brogan’s frustrated pain that Miliband is not to be hooked. The full beef is hoarsely delivered by David Hughes:
Labour is marching on the spot, going nowhere fast. While the party’s policy review is churning away, Miliband appears to think that he and his front bench can confine themselves to lobbing bricks at the Tories and leaving it at that.
Is that wise? At the last general election Labour won just 8.6 million votes – that’s just a smidgen more than Michael Foot got when facing Margaret Thatcher in 1983 in what is generally regarded as Labour’s most abject post-war electoral performance. That suggests there’s a big job of work to do rebuilding the party, thrashing out a credible post-Blairite position. Instead, Ed Miliband seems content to coast, apparently seduced by Labour’s opinion poll lead into believing the next election is in the bag.
Which amounts to a genteel version of those pointless and repetitive demonstrators’ chants:
— Wha’ d’we want?
— A target to hit!
— When d’we wan’ it?
A problem made in and by the Tory party to eviscerate itself
The bottom line has to be there is no European crisis. Thanks to a steady steer from Angela Merkel, the worst of the €-mess seems to be passed. Ireland is selling bonds again. The appalling Berlusconi is polling at 20-25% and won’t be coming back. Greece and Spain are bleeding; but still only walking wounded. François Hollande has opened his second front (albeit in Mali); and dragged Cameron part-way into the mire: nice one, Frankie!
Only Cameron’s Britain seems to have conniptions; and so — after six months of dither — we may be able to read Cameron’s lips. As Miliband summed it:
The biggest change that we need in Europe is a move from austerity to growth and jobs, but the Prime Minister has absolutely nothing to say about that. This is the reality: the reason the Prime Minister is changing his mind has nothing to do with the national interest. It is because he has lost control of his party. He thinks that his problems on Europe will end on Friday, but they are only just beginning.
The Cameron speech, now on Friday, is:
- not about Britain — though it may include a “shopping list” of unrealisable aims,
- not about a referendum — though Cameron will do his best to imply just that,
- not about Europe, for Cameron and his government have rendered themselves impotent side-liners.
No: it is essentially about:
- fabricating some semblance of Tory unity until the 2015 election (any hopes for the Euro elections of 2014 must already be written off);
- fending off UKIP and Tory back-benchers’ night-stalkers — if Tory policy on Europe came as a stick of seaside rock, the six letters through the stick would read F-A-R-A-G-E;
- The referendum, which Cameron flinched away from before, has now become the last hope: that (not 10% or whatever in the polls) is a measure of how successful UKIP has been.
Last Monday Nick Robinson, the BBC Political Editor, gave a bald assessment of just how desperate Cameron’s position is:
… he has set out how we might get that referendum on Europe after the next election, but there is a series of ifs:
- If he wins the next election alone (in other words doesn’t have to get this past Nick Clegg)
- If he can persuade other European countries, particularly Germany that they need and want treaty change
- If Britain can then get what it wants in negotiations
- If he thinks he can then win a referendum
If all that happens, well then, yes, there will be a referendum which he thinks will approve a new better settlement for Europe.
But his difficulty in giving that big speech on Europe in about a week’s time is what if he’s wrong on any one of those ifs?
There’s as much chance of all that coming to pass as Mrs Brooks’s ex-policehorse, Raisa, doing a Lazarus out of the Tesco’s chiller.