What, exactly, do Kippers want?

Well, in short, it has to be instant and total exile from the continent of Europe.

Any thing else, all those “accommodations” which might, just might be possible if all the other 27 nations agreed they owed us a favour, amount to extended negotiation. Negotiation is precisely what Dave Cameron has been offering (albeit with an impossible time-limit); but it isn’t enough for a large contingent of his own party, so is hardly going to sell to the ultras of UKIP.

Meanwhile, it looks as if it’s all turning nasty inside the Tory parliamentary party.

First there was Janan Ganesh putting the City-slickers point-of-view in the FT:

Cameron’s EU referendum gamble has failed

Eurosceptics keep winning concessions they said were ‘final’ before demanding more

Almost a year ago, David Cameron promised a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU for no nobler reason than that he had to. The prime minister and other eminent Conservatives now tout that speech as proof of high principle, contrasting their democratic trust in Everyman with the apparent elitism of other mainstream parties.

The truth is they never wanted a referendum, scorned the idea when their MPs raised it in 2011 and only relented when the clamour became an existential menace to Mr Cameron’s leadership. It was emergency politics draped in the dignity of foreign policy.

 The reasons why Cameron’s “gamble … failed” are spelled out;

Downing Street’s three objectives were to pacify Tory MPs, sap the momentum of the fringe UK Independence party and put the troublesome subject of Europe to sleep until the general election in 2015. On all scores, it failed.

There may be a touch of the prematures there: we don’t know whether the UKIP surge will “win” the Euro-elections. All the opinion polls have UKIP barely into double percentage figures — and apart from unreliable local elections with only die-hards turning out, that’s all we’ve got to go on. It is arguable whether there are enough Kipper feet on the streets, whether they have the polling data, whether they have half-a-clue how to run a nationwide campaign, whether we can stop giggling at the excessives of sexist rhetoric, to deliver the goods. Since there are local elections that same day, for which the mainline political machines are gearing up, we are entitled to have doubts.

For if UKIP do not achieve their Agincourt moment, the wheel must come off the abortion.

Which brings us back to that original question: What, exactly, do Kippers want?

A moment’s pause suggest there are at least two main schools: those who are blind to aught else but a little England set in a silver sea (what we may see as überThatcherism, the Bruges Group writ big) and those who have wider ambitions. An ear to Nigel Farage’s more sensible utterances suggests he, at least, sees an alliance with the Tory Right:

Nigel Farage has opened the door to an electoral pact between his UK Independence Party and the Conservatives – but said that Tory MPs would have to oust David Cameron as their leader first.

That, and there have subsequently been others on the same theme, dates from last May. Were that to come about, we would have the authentic hard-line libertarian-capitalist party this country has seen since … when? It would not, however, have the support of the liberal-capitalist City. It would need to find funds from … where? Doubtless there are in Britain a few equivalents of the Koch family (who bankroll the Tea-partiers and other US fringe groups), but this Tory+ operation would have lost much of the hedge-fund monies.

The civil war starts now?

Let us assume that Janan Ganesh knows of what he speaks. In which case the whole charade of the Wharton Bill is exposed as the face-saver we guessed it to be. More to the point, the biggest loss of face is Dave Cameron’s.

Which brings us to the post by James Landale, on tonight’s BBC website:

Why are 95 Conservative MPs backing calls for EU veto?

On ConHome this morning Paul Goodman was doing the math:

About half of the 303 Conservative MPs are now part of the payroll vote (though only 80 of them are actually salaried Government Ministers).  I have made the point on this site and in the Daily Telegraph, setting out some details in the latter case – including those relating to special appointments.

But let us for the sake of argument deploy a more narrow definition of the payroll – the traditional one of Ministers and PPS’s.  This comes to 125 Tory MPs.  That leaves 178 others.  This morning’s Sunday Telegraph report said that 95 backbenchers have signed a letter to David Cameron urging that the law be changed “to give the Commons authority to block new EU legislation and repeal existing measures that threaten Britain’s ‘national interests’ “.  The letter refers specifically to “current and future laws” (my italics) – therefore proposing that Parliament can pick and choose when it comes to which EU laws it wants to observe.

To follow such a course would be in effect to leave the EU – a point that the MPs who signed the letter presumably grasped.  This surely means that a majority of Tory backbenchers have come out for exit, since 178 minus 96 leaves 82.  And we read that there are members of the payroll who agree…

Goodman’s tone is unconvinced, as his header suggested:

Half of Conservative backbenchers want to leave the EU (or so their action suggests)

Once upon a time John Major had his barely-containable “bastards”: now the “bastards” are running the orphanage, and Beadle Cameron is under the cosh.

Sure enough, as Goodman implied, there has been significant back-tracking among the alleged 95 Outers. A severe Whipping or some sleight-of-signatory-hand?

So, there would seem to be much grit in the Tory picnic basket. As James Landale summed up:

The bottom line is that the Tory truce over Europe appears all but over. The prime minister’s promise a year ago of an in-out referendum in 2017 on a reformed EU united his party around a process but not a policy.

And it is around policy that the fractures are emerging.

Mr Cameron will one day have to set out his ambitions and aims for reforming Britain’s relationship with the EU. This will form the basis of the next Conservative manifesto.

But in the short term, while we await this negotiating position, Tory MPs and others are filling the void with their own demands. And those demands will only get more vocal if the Conservative party does poorly in May’s European elections where UKIP is expected to do well.

All that would suit Nigel Farage’s entryist (entry into the Tory Party, that is) strategy very well. Even more so if UKIP do not quite sweep the file in May — but just enough to put the creeps into many Tory MPs with majorities below, say, 7,000 — which is around 120 of them.

None of it, though, amounts to a hill of beans, unless the whole of the Tory Party can find a common denominator on Europe . That has been missing this quarter-century. It is the ultimate test of the one thing David Cameron has so far failed to show: leadership with backbone. Anything else and we have a new party system in our land.

Let us all hold our hands up and wish, so sincerely, that Labour do not exploit the situation. Oh, no!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, ConHome, Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, EU referendum, Europe, Nick Robinson, Tories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s