Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a moment to reflect on Monday night’s EU Referendum motion vote and the resulting rebellion by 81 Conservative MPs, double the number who rebelled over the Maastricht Treaty during John Major’s premiership in 1993. 19 Labour MPs also voted for David Nuttall’s motion.
Many of the Conservative parliamentary 2010 intake are Eurosceptics and they also put principle before a potential ministerial career. They know who the real boss is: their electorate.
My MP, Ben Gummer, is a Europhile (like father like son) and that is no shock: we knew this when I, along with the people of Ipswich, selected him as the Conservative Party candidate in 2007. As I tweeted a few days ago, there is more to candidate selection than their view on Europe.
My fellow Tory blogger, James Spencer, has his own take on Ben’s decision to vote with the Government here.
It has become clearer since the vote that the Cabinet was not exactly wholly united on the issue of the three-line whip with Iain Duncan Smith (one of probably only two real Tories still left in the Government) making it known he told the Conservative Chief Whip, Patrick McCloughlin, never to ask him again to vote against a referendum on our continuing membership of the European Union. I just hope IDS saw that the motion would not be binding and consequently fell in line behind Cameron but would never consider voting against legislation to provide for a referendum on this vital of issues. Not just vital to over half the Conservative parliamentary party but a vital issue for the public at large. The polls have shown the public want their say on Europe and by plebiscite.
Last night’s BBC Question Time had on the panel the UKIP Leader Nigel Farage and the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. IDS looked uncomfortable at times as Farage launched into his usual rhetoric. I believe IDS agrees with Farage on Europe but finds he is held back by the Liberal Democrats and a liberal Conservative prime minister. At least in the 1990s it was just a liberal Conservative PM!
David Cameron said before the vote on Monday he was going to use the Euro crisis to repatriate powers from Brussels. But at the first opportunity he had to do this at a European Leaders summit in Brussels on Wednesday he bottled it. Eurozone leaders announced a package to delay the Euro crisis for another few months and then David Cameron flew off to Australia for the Heads of Commonwealth conference. But the problem with delaying an issue where a single currency and one interest rate is used in 17 different economies is that it will only get worse until it is solved. Now, this may mean the 17 Eurozone countries will, probably in the next 12-18 months, have to become a single fiscal entity with a single policy on tax as well as interest rates but that can’t happen without a new treaty and this is the moment Cameron must either side with Britain and his party and give the country a referendum or with the eurocrats in Brussels and his friends in the Liberal Democrat Party. If he chooses the latter, he risks a leadership challenge and several Tory MPs defecting to UKIP.
Time will reveal all.