Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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The irony of Cameron’s EU speech

The EU wants more of your money

Pro-EU: Ben Gummer MP

Despite the MP for Ipswich adding his name (as reported by Ipswich Spy) to a pro-European salvo dispatched a few days before David Cameron’s historical speech, Ben Gummer, ironically, might win a few votes off the back of the PM’s promise to give the British people an In-Out referendum on our membership of the European Union.

That’s if he doesn’t draw attention to his opposing letter and rabidly pro-European views…can he rein himself in?

But then Ben Gummer is a canny political operator as we saw with his anti-immigration leaflet during the 2010 General Election. If needs must, eh Ben?


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Will Cameron be able to deliver his EU Referendum promise?

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Finally: David Cameron delivering his long-awaited speech this morning

This morning was one of those seismic historical moments which changed Britain’s political trajectory.

Britain’s relationship with Europe changed irreversibly with Prime Minister David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on our relationship with and within the EU. That does not mean Berlin, Paris, Madrid or Rome were surprised but it does mean the semantic cartwheels and ambiguous description of where the UK’s position is in the European Union are over.

Britain’s view, through David Cameron’s big speech this morning at Bloomberg in Central London, has been made clear: we want to negotiate repatriation of a number of powers from the EU, which we will then put to the British people in an “In or Out” Referendum. If the British people like what they see after the negotiation, they’ll vote to stay in the EU; if they don’t, the United Kingdom will exit the European Union entirely – no Norway model, full exit. The choice will be made by 2017.

BUT. And it’s a big BUT.

The Conservative Party needs to win the General Election in 2015. Mr Cameron’s speech today has certainly improved their chances. But the EU is not the only issue which causes disaffected Tory activists to defect to UKIP. The Coalition Government’s continued policy of uncontrolled immigration, a lacklustre handling of the economy which may mean Britain is heading for a triple-dip recession, and still no plan from Cameron & Clegg on how to get the banks lending to small-business owners and prospective house buyers are, actually, further up the priority list for UKIP-minded people than the European Union.

There’s also another factor at play. As soon as David Cameron had finished describing his vision for the EU and offering an “In or Out” referendum, his yellow peril sidekick, Nick Clegg, was sniping at the sidelines that the PM was not “acting in the national interest” over Europe. This weight around Mr Cameron’s ankle will continue to cause immense harm to the Tories’ prospects of winning a majority at the next General Election – that and the most powerful indicator of electoral success: the economy. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has merely snipped at the Government department budgets when there should be wholesale slashing and burning of wasteful bureaucracy and pointless quangos to cut down on how much Government the taxpayer is forced to buy each month out of their decreased or stagnate wages. Above all, it is the state of an elector’s finances which will decide how they vote in May 2015. “It’s the economy, stupid”, as a former US president once said.

Credit where credit is due: David Cameron has done well today. He has grasped the nettle whilst confusing the hell out of Labour, which can only be good for Conservative prospects. I personally would like to see an “In or Out” EU Referendum before 2015 but let’s be under no false pretences: this can’t happen. The Liberal Democrats would not stand for it and would implode the Government and then there would be no majority to get the Referendum legislation through parliament. This post-2015 promise from Cameron is the only way of placating his Tory backbenchers and bringing some UKIP defectors back to the Tory fold. But will it be enough to give him the keys to No.10 in his own right. You know what? I’m not sure it is.


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70% of Tory members want to exit EU

I think the Conservative high-command will soon have to wake up and smell the coffee. A poll commissioned by Channel 4 News from ConservativeHome has found 70% of Tory members would vote “Out” in an In/Out referendum on Britain’s continuing membership of the European Union.

This is not new information – most commentators would have reached for the 70% figure if not higher. But it is interesting how polls on an EU referendum are now being seriously reported on by the broadcast media and by an outlet – Channel 4 News – not exactly renowned for being on the Right of the debate. It is also a timely reminder that the Conservative leadership, especially after the decision by Cameron to jump into bed with Clegg, is way out of touch with its base. Unless something is said by David Cameron along the lines of “You know what? You’re right. I am off to Brussels to negotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU tomorrow”, then we can expect a haemorrhage of Tory supporters to UKIP in the European Elections in 2014. If that happens, then UKIP will overtake the Conservatives and come first in the poll. By then it may be too late for the Conservative Party to save their credibility on the subject as Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon reports here.

Polls also show the general public split 50:50 on the In/Out question. It is a British political fault line which has to be tackled by our political servants at some point and that time is fast approaching. You have to be over 55 years of age to have been given the opportunity to vote on our membership of the EU or the EEC as it was cunningly called in those days. To be denied a referendum despite 1975 being a generation ago is wholly unacceptable.
The EU is a political organisation and has a highly undemocratic Commission which makes 70% of our laws, stripping away the ability to run our own affairs. The technocrats in Brussels and Strasbourg (where the EU Parliament decamps to every month to appease the French) would rather the birthplace of democracy – Greece – go to hell in a handcart than admit the European Single Currency was a mistake with no economic grounding. I don’t want to be part of this “club” and would rather look out to the world to do business than primarily looking into the slowest growing economic bloc (the European Economic Area) in the world. At present our trade outside of the EU is heavily restricted by Brussels rules – once we had extracted ourselves from her clutches we could leverage our language (the world’s business language of choice), our historical links with the Sub-Continent and represent ourselves in the World Trade Organisation rather than be hidden under the banner of the EU.
That’s a Britain I would be proud to be part of: an independent country doing business across the world in the world’s language.


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The European issue hasn’t gone away

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.


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The British people want an EU Referendum

Tomorrow would have been a day of interest in politics but it wouldn’t have been a watershed moment in the People vs. The Establishment if it wasn’t for the ludicrous decision made by David Cameron to enforce a “three line” whip on David Nuttall MP’s motion on an EU Referendum.

The reason there is a motion and debate for an EU Referendum is because over 100,000 UK citizens signed a petition demanding a debate in Parliament with a YouGov poll on Friday showing 67% of voters support Nuttall’s motion.

The European Union is not some side-show which supposedly the Right are obsessed with but it is a fundamental reason why Britain is no longer the economic power house it once was. Of course, there are a few odd-balls in the movement to have a EU Referendum but as in any large organisation there are always a few weird individuals, hey Ed Milliband! In 1997, when Ken Clarke (ironic I know) handed Tony Blair a golden economic legacy, Great Britain was the 4th largest economy in the world. We now hover around 7th and 8th largest but in terms of world competitiveness we have plummeted to 22nd. Over the last century, we had swapped our powerful empire for a powerful economy but all this was trashed by a) wasteful spending on a criminal scale by Gordon Brown and b) suffocating regulations from Brussels. As Bernard Jenkin in his Sunday Telegraph column tells us today, the British Chamber of Commerce calculates the cost of EU regulation to the UK economy introduced between 1998 and 2010 has been £60.75 billion. This isn’t just an attack on private sector growth but also on pubic sector efficiency – the working time directive (which deprives junior doctors of vital hands on training which in the end will save lives) costs the NHS £300 million per year.

George Osborne yesterday at a gathering of finance ministers in Brussels said the Eurozone crisis is a danger to our country and is putting Britain’s economic recovery in peril. That’s a currency we are not part of putting us in danger because we are a member of the EU. So when Government ministers and pseudo-Tory MPs suggest now is not the time to discuss our continuing membership of the EU superstate as we must concentrate on sorting the economy out, what planet are they on? Our membership of the EU IS the reason why our economy cannot take off again. When on earth would be a good time to discuss our relationship with Europe?

Not wishing to sound like a Sun columnist but Great Britain is not the same as the rest of Europe. We are different: our mother tongue is the world’s language used by every other country who wants to do business outside its own borders, we are an island nation with special defence needs as a result and by our nature we are more conservative and less socialist minded as a people. Labour tried to create a socialist state through the welfare system and by gold plating every EU directive that came our way but British people aren’t afraid of working long hours and don’t believe in a something for nothing society.

The EU elite wants us to stay but because of our money not because they have any affinity with us. We contribute more than we take out of the EU – each British household lost £299 to Brussels last year with the UK ploughing £10.5 billion into EU coffers. In contrast, Poland put in £2.9 billion and took out £10.2 billion. Why should we stay in a relationship where we give much more than we take?

The Europhiles tell us we could not survive as non-EU members as 40% of our trade is with EU countries. Oh so that’s why we can’t trade with India, China, the US – no, sorry, we do don’t we. This is an argument which does not wash. Now it is certainly true many southern or eastern European countries could not survive without being in the EU. And they know it – when I was in Sicily a few years ago, I could hardly see the sky for the fluttering of EU flags. The Italians certainly know who their paymasters are. As Britain puts in much more than it takes out, we are not in hock to the EU. If our leaders grew some balls and started seriously taking steps to leave, the eurocrats in Brussels wouldn’t be able to get to London quick enough to negotiate.

The motion isn’t binding tomorrow but I hope as many MPs (including Mr Gummer) as possible represent their constituents’ view, vote for the motion and send a message to the Government and the EU that we’ve had enough.