Friday, May 17, 2013

Changing views on EU

They say that a week is a long time in politics, so the time I have had to reflect since my blog on May 4  - here -  should be ample to overcome any claims of hypocrisy.

Here goes.

Not just in the above blog but also in earlier ones, I have strongly suggested that David Cameron needs to have a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU and to have it in this parliament.  In some ways that would still be my preference but considering the politics of the matter - and the mathematics - I am coming around to seeing why that isn't possible and perhaps maybe not even desirable.  Don't worry, the Europhiles have got to me and compromised me into changing my fundamental opinion of the flawed state that is Europe.

The Lib Dems are wedded to Europe.  As a party, this is probably the only unifying policy for them.  On other issues the leadership gets pulled between leftist policies and loony leftist policies but Europe?  No, they all row in the same direction.  To be clear that is row as in a boat not as in an argument!

Labour faces the biggest dilemma over Europe and I sense that David Cameron understands this and is in fact, banking on it.   The dilemma is that many voters are opposed to continuing as a member of the EU, as it is currently constructed.  Maybe they don't all want to leave but many want the rules re-written.  UKIP and the BNP both inhabit the ground where that is most vitriolically espoused - anti-immigration.  Possibly the psephologists and focus group handlers would dispute this but I don't believe that it is only white and blue collar Tories where UKIP's policies resonate.  My life experience suggests that 'natural' Labour supporters would be as anti-immigration as these Tories sometimes appear.  One piece of evidence to mull over - in spite of the economic situation (more on that in a moment), Labour supporters didn't exactly come out in their droves to vote in the recent elections.  Nor, in the national opinion polls, can Labour get to a reasonable level of lead or votes.  Getting around 35 to 38% isn't what anyone would call a massive mandate for change!

The BBC and some other media would have it that the 'Europe question' will do for Cameron and that the Tories are split.  I am coming around to the view (and not just because the BBC is usually wrong on most things) that Europe offers an opportunity for the Tories.

The political system in the UK doesn't favour parties like UKIP.  Their local election showing of mid 20%  will most likely not be sustained in the 2015 General Election (my guess is somewhere around 7-8%) but whatever they get the first past the post system just doesn't work for them or for any small party.  UKIP will have some impact in marginal seats but I think this will equally affect all three parties with perhaps just a bit more impact on Lib Dem marginals!.

So how an opportunity?  Well, consider (and I am sure that David Cameron has), at the next election, voters would be faced with a choice between Labour and the Lib Dems - both pushing policies that say, 'we don't believe the people need to be asked about our country's future and its relations with the EU' - and the Tories saying - 'we think that the EU project needs fixing and, if it can't be fixed in a manner that we believe is acceptable, Britain should leave the EU, however, this is far too important a decision for politicians, the choice needs to be made by the people of Britain'.  I know which policy would get my vote. 

Forget anything else about this but remember this - the British have an instinctive dislike of things non-democratic.  They may not bother to vote, but just try taking away their right to vote.  The British look at the EU and see gaping holes where democracy should be representing them and instead they see elsewhere a fat and corrupt elite, lording it over them.  The European way of dealing with tyrannies and out of touch elites is often through revolution, the British way is through the ballot box. 

For the Tories then, keep Europe on the agenda, push and support the Private Member's Bill that enshrines a 2017 referendum and then push the 'we trust the people' line, time after time.  It is a very simple but no less powerful message and one which will find the Labour and Lib Dems, wanting and struggling to say why they do not trust the people.

So, keep that one bubbling away - be thankful that UKIP will also keep it on the boil - but then focus, focus, focus on the economy in a holistic way (sorry Roberto!).  Taxes, welfare education and spending.  Get these under control and keep banging on about the inherited mess.  On the latter the Tories are pushing against an open door.  Any sane person can see that the Brown-inspired and debt-funded party was unsustainable. 

Oh, and on the NHS - go for Labour.  Mid Staffs is the symptom of all that is wrong with the NHS.  Every time Andy Burnham speaks - every time - ask him why he hasn't resigned over the 1,200 deaths - every time.  Fix Labour's central mis-management as the core issue around the NHS.

Not quite a convert to Cameron's coalition but now facing in the same direction, I suppose.

And Mr Cameron, if you read this, a bit more muscular with the Lib Dems, please.  The occasional slap-down won't hurt them or you.  Finally, suggest you start to distance yourself from Obama, he is tainted by Benghazi and the IRS scandals, as will be his second term.

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