David Cameron suffered his first serious humiliation of the new Parliament yesterday (Tuesday), when he had to rely on the Labour Party to beat a rebellion by his own Eurosceptic backbenchers.
In a vote on arrangements for the in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, 27 Conservatives opposed their own party’s plan to scrap the traditional period known as “purdah”, when Whitehall is intended to remain neutral in the run-up to a major vote.
Cameron had already conceded ground to the Eurosceptics, in agreeing not to hold the referendum on the same day as an election, and he was expected to have to allow their demand for no pro-EU material to be produced by Whitehall.
But Labour saved his bacon by abstaining.
The SNP, which had joined the Tory Eurosceptics in supporting the amendment, tried to attack Labour for allying with the Tories once again.
Scottish Nationalists have a real problem distinguishing between an alliance between consenting parties and a coincidence of action in which they work toward the same result for different reasons: Labour did not abstain from this vote to help the Conservatives, but to further its own pro-EU cause.
Also, of course, if they’re going to attack Labour for helping Tories by abstaining from a vote, how hypocritical do they look after voting alongside Tories in the same division?
This leads us to another inescapable conclusion: Cameron cannot rely on Labour to save him all the time.
With a wafer-thin majority of only 12 MPs, he’s going to have to fight his own party on every controversial policy.
Perhaps next time, Labour will offer him help in return for a major policy reversal. Perhaps Labour won’t help him.
What’s certain is that Cameron is in deep, deep distress.
David Cameron has been forced into a humiliating climbdown over his threat to sack Tory ministers if they didn’t back his deal with the European Union – whatever that deal might be.
He reckons his words were “misinterpreted”.
The Writer reckons that is very funny indeed!
Cameron told reporters yesterday: “I’ve been very clear, which is I’ve said that if you want to be part of the government, you have to take the view that we are engaged in an exercise of renegotiation to have a referendum, and that will lead to a successful outcome.” [boldings mine]
This was a repeat of what he told Andrew Marr in January: “Well, there are Conservative Members of Parliament who want the leave the European Union come what may, but if you’re part of the government, then clearly you’re part of the team that is aiming for the renegotiation.”
Asked by Marr if this meant there would not be a free vote, as Labour allowed in the 1970s, Cameron replied unequivocally:”No, I’ve set out that very clearly in the past.”
Now he’s saying that Marr interrupted him so much that his comments were not clear.
They seem clear enough to this writer!
And they’re saying that this is a Prime Minister who has talked himself into a corner.
The Sunday Times’s Tim Shipman tweeted that this issue goes back three years, to when Downing Street said ministers would be free to campaign for the UK to leave the EU – and the next day Cameron said they would not.
He’s still saying there won’t be a free vote – possibly because he sees it as a way of getting rid of his more awkward ministers.
But that will play havoc with his standing among backbenchers – especially the 50 eurosceptics who are already campaigning for a much more radical approach.
Finally, Cameron told journalists that – if they were unclear on anything – they should ask.
Fine words, from the man who has a habit of making statements and then walking away while questions fly towards his back!
Kitchen table Fuhrer David Cameron has told his cabinet ministers to back any deal he makes with the European Union – or leave the government.
He wants a show of support for propaganda purposes, you see. He knows he won’t gain any meaningful concessions from the other EU countries so he needs his Cabinet to lie about them.
The move is also intentionally provocative – he knows a group of 50 Tory MPs are pushing for major reforms that he won’t be able to secure; he’s telling them they will split the Tory Party if they continue, because he isn’t going to back down.
Being cowards first and foremost, it seems probably that these rebels will back down. They are Tories, after all – being in power is more important to them than anything else.
Mr Cameron added: “I am carrying out a renegotiation in the national interest to get a result that I believe will be in the national interest. I’m confident I can get that.”
He was lying, of course. The renegotiation is in his personal interest – he wants to keep his Eurosceptic backbenchers on-side and that is the only reason for his referendum. The result, therefore, will not be in the national interest, no matter which way it goes. And he has no reason to claim he can get the result he wants, either.
There are, of course, subjects that should be renegotiated – but David Cameron won’t be touching them at all.
The vexed negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership form a very obvious example. A few European and British business leaders want this deal to go through as it currently stands, because this will give businesses the ability to make nation states pay if legislation harms their ability to make a profit. Of course, the rational way of ordering such affairs is for businesses to pay if nation states have to legislate against them because they are causing harm to the people or the environment in the name of profit.
The most probably outcome is he’ll come back lying about what he has achieved – just as George Osborne did over the EU membership surcharge last autumn.
No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.
Could the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be sunk off the coast of a new, anti-federalist Europe?
It seems like a natural consequence of the election victories enjoyed by Eurosceptic and far-right parties across the continent – and one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the result.
We don’t have all the information yet, so it is impossible to be sure, but it does seem likely that people who won popular support by emphasising national sovereignty against that of the EU will be against a trade agreement that suppresses nations’ rights to make their own laws, and puts multinational corporations above countries.
Unfortunately UKIP, the British Eurosceptic party that has won 23 seats (so far), seems more likely to support the agreement that would force British workers into lowest-common-denominator working conditions and pay deals, in a betrayal of the populist promises it made to get elected.
Nigel Farage’s campaign took a leaf out of the Conservative Party’s book by hiding some of UKIP’s most unpalatable plans from the electorate; now that he has what he wants, will we see UKIP working to ensure, for example, that National Health Service privatisation is locked into British law? That would require support for TTIP.
If Farage’s party doesn’t support the controversial plan, they’ll probably stay away from the vote (as they do in most matters; UKIP has one of the worst attendance records in the European Parliament).
Of course the European Parliament doesn’t work the same way as the UK Parliament; UKIP may have won the most seats but this does not automatically hand it power – 23 UK seats is only one-third of those available, not a majority, and it will have to join a larger grouping in order to make its voice heard.
UKIP’s choices over the next few days and weeks will be crucial, as they will allow us to form opinions about how the party’s victory will affect life here in the UK.
The Eurosceptic party’s victory – the first time in more than 100 years that an election has been won by someone other than Labour or the Conservatives – means the other British political parties have more soul-searching to do.
Labour came second, defying right-wing pundits on the BBC and elsewhere who were hoping to see “weird” Ed Miliband suffer. But his lead over the Tories is just 1.5 per cent – hardly a ringing endorsement.
Clearly the British people were not convinced by his offer and Labour must revise its position on Europe or prepare to lose the next general election.
A good starting-place for the Party of the Workers would be a promise to halt the flow of migrant workers from EU countries with weaker economies by pushing for a change to the rule allowing free movement between countries – ensuring that this only happens between states that have comparable economies.
This would put an end to the economic opportunism that has caused the perceived flood of migrants from the poorer countries of eastern Europe, and make it possible for British people to get better jobs, offering more working hours – and negotiate for higher pay.
It isn’t rocket science, but Labour has failed to grasp this concept. One has to wonder why. Maybe Labour is still a bit too fond of Conservative-style neoliberalism. Is that it, Ed?
Labour’s problems are nothing compared with those of the Conservative Party. David Cameron wagered that his promise of an in/out referendum on the EU, to take place in 2017, would win him the next UK general election – but this result has shown that the British people don’t believe a word of it.
Rather than be held to ransom by an over-privileged nob, they have turned to an untried party of even more hard-line right-wingers who would probably create worse problems for working Britons than even the Tories, if they were ever elected into office in Westminster.
That is the message David Cameron has to swallow today: We don’t believe him. We don’t trust him. We don’t want him.
Yet his party seems unrepentant. Prominent members have already rejected calls to strengthen the referendum offer, for example.
The loss will make Cameron more likely to seek a deal with UKIP – and one is already in the offing, if we are to believe the denials coming from other leading Tories. This would be to UKIP’s disadvantage as Farage only needs to look at Nick Clegg to see what will happen.
Clegg should be a broken man. Not only have the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged local councillors, but now he also has to face up to the fact that he has lost all but one of his party’s MEPs.
The BBC said the survival of Catherine Bearder in the South East region prevented a “humiliating wipe-out” – but isn’t the loss of no less than nine MEPs humiliating enough?
Clegg is already facing calls for his resignation amid claims that nobody wants to listen to him any more. This means the turnabout from “I agree with Nick” in 2010 is now complete. Anyone considering going into coalition with the Conservatives (Farage) should pay close attention. The British voter hatestraitors.
There is one more matter arising from this result; a fact that you are not likely to hear on the mainstream media, but one that seems increasingly important, considering the demise of the Liberal Democrats.
The Green Party was fourth-placed in this election. Its 1,244,475 (so far) voters mean it had two-sevenths of UKIP’s support, while the Conservative Party – the party in power here in the UK – had only three times as many supporters.
Expect Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas to capitalise on this for all they’re worth.
Deception? – The controversial UKIP advert using an Irish actor, who plays a British worker replaced by cheap Labour from Europe.
YouGov research for the Sunday Times has put UKIP in the lead in the European election contest, with support from 31 per cent of those who were surveyed.
This put the Eurosceptic party three points ahead of Labour (28 per cent) and a massive 12 points ahead of the Conservatives (just 19 per cent).
But does this really mean the Party with its Foot in its Mouth has the people’s confidence? Take a look at these comments from the Vox Political Facebook page and form your own conclusions. I hasten to add that this is an unscientific survey, composed of comments from those who had the most to say.
We’ll start with those who support the party.
Most vocal is Denise Cottham. She writes: “Mr Farage has the guts to actually ‘SAY’ what many other people just ‘THINK!’ We respect him for this. He speaks the TRUTH & is not out to deceive the public like the major parties have done all these years, while growing fatter & richer at the country’s expense! And exactly where does the Green party stand regarding the EU? They make appealing promises, but will be unable to keep them without ASKING permission from the EU!!! UKIP priorities make sense, staying in the EU does not.”
Denise Morris adds: “I’ll be voting UKIP and so will many, many other concerned with EU policies that mean we can’t kick out radical hate preachers, without it costing the taxpayer millions and not only that we’ll pay their benefits, get them a nice big house and all while our human rights lawyers try to prevent their deportation, thanks to the EU. It’s no wonder people are looking for other alternatives. Currently our only serious hope is UKIP. We all know where the Cons, Lab and Libs stand, so voting for either of these parties won’t solve anything.
“They are the only party that can take on the other major parties and are gaining popularity. People are fed up with broken promises, lies, the open door policy. I don’t like all of UKIP’s policies, but I don’t like all the Cons’ or Lab either. Labour betrayed the working classes and the Cons have tackled the economy, but at a cost to who? The poor, the vulnerable, so I am totally with you on that one. I have to vote for what I think is best for the future of this country and my children and grandchildren and as I see it, that’s UKIP at the moment. If Labour gave us a referendum and promised to save the NHS, restrict immigration, tackled the economy, then I would seriously consider voting labour but that isn’t going to happen sadly. It’s like being between a rock and a hard place and we need a serious shake up of politics in this country. Something has to change and for the better and maybe the challenge from UKIP will do just that.”
She seems to have confused the European Union with the European Court of Human Rights… “The fact is the British people were conned big time on the EU. We thought we were entering a common market and now most of our laws are made in Europe. Their judges take precedence over our own judges. We were never given the referendum we should have got and UKIP are the only party guaranteeing one. If that happens then MPs can start voting with their conscience again, instead of voting for party policies.”
Regarding the controversial poster in which a foreign actor (from Ireland) was used to represent a British worker whose job had been taken away by evil immigrants, Craig Burnside writes: “UKIP arent against immigration, they just want to control it like countries like Australia and the USA do and outsource jobs.”
On the other side we have the following messages.
From Neil Wilson: “I honestly thought nobody could run a worse PR campaign than Bitter Together in Scotland re: the Independence Referendum, But I have to say UKIP are managing to do so in only a week. My particular favourite is the fact you can send their leaflets back to the Freepost address and they get charged for each one. So, they come to your border (door/letterbox) and you send them packing and make them pay for it. After all it’s what they would have wanted don’t you think? very apt. Although the Boarders typo is running a close second. I would vote for somebody to protect me from boarders, particularily old Etonians. But … best just to keep quiet and enjoy watching them make a monumental cock-up of a campaign all by themselves.”
From Kim Burns: “It’s the irony that’s amusing us. Of course we’re not going to vote UKIP! They don’t like women going out to work, they want to reduce maternity leave to 4 weeks, they want to reduce taxes for the rich and increase them for the poor! Read their manifesto, people!”
We would if we could find it! How about this, from John Elwyn Kimber: “Those who wish to register a Eurosceptic vote without empowering the odious UKIP might be lucky enough to have a candidate representing the late Bob Crow’s ‘No to EU, Yes to Democracy’ campaign – as in the Eastern counties. Or vote Green.”
From Bette Rogerson: “Why would you vote for a party that says it hates Europe, but at the same time takes lots and lots of money from the European parliament? Why vote for a party whose members advocate policies like less tax for the wealthiest, cutting of maternity leave and forcible sterilisation of the disabled? Why vote for a party who wants to take the vote away from the unemployed? Is your job really that secure? Lastly but not least, why vote for a party which claims it wants British jobs for the British and then hires an Irish actor to model as a poor Briton whose job has been taken away by a foreigner?”
Of course, I have also weighed into these discussions. Here’s my response to Denise C: “The facts are against you. Why is Farage now trying to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses? What does he have to hide? Why, if he’s so keen on preventing foreigners from taking British jobs, did his party hire an Irish actor to pretend to be a British worker in a poster? Why did he hire a German to be his PA (and, come to that, what about the nepotism inherent in the fact that this person is his wife)? Why did the UKIP poster showing an ‘ordinary’ British woman who was going to vote UKIP actually show a party member responsible for public relations? Put all these things together and it seems UKIP and the truth are a huge distance apart.
“Look at UKIP members and the appalling things they have been saying. Farage moves to shut them up and kick them out whenever they do, but a point has to be reached soon when he – and the rest of us – realises that this is the natural mindset of his party and, as such, it is unelectable.”
To Denise Morris’s comments about European judges, I pointed out: “The European Court is different from the European Union, Denise. If Britain withdrew from the EU, it would still be a part of the court. Also, UKIP is very clearly not the only party guaranteeing [a referendum] – it’s not even the only right-wing, reactionary and repressive party offering such a guarantee.”
I added: “The Cons have not tackled the economy. If you believe that, you’re not paying attention. I’m glad you agree that the poor and vulnerable have suffered in any case. Labour has promised to save the NHS and tackle the economy (in a more meaningful way than the Tories). Labour’s attitude to a referendum may seem less than wholehearted but my impression is that they think it would get a knee-jerk reaction that would show what people do not understand about our participation in the European Union, rather than what they do – your mistake about the European Court is an indication that they might have a point.
“Regarding immigration, my personal belief is that the EU – including the UK – made a big mistake in allowing free movement between countries including new member states whose economies were not yet up to par with the better-established industrial nation states. All they have done is de-stabilise both the states from which people are emigrating and those into which they immigrate… so I would like a tighter policy on this, not just here but in the Union as a whole.
“And those who complain that we voted ourselves into an economic community, not a political union, are correct too. All of these things can be remedied from inside the EU, and if we were to withdraw rather than try to tackle them as a member state, the result would be worse for all of Europe in the long run. UKIP does not see that and the Conservatives cannot see past their own greed and corruption – look at who funds them (bankers and private health firms) and you’ll see that this is the case. The Tory Democrats have sold their souls but Labour is just beginning to find its own soul again. That’s why I think Labour is the best hope for Britain next year.”
Responding to former Labour voter Brian Taylor, who said he wasn’t enthused with UKIP but they would get his vote until a viable alternative came along, I wrote: “Do you really want a flat-rate of 31 per cent income tax, that hugely benefits the extremely rich and enormously harms the poor? That’s UKIP policy.
“If not, you probably want the Green Party, which would also hold a referendum on Europe but is far less Tory in its outlook. I can’t imagine a former Labour voter would honestly want to vote for a party that was further on the right of the political spectrum than the Conservatives.”
So what’s the conclusion?
Well, from this snapshot we can see that, as Denise Cottham and Brian Taylor claimed, people think all three major parties have deceived the public and will do so again. Labour in particular is seen as having betrayed its core constituency – the working classes – in favour of Daily Mail readers and bankers who simply won’t vote for any party more left-wing than the Conservatives. Worse still, for Labour, is people’s belief that the party has been told – time and time again – what it needs to do, but has continually ignored this good advice. UKIP’s problem is that its new advertising campaign also deceives the public, and leader Nigel Farage’s eagerness to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses suggests further jiggery-pokery.
People in general also seem to be genuinely disgruntled with the EU’s ‘free movement’ policy which allows people from any member state to take up residence in any other member state. There is evidence to show that it was a mistake to allow less-developed countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, to take advantage of this policy as many of their citizens have immigrated into the more prosperous regions – leaving their own countries struggling to build their economies, and threatening the stability of the destination countries, whose infrastructure is left struggling to cope with the influx.
UKIP supporters are primarily interested in having an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union, but – as Denise Morris demonstrates – do not seem to understand clearly the issues on which they will be voting. Denise’s concern about the laws preventing us from deporting foreign-born ‘hate preachers’ would not be addressed by leaving the European Union as it comes under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
Their grasp of other UKIP policies seems catastrophically poor, though – policies including restricting work opportunities for women and cutting maternity leave, reducing taxes for the rich and raising them for the poor (to a flat rate of 31 per cent), sterilisation of the disabled (if Bette Rogerson’s research is correct), and ending universal suffrage by stopping the unemployed from voting.
They also seem to have a weak grasp of other parties’ policies regarding the EU – the Green Party wants a referendum but Denise C thinks they don’t.
My overall impression is that UKIP is still gaining support as a party of protest, rather than because people have any belief in its policies. The person on the street – whatever their belief – feels “utterly powerless… hopeless and increasingly disinterested”, a sentiment expressed by Karlie Marvel on the Facebook page today.
That’s why UKIP is ahead today.
It isn’t a good enough reason and the other party leaders can now see what they need to do about it – especially Labour.
Corporate trade a-greed-ment: Notice that this image of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has mighty corporations straddling the Atlantic while the ‘little’ people – the populations they are treading on – are nowhere to be seen. [Picture: FT]
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is bitter pill for anyone to swallow, if they have spent any time defending Britain’s membership of the European Union.
The partnership between the EU and the United States would open America to the kind of free trade deals that have been going on in Europe ever since the original Economic Community was formed – but there is a problem.
It isn’t a problem for businesses; they are in line to get a deal better than anything ever experienced in the world of trade. Citizens and national governments, on the other hand – you, me, and the people who represent us – will be railroaded.
This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’, which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments.
In other words, this could be the biggest threat to democracy since World War II.
In the UK, it could be used by shale mining companies to ensure that the government could not keep them out of protected areas, by banks fighting financial regulation, and by cigarette companies fighting the imposition of plain packaging for cigarettes. How do we know? Because these things are already happening elsewhere in the world.
If a product had been banned by a country’s regulators, the manufacturer will be able to sue them, forcing that state to pay compensation or let the product in – even if this undermines health and safety laws in that country.
It seems that domestic courts are deemed likely to be biased or lack independence, but nobody has explained why they think the secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers will be impartial. Common sense says they’ll rule for the profit, every time.
Now ask yourself a question: Have you ever heard about this?
Chances are that you haven’t – unless you have read articles by George Monbiot (one in The Guardian this week prompted this piece) or have insider knowledge.
The European Commission has done its utmost to keep the issue from becoming public knowledge. Negotiations on the trade and investment partnership have involved 119 behind-closed-doors meetings with corporations and their lobbyists (please note that last point, all you supporters of the government’s so-called Transparency of Lobbying Bill), and just eight with civil society groups. Now that concerned citizens have started to publicise the facts, the Commission has apparently worked out a way to calm us down with a “dedicated communications operation” to “manage stakeholders, social media and transparency” by claiming that the deal is about “delivering growth and jobs” and will not “undermine regulation and existing levels of protection in areas like health, safety and the environment” – meaning it will do precisely the opposite.
Your Coalition government appears to be all for it. Kenneth Clarke reckons it is “Scrooge-like” to inflate concerns about investor protection and ignore the potential economic gains – but if the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is any yardstick, exports will drop and thousands of jobs will be lost.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has published an early day motion on the issue – signed by a total of seven fellow Parliamentarians so far.
Labour MEPs are doing their best to cut the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ out of the agreement, but they are fighting a lonely battle against the massed forces of greed.
So now ask yourself a second question: Why is the European Commission lying to Britain when we are already halfway out of the door?
Britain is not happy with the European Union or its place within that organisation. People think too much of their national sovereignty – their country’s freedom to do what it wants – is being stripped away by faceless bureaucrats who do not have the best interests of the population at heart. Now the European Commission is trying to foist this upon us.
For Eurosceptics in Parliament – of all political hues – this is a gift. For those of us who accept that we are better off in Europe – as it is currently constituted and without the new trade agreement – it is a poisoned pill.
Are we being pushed into a position where we have to choose between two evils that could have been avoided, if only our leaders had had an ounce of political will and an inch of backbone?
Run, David, run: UK Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister David Cameron has found a reason to be in America while his party tears itself apart over Europe. Nice one, David! We all thought the Tories were turning their Lib Dem Coalition partners blue but in fact, they’ve turned you yellow!
Look at all this political theatre over Europe. It’s for the entertainment of you, the voter – even though you won’t actually gain a thing from staying in or leaving the Brussels-based bureaucracy.
The Conservative Party is going into meltdown about it, certainly – but that’s because individual Tory MPs fear losing votes to UKIP at the next election, making it possible for their party to lose the only thing that matters to them: Power.
UKIP wants out because it is composed – or was, back when it began – of businesspeople who believe that they are being over-regulated by the European Union. They want the freedom to sell inferior products to you, without being penalised for it.
The Tory amendment to the Queen’s speech is nothing but a performance, put on for the benefit of the plebs. It’s a pantomime, with the British public urged to shout “Look out behind you!” at David Cameron’s Widow Twanky, whenever we see the Eurosceptics creeping up out of the shadows.
Note that, in this scenario, Education dunce Michael Gove and damp squib Defence sec Philip Hammond play the ugly sisters; they say they want out of Europe, but they won’t actually do anything about it. Straw men.
The amendment, which condemns the Queen’s speech for failing to include a bill preparing the way for a referendum on whether we stay in the EU, is not only pointless but dangerous. As mentioned previously on this blog, amendments to the Queen’s speech are traditionally taken as confidence votes. The fact that this is a Conservative Party amendment suggests that the government no longer has confidence in itself. If the amendment succeeds, the Prime Minister should resign and the government should fall.
Perhaps I am mistaken. This is not pantomime – it’s farce.
And the amendment is certain to be defeated, according to the pundits, because all the Liberal Democrats, most of Labour and a significant proportion of the Conservatives will vote against it. This means that even the question of confidence in the government can be avoided because nobody will be able to raise it as an issue.
That’s why I said, elsewhere on the internet, that Labour should abstain.
On the Huffington Post site, I wrote: “Labour’s best move is to abstain, let the Tories defeat their own government with the amendment, and then see if Cameron follows Parliamentary convention and resigns. It’s possible he’ll say that a vote on the Queen’s speech is no longer a confidence issue because of his Fixed-Terms Parliaments Act, which defined a ‘no confidence’ vote for the first time, but this may be countered by saying that, if Parliament does not support the planned legislative programme, then it does not support the government or the Prime Minister who leads it.
“If the PM ignores the resignation issue, then we can all say he is running an outlaw government and nothing he does from now on should be considered legal; if he resigns, then the amendment won’t matter because it won’t go forward.
“And let’s face it, if Labour can abstain on the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill, there’s no reason not to abstain on this!”
If the amendment succeeds, we can have a proper debate on whether this government is fit for purpose – at a time when people are still coming to terms with the first death directly attributed to the imposition of the Conservative Bedroom Tax, which itself follows the deaths of thousands due to the Conservative-employed Atos firm’s mismanagement of Employment and Support Allowance assessments.
It won’t, and we’ll be denied our chance to have that debate.
But just remember – despite all the swagger and show – you’re being denied the chance to have a proper debate on Europe as well.
Cameron contrite while Farage laughs: The longer the Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister wavers over Europe, the more of a fool he makes himself seem.
David Cameron seems determined to make his mark on the history books as the worst Prime Minister never to be elected in the United Kingdom.
Yesterday we learned that he is giving serious thought to supporting a Parliamentary vote that would condemn the Queen’s speech – that now-notoriously sparse proclamation of forthcoming legislation, spat out by Her Majesty like a rotting carcass last Wednesday – for failing to mention any law allowing an in-out referendum on Europe.
It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself.
Perhaps he is running scared of UKIP, a party that won the votes of just over 7.5 per cent of the British voting population in the local elections and is therefore – still – a considerable distance from forming any kind of threat to the Conservatives, who we should remember are the oldest, ugliest and nastiest political organisation in the country.
More likely, he’s running scared of his own backbenchers, who have become considerably more restless about Europe since the (perceived) rise of UKIP to prominence. It’s a false belief, based on the fact that the Eurosceptic party got 25 per cent of the vote in the locals. Total voter turnout was only 31 per cent, so a quarter of that means only 7.5+ per cent voted UKIP.
We should also remember that UKIP supporters were more likely to vote in this year’s elections as theirs was a vote of protest against the government, supporting the party they believe to represent that protest. Others were more likely to believe the locals were irrelevant in the larger scheme of things and stay at home.
However, Tories are not highly-regarded for their understanding and good stewardship of statistics – look at the example of Iain Duncan Smith – so it seems they’re putting the screws on Cameron.
This has been accentuated by calls to quit Europe from ex-heavyweights Nigel Lawson and Michael Portaloo, and the claim by Bore-us Johnson that leaving the EU will not harm the UK’s economy.
It’s as though they are going out of their way to make a fool of him.
You see, there are two very good reasons why Cameron should not support a vote that undermines the measures in the Queen’s speech:
Firstly: He wrote it. Even if he was not responsible for the exact wording, it is the document that outlines the legislative programme for the forthcoming year, to be followed by the government of which Cameron is the leader – and it follows, therefore, that he must have had the final say about it.
If he supports a vote against it, the public can conclude either that he is not a man of principle but one who does whatever he thinks will win him the support he needs, whether it is right or wrong, or that he is a brainless fool who didn’t pay enough attention to the content of the speech.
Secondly: No Parliament can bind the next. It is likely that ‘enabling’ legislation for a vote on EU membership was left out of the Queen’s speech for the very good reason that the vote will not take place during the lifetime of the current Parliament. Cameron has always stated that it would take place after an outright Conservative victory in 2015 – partly to blackmail Eurosceptic voters into supporting his party at that poll, but also because his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners won’t support a vote while they are a part of the government.
Finally, it seems Cameron should have remembered the coda at the end of the speech. It said, “Other measures will be laid before you.”
In other words, provision had been made, already, for legislation that was not included in the speech. He didn’t have to say or do anything.
It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself.
Postscript: New information has been passed to me which casts the situation in a whole new light.
It states: “The first parliamentary test of a minority or coalition government is the vote on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech. If the Queen’s Speech is amended, the Prime Minister must resign.”
Let’s all hope that this amendment is won and Cameron supports it. Because, guess what?
It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself!
Post-postscript: According to the New Statesman, the Commons Information Office reckons a defeat on the Queen’s speech no longer constitutes a vote of no confidence in the government. That Bill offered a definition of a ‘no confidence’ vote for the first time, meaning that a defeat on the planned legislative programme or, say, the Budget, are no longer regarded as votes of no confidence in the government.
That seems wrong to me; if Parliament doesn’t support the planned legislative programme (or spending plans, in the case of the Budget) then it follows logically that Parliament does not have confidence in the government that devised it.
Whatever happens, it seems this Conservative Prime Minister is happy not to conserve an ancient Parliamentary convention, if it doesn’t suit him.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.