I’ve been stressing about just how likely a Tory majority is come May. I realise they have a large hill to climb in terms of getting additional seats having been in government for the last five years, particularly as it feels like all of the constituencies they could possibly grab they got last time out. However, I’m worried that Labour seem on course to crash and burn enough to allow even this impediment to a Conservative outright victory to be removed.
One reason this result has freaked me out when I’ve thought about it in the past is the possible following scenario: the Conservatives have a very thin majority and Cameron calls an EU referendum as promised. Given the small size of the parliamentary advantage the Tories hold, Cameron comes under huge pressure from his backbench to campaign for a “Get Out” vote in said referendum. Given the fear he has of his beloved party splitting apart, he acquiesces to their wishes. As a result, Britain limps out of the European Union.
But upon reflection, I don’t think this would happen, at least the last bit about Cameron backing “Get Out”. The key reason involves big business and their wishes. The Conservative Party cannot ever afford to alienate the business community; otherwise, the party has no ability to raise money. This morning, Goldman Sachs very helpfully told the gathered in Davos that if the UK departs from the EU, they will pull their offices out of London and relocate to Paris or Frankfurt. I can only imagine that the Tories are keeping the business community on side for now by telling them, “Relax, don’t worry. We have to have this referendum to get it over with. But we’ll do whatever it takes to keep Britain in the European Union”. If Cameron ever planted his flag firmly on the side of Britain leaving, big businesses en masse would turn against his party.
Now imagine a situation in which Labour gets a pro-business leader again – David Miliband, newly restored to parliament via a convenient by-election, as a for instance. Labour would be able to mop up the money from business, win the referendum for “Stay In” and effectively destroy the Conservative Party for a generation at least. I don’t see how Cameron ever allows this to happen.
I also don’t think Cameron actually thinks a Brexit is a good idea anyhow. Whatever criticisms of the guy you want to throw forth, he’s actually pretty pragmatic. He knows that leaving the EU would be bonkers. The real question is why he’s put himself in such an awkward position on the subject in the first place. Oh yeah, I remember: by announcing that the Tories would pledge to hold a referendum should they win the election in 2015, UKIP would be pretty much instantly destroyed as an electoral threat. I’m so pleased that one worked out for him.
I follow your reasoning, but I fail to see the picture. This is due to Cameron rather than you. I presume that your prediction of a Tory majority is a question of balance of probabilities rather than anything else. FPTP makes a No Overall Control result less likely than many presume, but it could go either way.
Cameron’s position, it seems to me however, is very well placed for a period of opposition: Miliband as PM would very rapidly become highly unpopular; Labour would have to make similar difficult decisions to the previous government, but due to Labour’s stance over the last 4 years each tough decision would appear as a dishonourable U-turn. The Tories would loudly bang on UKIP’s drum to hound Labour at every turn.
A win for Cameron would have him more exposed than ever before. Although we have virtually no idea what Cameron means by a renegotiation, it is clear that there can be nothing on the table that is not there already and Cameron’s own standing is much diminished in the EU. Blithe talk about removing “ever closer union”, implying Treaty change (Cameron on the Andrew Marr show) will not happen and is an impossibility within the time scale. In any case nothing will appease the Europhobic headbangers.
I find it very difficult to see how Cameron could effectively mount a pro EU campaign mid term in an unpopular, fractious government. How could or would Labour and the Lib Dems line up alongside Cameron in such circumstances? All in all it does look as though Cameron only operates to the shortest of short term agendas, yet if he manages to lose the next election, he may have pulled off a masterstroke for the future prospects of his Party.
David Willcox says
In the event of David Cameron winning the next election it is likely we would still wait 2 to 3 years before a referundum and with the problems facing Europe currently anything can happen re negotions in that time. Should the Liberals do well enough to form a coalition then Clegg has already signalled he will not stand in the way of a referundum. Whatever the outcome of the renegotiation. Cameron is likely to support membership of the EEC he will not risk his historical reputation of a significant negative impact on British Industry.
Perhaps the big risk for us is the arrival of Salmond to the House.He will have only one agenda and if that results in an interference in English matters then there will be a revolution amongst English MPs not to mention the people. How will the Labour party react to that
Steve Peers says
I can’t see how Cameron will remain the leader if Tories lose. So the question is what the next leader will do.