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.