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Friday, March 15, 2013

Will one of the Conservative 'Big Beasts' convert the party to 'better off out'?

Every Tory Big Beast needs to say something on Europe...
It is an essential qualification of the exclusive Conservative club of 'Big Beasts' - a group of high-profile Tories competing to succeed David Cameron, or who at least have considered themselves leadership contenders at one point or another - to have made an intervention on the UK's fraught relationship with Europe, preferably in a powerful article followed up by a substantial and well-thought through speech. With the half way mark in this Parliament crossed, and with the possibility of the Tories winning the 2015 general elections seemingly shrinking by the day (though much could still change), the Conservative Party is quietly contemplating a life in opposition, and who might possibly take over from Cameron.

For a range of reasons, Europe will feature prominently in any leadership campaign, and one particularly uncomfortable question will be difficult to avoid: will any of the contenders openly advocate the UK leaving the EU, thereby (if selected) making the Tories a 'better off out' party in opposition?

Well, here's our Big Beast watch, in chronological order (based on interventions in the debate over the least year). If we've omitted anyone, our apologies.

Michael Gove: A serving Cabinet Minister he nevertheless let if be known in the Mail on 13 October 2012 that he wants Britain to give other EU nations an ultimatum: "Give us back our sovereignty or we will walk out."

Philip Hammond: Not to be outdone he added his name to Goves's comments telling the BBC on 14 October 2012 that "What Michael is reflecting, and many of us feel, is that we are not satisfied with the current relationship between the EU and the UK."

Owen Paterson: He ventured outside of his pursuit of EU agricultural and fisheries reform on 7 December 2011 to tell the Spectator that "If there was a major fundamental change in our relationship, emerging from the creation of a new bloc which would be effectively a new country from which we were excluded, then I think inevitably there would be huge pressure for a referendum."

David Davis: A former Minister and Shadow Home Secretary, runner-up to Cameron in the last leadership contest and senior member of the BB club. He made a speech on the 19 November 2012 saying "We should seek the repatriation of a whole range of powers to create a new relationship between Britain and the EU" based on the original "Common Market [via] the so-called double referendum strategy." One referendum to approve a negotiation strategy and another to "approve the new negotiated relationship, or if it was not good enough, it would trigger the negotiation to leave the Union."

Boris Johnson: The Mayor of London on 4 December 2012 delivered his speech (video here) setting out a similar theme of renegotiation and referenda saying the UK should "Boil it to down to the single market, that's the great achievement of the European Union, I think we could easily scrap the social chapter, the fisheries policy." He concluded "The choice is going to be very simple: it's between staying in on our terms or getting out."

Dr Liam Fox: The Former Defence Secretary and leadership contender was next on 10 December 2012. In his speech to RUSI and Open Europe he argued that there was a new consensus forming that the "debate has centred on the need for a defined negotiating period over the EU issue ending in a much needed referendum." Concluding "To be frank, if the choice is between the current trajectory towards ever closer union and leaving, then I would choose to leave, albeit reluctantly. If the choice is between a looser, more economic relationship and leaving, then I would choose to stay. It is a view that, I believe, is gaining ever greater traction with the British people."

George Osborne: The Chancellor made an intervention in an interview with Die Welt saying: "I very much hope that Britain remains a member of the EU. But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change."

Adam Afriyie: The young pretender to the BB club and a former shadow Minister. He wrote an article for the Telegraph on 11 January 2013 arguing that "It is now time to ask the British people what they want. If the Government is to fulfil its commitment to offer people a real choice and a real change in our EU relations, then in my view it would be wise to offer two referendums: one in this parliament and a conclusive one in the next."

Andrea Leadsom: A new MP and therefore not traditionally considered a BB, Andrea Leadsom has however been a leading light in the Conservative EU Fresh Start project, working with a large number of her fellow MPs. Her views are summed up in an article for Conservative Home on 3 February 2013 after the Fresh Start manifesto was published on 16 January 2013.

Andrew Mitchell: Another BB new to the backbenches he added his weight to the European debate in an article for the FT on 19 February 2013 where he echoed David Cameron's sentiments and put forwards some ideas for European reform. However Mitchell has been widely tipped to be nominated as the UK's next EU Commissioner in 2014.

Theresa May: Although not a traditional BB, the Home Secretary may not have made any major interventions on the overall EU question, she made a speech on 9 March 2013 arguing that "by 2015 we’ll need a plan for dealing with the [non-EU] European Court of Human Rights. And yes, I want to be clear that all options – including leaving the Convention altogether – should be on the table."

Jesse Norman:  Another junior backbencher and not a conventional BB but has been widely tipped as a future leader, and he has raised his profile as the leader of a rebellion against the Coalition's plans to reform the House of Lords. He has now entered into the EU sphere with a thought-provoking article for the Telegraph yesterday followed up by a speech to the Localis think tank.

Of course David Cameron's speech of 23 January 2013 is the yardstick against which they will all have to be measured.

So what do we make of them? Well there is a surprising amount of agreement between the Big Beasts centred on the idea of a EU renegotiation followed by a referendum. Whoever is leading the Conservative party (in Government of Opposition) for the foreseeable future will probably subscribe to some variant of this. But there's also a possibility that someone goes down the 'better off out' route, perhaps triggered by some event in Europe which is perceived as a blow to the UK's chances of getting a new EU deal.

Who might that be? The comment field is open...


Rik said...

1. 'Dave' is speaking as the leader of his party and as the PM. All 3 (a Tory government whether or not with Cameron; the Party; he personally) should deliver.
All 3 have a credibility issue towards large parts of the electorate (allthough not all the same parts), this is a promise you cannot break.

2. Dave is doing the reneg at least leading it. Which makes his and Hague's and probably Osborne's position different from the rest who are basically all on the sideline.

3. The relation with and in a more general sense position of UKIP will be a main determinant whoever is in charge of the Conservatives.
The worst long term strategic mistake Dave/Conservatives can make is put UKIP on the map. It would nearly make the Conservatives a permanent no2 party with Labour alone on the left and the right split in 2.

4. A process in which Cameron is doing a very poor job imho. The Conservatives, like the CDU/CSU or the CDA in Holland have a social conservative/cultural conservative electorate. You simply cannot move to the middle without jeopardizing your position. Certainly not when a potential competitor is rising on the right and the leadership is not undisputed. The party is split into 3 parts of which 1 part has already at least in the polls left the building and another part is openly doubting the present leadership's strategy.
Basically what Dave is doing is the same thing that destroyed the CDA in Holland. They got on their moral superiority horse and 2/3 of their electorate ran away to Rutte and Wilders (the latter and his views seen as worse than Satan's while half the party's voters shared those).
If he wants to push through liberal policies he has to assure that there is no real competition on the right and he is the undisputed leader and the party is ahead (and with a proper margin) in the polls or become leader of another party. This is not working.
He should open up to IP voters and leadership explain the strategy and make clear that this is effectively the only referendum option on the table UKIP getting a majority is about as likely Ashton becoming Miss World. If Farage is ignoring it or worse his voters will very likely see it as missing out on the chance to really make a difference. The majority are protestvotes if the cause for that protest is properly adressed they usually come back.
And not give Farage the opportunity to campaign on other issues like immigration or social conservative stuff as Dave does now. You simply make it a normal party this way. Which can move between points depending on the electorate's interest at a particular time. Look at Wilders in Holland again (anti-immigration to start with and now anti-EU; anti-Austerity; social conservative; pro-animal rights, a full scale party with popular points and well established by failure of the others especially the CDA).

5. 2 referenda is see not working. One on the strategy? A much too complicated issue with lots of technicalities. With points more difficult to change in the neg itself as well.
What he however could do (if possible in the coalition) is start an open discussion on which points are important in the negotiation.
Proper survey is needed anyway you have to now with which points your electorate finds important.
What he also could do is a referendum on the HR stuff. This can be a proper referendum question. Something like:
'Stop with treaty and have national law in stead for those (human) rights adjusted to our own population's ideas or not'.
Yes or no not which one of the 287 policies do you think are important.
Both could be done pre-election.
Good for his credibility and likely put some extra pressure on the other side.

Rik said...

1. The EU cannot afford to lose the UK it would be a huge blow to any Euro rescue. Which will either still be on the table seen the pace in which things are going (structural reforms) or have lead to an exit.
Former gives a huge possibility to put pressure on them. Latter requires a treatychange anyway.
Where they have moved themselves in a very difficult situation. Changing the treaty now means bringing the possibility into the open. With likley market reaction. Not doing it will mean a mess likely when it happens but at best huge timepressure to change the treaty. I would not be surprised as Dave simply could put all his demands on the table with a take it (and treatychangetreath) or leave it and they have no choice then to accept. More elegant to be preferred of course.

2. Doubtful if the North can afford the UK to leave. They have allowed all sort of Eastern criples in next the Southern they already had and have given them voting and other rights.
They simply would be stuck with a huge majority of basketcases only out to get extra subsidies out of the EU, making proper governance and fighting corruption even more diffecult. With some strange views on democracy. And a large part thereof with simply a negative growth potential. Will simply mean after at least half a decade of bad Euro news everyday all sorts of other flotsam and jetsam coming to the surface. Hardly would make the EU more sustainable at home.

3. Some countries might consider making a point. However all are nett receivers and would face a reneg on their dear subsidies and Germany is transferring a lot of dough to them and will bring them back to their senses. Greece, Spain might at some point have nothing to lose but Germany and a few others do and they pay for a lot of things so can pressure them.

4. Put more pressure on them. I would look at the surrounding counties. Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, possibly a few others and try to combine them. Now these have individual relations forming a block would be a huge gamechanger. Anyway the Uk is moving to a second tier membership. Probably/possibly with Sweden, Danemark, Czechs(?). possibly even the Dutch on some issues. The stronger the second tier the stronger the position of the UK. It would be the second tier Super-germany (without the financial obligations). You never know how this (EZ integration) will play out.

5. This will imho only go wrong if something goes really badly wrong there. But seen the position of Germany very unlikely. Take Hollande. May be has a big mouth. But at the end of the day will not want to run the risk that markets start dumping PIIGS CS and with it likely France and Belgium. He is a semi-moron not a complete idiot.

Andrew Smith said...

The problem any leader of the Conservative Party is going to have is credibility.

After 40 years telling us what we have now would not happen, telling us it wasn't even planned, telling us they would mould the EU into our image, after all that no one would believe a Tory leader who said grass in the EU was green.

Rollo said...

If the tories actually had this referendum, they would be re-elected. If Cast Iron Pledge Cameron simply promises to have one, he will of course lose. Once you have proved yourself to be a lying cheating politician, you can never be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Why would the UK "renegotiate" with its EUSSR jailers regarding its prison conditions?

Besides, the EUSSR does not negotiate.


Average Englishman said...

Dave and his teamn need to have a reality check.
* If a referendum is not called before the next general election the Conservatives are out courtesy of UKIP and will stay out courtesy of UKIP until they change their policy on Europe.
* If a referendum is called and the vote is to stay in the EU, UKIP will still have a major influence at the next General Election and that will probably be sufficient to keep the Conservatives out of power.
* UKIP will not go away whilst the UK is a part of the EU because the dictats, bills and immigrants from the EU will not go away.
* As Rik pointed out, UKIP has split the Tory vote and if the UK stays in the EU then UKIP will get stronger as time goes on; partly because more and more people are concluding that the UK would be 'better off out' and partly by including other policies that the voters will like but other politicians of all parties shy away from.
* Dave has very poor no credibility with the electorate, especially on European issues. They have him worked out as another 'politics first principle second', Tony B. Liar.
* Mr. cast iron referendum guarantee on the Lisbon Treaty will lose the next election if he is left at the helm.
* It will probably take another period in opposition for the Conservatives to work out what they have to do to get the votes they need to weald power but when they do, it will have to involve leaving the EU.

perdix said...

Rollo - your comment about Cameron is untrue and unacceptable.yprKyru

Mally said...

Europe used to be a collection of reasonably prosperous countries 50 years ago. Today it is spending about a trillion euros on a budget to support a regime which has put all but Germany in the tank big time. Time to cut the cackle and get out now.

christina speight said...

Perdix- I am glad that Rollo yells it as it is. Every word he writes above is 100% true. This particularly applies to Cameron as " a lying cheating politician".

THAT's why so many of us cannot vote Tory as long as he's there. I for one remain a conservative. Cameron is NOT and glories in it.
The quotes above go back a long way. On Owen Paterson all you seem to have is 1 year and a quarter old, when - as we all know - "a week is a long time in politics" Your David Davis is even older.

David Barneby said...

I doubt that Cameron will hold a referendum before the 2015 election . They will lose the General election , because people don't trust them to hold one in 2017 as promised and no negotiations or repatriation of laws will have taken place because the EU isn't going to negotiate .
It wouldn't surprise me if the UKIP become the British No1 party in the European Parliament after the 2014 election .

Anonymous said...

I believe, from what I have heard about him, that you have seriously underplayed Owen Patterson's Eurosceptic credentials. Here is a politician with more understanding of the EU machine than his colleagues - given his excellent work on the CFP, later sidelined by the Leadership, and his handling of the horse meat scandal. On this he earned the plaudits of Booker and North. A rare honour none of us here need to aspire to!

George Earle said...

I believe, from what I have heard about him, that you have seriously underplayed Owen Patterson's Eurosceptic credentials. Here is a politician with more understanding of the EU machine than his colleagues - given his excellent work on the CFP, later sidelined by the Leadership, and his handling of the horse meat scandal. On this he earned the plaudits of Booker and North. A rare honour none of us here need to aspire to!

Gosporttory said...

I am afraid that we will not win the next election as long as Cameron is leader. He brags about being a liberal conservative. He is arrogant and ignores the views of both his members and indeed the majority of the British people.

To borrow money then give it away in aid to nuclear powers is the economics of the madhouse!

We are also all sick to the teeth at having to work hard, pay our taxes and then watch a whack of it all going to the ever profligate EU Gravy train.

At least my conscience is clear as I never voted for Cameron as our leader, but voted for David Davies who would most probably have listened to the members views and indeed the wider British public.

Robin said...

Dont want UKIP to be Tory Tribute band.
We need Old Labour Frank Field,Kate Hoey,Gisela Stuart to join ukip, Ian Prentice,Kelvin Hopkins

christina speight said...

George Earle - I am delighted to know that the excellent qualities of Owen Paterson are appreciated and for all the right reasons too.

. I have been pushing fr him to take over for months now, though realising that he might need more time to make his mark. Whatever ---- he's the one withg prospects for the future

jon livesey said...

I get a bit weary of people who start out as if they are making a comment on the relationship between the UK and EU, but quickly veer off the road into anti-Cameron tribalism.

The fact is that the Single Market is the main piece of the EU that we want.

The rest of the EU, including the direction in which it is moving, is perfectly appropriate for the members of the euro, who are in the process of becoming the "Real EU".

The ace in the hole that Cameron - or whoever is PM - has, is simple. It costs the EU nothing to give the UK what it wants. The UK's relationship with the EU can become like its relationship with the ECB; without being full shareholders in the ECB, the UK pays an annual fee for the services it uses.

The argument we should be making to the EU is pretty simple: set up a relationship with the UK that works, and then see who else, currently outside the EU, would want that relationship for themselves.

Rik said...

UKIP will not include old Labour. That might have been a possibility but is not one anymore. IP has now positioned itself as the 'Real Conservatives'. Basically right from Cameron's Tories.
Furthermore IP has added other issues to its original single issue (basically the ones where Cameron missed up). EU membership alone is probably not enough to become a more structural political force. Farage did a pretty good positioning job. Added points and added points on which his competition the Conservatives are weak.

Cameron simply has the electotal problem that on his 'new' right several times more voters are falling off than he gains in the middle (if he gains anything there at all, he hardly makes himself attractive). His electoral enemy is at the backdoor while he is using all his resources to defend the frontdoor.

The right will change the coming period, like you see in eg the US, Germany, Holland for instance gays who think the anti-discriminating work has been done turn, away from the left and start to think economically again and become right. Also the middleclass has grown enormously the last few decades and these people are now scared to lose out because of cuts on entitlements they have been paying for (for others basically).
Only the process goes slowly and has to be well managed. Merkel does a reasonable job in that respect (until a real IP-clone comes up) and she has the C to worry about for which very few people care anymore. FDP and CDA in Holland have completely missed the plot. Rutte did well in Holland.
The strategy looks very simple rebrand your party without chasing away the original leadership. Basically make room for new people and new ideas and solve differences of opinion within your party structure so you remain one big party.
Cameron and the ones before hime have clearly messed up this process as well as completely missed the challenge the IP might give them.

Cameron's call to unite in that respect is simply too late. Especially as he doesnot show any willingness to make a move himself. Basically it is it would be a good idea if you joined me.
What Cameron is offering is simply not enough and he is communicating it very poorly as well.

He probably has a problem on the left/entrepreneurial/more international oriented side as well.
Going straight for an Out will unlikely make him popular there.

Anyway a straight OUT vote will unlikely make it in parliament as it will mean the rise of some IN-Talibans next to the OUT-Talibans that are already there. And he hasnot got a majority anyway.
Also in a referendum a majority at this moment will not happen. The population looks split in roughly 3 parts of equal size. Outs;Ins; wanting a reneg. Denying them a reneg will likely make them Ins. Will also mean btw the the outs will have had their referendum but will lose it and a next one will be 2030 or so?

Rik said...

What could be a strategy that works:
1. For Christina and Rollo.
It simply looks like even if you would get your referendum it will not do the job. Ins and renegs simply have a majority.
The only thing it would do is mess up the reneg process.
If you want a for you optimum result that I want to summarise as follows:
-Out. Will require a referendum that you can win. A straight In-Out referendum now will not do that job looking at the polls and the fact that a lot of people will get very scared if nobody can actually tell them what will happen. So you need a reneg gone wrong to get an Out. Looking at the polls that would give a likley majority.
-A revised relation with the EU as second best. But again you need a reneg to get there.

So whether you like it or not you need a reneg as badly as Cameron (only a different outcome thereof).

Needs a lot of things going his way to get reelected. And it aint gonna happen if things are going the way they are going.
Some points.

1. Donot p#%& off your right and IP voters anymore unless absolutely necessary. Tories are representing social and cultural conservative people whether you like it or not. And hijacking like the urban academic elite did with the left is not going to work certainly not when there is an alternative.
2. Open up and really open up to UKIP voters and take them serious. Nobody change the way they vote if the one they have to vote for treat them as some sort retarded morons.
3. Open up for a deal with the IPs leadership. IPs at least most of them will realise that IP can never by themselves get a referendum. If that is clear Cameron (or at least the Conservatives are) is the best deal for a referendum. IP needs to achieve a referendum by influencing other political parties mainly the Tories. If Farage keep saying no he will make his party look like a protest party with no other aim tha protesting. A lot of voters simply donot like that. It is still in an extended protest/yellow card stage. If Cameron reacts properly it is only a yellow card, if he goes on and ignores this part of the electorate it will be a red.
4. Clear communication strategy that even for outs this is the best deal on the table. I completely miss that. Cameron keeps focussing on the middle (and did a good job there).
5. Work on credibility on the EU issue, but also on other issues. Give people the idea that they are taken seriously and that you mean what you say and not will back off later. It is not only what is said, but also how it works in people's mind.
6. Keep the economy out of it it will not work. If Labour starts with it bring up the 'Hollande' argument. Europe and immigration linked to Europe (Tories are the only one with a strategy that might work, that of the other ones is completely uncredible). Stay away from NHS it needs reforming but you will burn your fingers if you do it on short notice.
7. Start attacking the competition in a dignified matter. Mr Ed is weak and looks in no way PM material. Clegg looks like a neurotic menopausal sherrydrinking house wife.