“Doh, Think I just shot myself in the foot!”
“Call Me Dave” Cameron picked a fight with his own Party, and with two thirds of the electorate, that he didn’t need to pick – and then he lost it!!
Last night the House of Commons produced two results in debating the motion for a referendum on British Membership that was a result of a 100,000 petition calling for the referendum.
The first result was that Cameron had to depend on the Lib Dems and Labour to win the vote. That will place real pressure on the Formal Coalition as Conservatives who voted with Cameron, either from conviction or fear, see this as yet another example of the Lib Dem tail wagging the Tory dog.
The second and more significant result was that about 80 Conservatives defied the Tree Line Whip and voted against the Party leaders, supported by some thirty honourable members from other Parties.
The lunacy of Cameron’s position was that the vote, for or against, never compelled the Government to arrange a referendum, never specified a time when the referendum had to take place, or decided the question that a referendum would place before the British people. He could even back a referendum, as he has done until recently, when the LibDems threatened to come out of Coalition, and not hold it during the current Parliament, or at all.
Cameron could have made the vote a free vote for Conservatives, leaving the LibDems and Labour as undemocratic control freaks denying their MPs and the electorate the right to a referendum on Europe. It is very difficult to see why Cameron refused this option, other than either stupidity or over-weaning arrogance. Had he allowed a free vote, the Commons might still not have passed the motion for a referendum. If they had passed it the majority would have been narrow. Probably 75% of Conservative MPs would have voted for the motion, matching closely the majority in the country amongst the electorate. Perhaps three LibDems might have voted for but that would have been unlikely unless Clegg had permitted his MPs a free vote. The DUP would have voted for a referendum. The wild card would have been amongst Labour MPs. Some estimates suggest 70% of Labour MPs really support a referendum, partly because their voters are roughly 70% in favour. If Labour had been the only Party to whip its MPs against the motion, the revolt would have been larger than it was last night but less than the number of Labour MPs believed to be in favour of a referendum.
The consequence of the vote last night is that Cameron is seriously damaged in several ways. Eurocrats and other EU leaders will be able to say that 80 of the British Parliament is in favour of remaining in the EU and will accept any terms forced on Britain by the next EU Treaty. Had he not whipped his MPs against the motion for a referendum, his negotiating postition in the next round of meetings preparing the new EU Treaty would have been very strong and encouraged other leaders who want to see a major change in the EU away for central control by unelected Eurocrats in a Federal Super State.
Having rebelled once, a significant number of Conservative MPs will find it easier to rebel again on other matters.
The unknown factor is how may may decide to defect to the UK Independence Party. There have been enduring rumours that up to 15 Conservative MPs have had talks with Nigel Farage, Leader UK Independence Party with a view to defecting to his Party. There have also been rumours that further defections in the House of Lords are highly likely. Following last night’s vote, and the vindictive attitude of Cameron to those who declined the Party Whip, some Westminster watchers are suggesting that up to fifty Conservative MPs and 10 Labour MPs are now considering defection to the UK Independence Party. If that was to be a result of last night’s vote, Cameron would be forced either to enter coalition with the LibDems and Labour to continue in power, or reach an accommodation with the UK Independence Party. If they held more than 60 seats in the Commons, through defections from other Parties, and the development of a working relationship with the DUP, they would be a formidable voting block in the Commons and encourage further defections.
However it all turns out, British politics are now in a volatile condition that has not been seen for almost a Century when the Liberals went from being the ruling Party to near oblivion as a result of their endemic corruption which sickened the electorate. It is interesting to see the parallels with today where the three old failed Parties continue to be mired in corruption and sleaze.