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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Cameron’s weasel words over EU referendum

A piece been penned by David Cameron in today’s Sunday Telegraph reveals his concern over the increasing disaffection of a section of his party and of the electorate with the Condem coalition’s position on the EU. In recent months, UKIP have been enjoying the highest level of support in opinion polls since the height of the parliamentary expenses scandal, on a number of occasions attracting a higher level of declared support than the Liberal Democrats, taking a 9% share amongst prospective voters. Although such a figure does not put UKIP in a position to win Westminster seats, what it does do is imperil the parliamentary majorities of a number of Conservative MPs. If such figures did translate into real votes at a General Election, this could cause enough damage to the Conservative Party to deny it a parliamentary majority. It is this fear, combined with the perceived need to address a heightened level of public apprehension over the crisis in the eurozone, that has prompted the Prime Minister to write.

Although it is to be expected that the BBC would portray his piece in a manner which would suggest euroscepticism, it is surprising that the Sunday Telegraph, or at least its political editor Patrick Hennesy, should also fall for Cameron’s ruse. The BBC introduces its report on Cameron’s article with the heading David Cameron ‘prepared to consider EU referendum’ which would seem to imply to the casual reader who does not bother to read further that Cameron is willing to contemplate a referendum on EU membership, when in fact what is being suggested by the Prime Minister is nothing of the sort. Hennesy’s piece is entitled ‘EU: New Tory battle lines drawn’, which once again suggests that a very robust and significant change in attitude towards the European Union is being signalled, with Hennesy describing Cameron’s article as constituting a ‘landmark move’. However, we have witnessed such distorted hyperbole in the media before, one striking example relating Cameron’s speech on multiculturalism delivered in Munich, which was said to signal a radical shift in policy resulting in the ditching of the concept, whilst since that date we have in reality seen an ongoing commitment to multiculturalism and, in some instances, increased state funding for it (e.g. state-funded Muslim schools).

Turning to Cameron’s article itself, rather than to mainstream media commentary upon it, certain key passages and phrases reveal the Prime Minister’s true position and intent. Firstly, he deliberately chooses to open his piece by referring not to our relationship with the EU – a political construct – but to our ‘relationship with Europe.’ This, of course, is a common tactic adopted by those in favour of EU membership, for this device is used by them to equate being anti-EU (a rational and democratic political position) with being anti-European (an irrational and xenophobic position). However, most of us who are anti-EU are thankfully pro-European, whereas many of those who are pro-EU are conversely anti-European.

In essence, Cameron wishes the UK not only to remain a member of the EU’s single market, but also to be a political member of the club because of his globalist political stance, which he rationalises through employing the pretext of co-operating ‘with our neighbours to maximise our influence in the world and project our values of freedom and democracy.’ We have in recent years done far too much of this ‘projection’, in terms of becoming militarily involved in complex conflicts overseas in which we have no interest, accompanied by, so it would seem, little genuine understanding on the part of our policy elites of the countries that they insist on meddling with. Thus it is that there has been an ecstatic embrace of the ‘Arab Spring’, although wherever it has been successful it has brought the Islamists to power, and in Libya, where we had direct military involvement, the country now lies shattered and divided between the claims of competing warlords. The drumbeat of war now sounds for Syria, with William Hague and the FCO being at the vanguard of the party of international hawks. No, let us have no more of this. If we are to ‘project our values of freedom and democracy’ to other peoples, then we should do so through the strength of our example, by being genuinely free, democratic and worthy of emulation. We are currently neither free nor democratic enough.

Although Cameron’s article is presented as offering the public a the prospect of a choice over EU membership, this is not the case, and Cameron makes it absolutely explicit that he is not only in favour of EU membership, but that he will ensure that if any referendum is held over any aspect of this country’s relationship with the EU, then it will be at a time that is conducive to securing the result that he desires, thus:
I don’t agree with those who say we should leave and therefore want the earliest possible in/out referendum. Leaving would not be in our country’s best interests.

. . .  I will continue to work for a different, more flexible and less onerous position for Britain within the EU.

How do we take the British people with us on this difficult and complicated journey? How do we avoid the wrong paths of either accepting the status quo meekly or giving up altogether and preparing to leave? It will undoubtedly be hard, but taking the right path in politics often is.

As we get closer to the end point, we will need to consider how best to get the full-hearted support of the British people whether it is in a general election or in a referendum.

As I have said, for me the two words “Europe” and “referendum” can go together, particularly if we really are proposing a change in how our country is governed, but let us get the people a real choice first.
This article is very much of a piece with Ed Miliband’s recent speeches on England and Englishness and mass immigration. Miliband realised that the Labour Party’s approach to both of these issues has alienated a significant stratum of former Labour voters and supporters, thus he attempted to give the impression that he shared their concerns and views on these matters, whilst actually using both speeches to reaffirm his commitment to multiculturalism, mass immigration and globalisation. Miliband attempted to bedeck himself in national bunting to sell a globalist multicultural political product, and Cameron too has chosen to take out the national bunting today, using it to mask his pro-EU stance. Neither Cameron nor Miliband has the national interest at heart, and neither man believes in a democracy that gives voice to the genuine public will.

Many will see through Cameron’s cynical attempt to appeal to those of us who wish to leave the EU, but many will not have the time or the inclination to read beyond the headlines, and thus gain the impression that the Prime Minister intends to offer us a genuine referendum over EU membership. This is the real intent of his piece: to manage public opinion to his political advantage whilst offering nothing of substance. As it is with multiculturalism, so shall it be with the EU: Cameron makes public announcements critical of each of them, whilst enthusiastically promoting both. 


  1. Cameron has never intended to allow the electorate a referendum on membership of the EU, and he will continue to squirm around the issue for as long as he is allowed to.
    The Telegraph article is simply about buying time.
    The question is, just how much?

    1. That is true. Unfortunately, I think that he will probably be successful in his efforts, at least in the short to medium term. Nobody in the political mainstream is going to pin him down on this, as Liam Fox is going along with the ruse too. Only the handful of MPs in the 'Better Off Out' campaign are likely to see through Cameron's intentions.

  2. The Tories' "Now you see it, now you don't, the hand is swifter than the eye" brand of bogus Euroscepticism still works a little, but it's wearing thin.

    It relies on 'Europe' being the matter of the hour, as before Euro elections, and then drifting out of view and not being an issue in GEs, So all the talk of reform, which is nonsense anyway, can be forgotten until it's time to dust it off again.

    However, he made a huge mistake and permanently alienated a lot of their natural supporters with the Cast Iron Promise. They would have done far better to be honest. His behaviour subsequently hasn't engendered much respect. The continuing Euro crisis means that the question of the EU can't be simply forgotten for a year or two, until it arises again and can then be dealt with with more flannel.

    It's quite clear this is an attempt to kick the can down the road but increasing numbers are losing patience and can see that he isn't saying anything but is blowing smoke in their eyes. It's not just this either, he generally generates the impression he's a shallow and slippery character who'll say anything tailored to what the audience wants to hear.

    I think Cameron would rather resign than be PM and have to cope with a no vote and trouble with 'Europe'. Also, I've always had the impression that he wants to be called PM but it's really empty ambition, he doesn't want to be PM because he wants to do anything. Hence the U turns.

    I've no time for Cameron, but I do think he gets a bit too much flak, in that he may be a particularly slimy specimen but his views and actions are probably no different to anyone else likely to have become Conservative leader, and are those that have prevailed at the top of the Tory party for decades.

    1. "I think Cameron would rather resign than be PM and have to cope with a no vote and trouble with 'Europe'."

      I trust that Cameron, together with his cabinet, and the pro-EU members of the other political parties will automatically resign in the event of a no vote.

      Mike O.

  3. These politicians are the sort of scum who'd have been pushing for closer ties with the Roman Empire... in 409 AD.


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