Friday, 25 January 2013

Cameron in Europe: en route to his downfall?

There is a strong possibility that David Cameron, in one single, ill-considered, badly-timed and unnecessary speech, may have sown the seeds of his own downfall this week. And here's why.

Of all five scenarios we can imagine flowing from his speech on Britain and the EU, only one sees him surviving as party leader. So, in descending order of likelihood, let's go through them.

Scenario 1: The Conservatives lose the next election. Ed Miliband becomes prime minister; David Cameron resigns as Tory party leader.

Scenario 2: The Conservatives emerge after the next election as still the largest party in the Commons, but without an overall majority. The Lib Dems play hard ball over his commitment to an in-or-out EU referendum and demand counter-pledges that are unacceptable to the Tories. Cameron is unable to form a government, his party loses patience with him and MPs force his resignation ahead of a new election under a new leader.

Scenario 3: Either with or without an overall majority, Cameron forms a new government and tells his EU partners the UK wants to open negotiations on a new relationship. Despite Angela Merkel's apparently accommodating comments after his speech on Wednesday, when it comes to the crunch, he's told there's nothing to talk about. No negotiations, no new deal, so nothing to put to voters in a referendum. Cameron's opinion poll ratings slump, as he's accused of yet another referendum U-turn, his Euro-sceptic back-benchers rise up and force him to quit.

Scenario 4: Cameron wins the election with an overall majority in the Commons, persuades the EU to negotiate a few more opt-outs for the UK, but not enough to satisfy his back-benchers. He says he'll urge voters to back the deal anyway, but more than 100 of his MPs refuse to follow him. The party splits and he resigns.

Scenario 5: As above, but the newly-negotiated deal is so good that it satisfies even Bill Cash. All Tory MPs line up behind him to vote Yes in the referendum, and the deal is overwhelmingly approved by voters. Cameron emerges triumphant and walks across the surface of the River Thames in celebration.

So here we have a man who pretty much talked his way to the party leadership with an impressively delivered, look-no-notes speech at the Tory party conference in Blackpool in 2005 -- and who now, with a much less impressive, painfully constructed and endlessly delayed speech, may well have talked his way out of it again.

You think I'm being over-dramatic? Fine, here's the verdict from millionaire businessman and former deputy Tory chairman Michael Ashcroft, who now uses some of his wealth to pay for detailed political polling:

"Europe is not much of a priority even for those who say they might vote UKIP … For most voters, including those who will need to vote Conservative for the first time if we are to have any hope of a majority, Europe barely registers on their list of concerns … Tories must remember that we can only get what we want once we win an election. The more we talk about changing our relationship with Europe, the less likely it is to happen."

I suggested three weeks ago that the EU should move towards a system of concentric circles, to accommodate the very different visions of its various member states. David Cameron seems to share my analysis, although he stopped some way short of my conclusion.

He said in his speech: "We need a [EU] structure that can accommodate the diversity of its members – north, south, east, west, large, small, old and new -- some of whom are contemplating much closer economic and political integration, and many others, including Britain, who would never embrace that goal …We must not be weighed down by an insistence on a one size fits all approach which implies that all countries want the same level of integration. The fact is that they don't and we shouldn't assert that they do."

Robin Niblett, director of the foreign policy think-tank Chatham House, makes the same point: "We did not enter the EU with the same political imperatives [as France and Germany]. We had not been invaded, we did not lose the war, and we have historical connections to all sorts of other parts of the world from our empire and commonwealth.

"To the extent that Brits are emotional about Europe, it's to be against Europe; when we're pragmatic, we're for it. Whereas you could say many continental Europeans, when they're emotional are in favor of Europe; and when they're pragmatic, they're against it. So we come at it from almost the other side of the coin."

Peter Oborne in yesterday's Daily Telegraph called Cameron's speech "a grubby piece of party management, the kind of thing Harold Wilson would have been proud of." And of course it was Labour's internal disagreements over Europe which led to Wilson's decision to call an EU in-or-out referendum in 1975, and, eventually, to the Labour split and formation of the SDP in 1981.

What was that about history repeating itself?


Kit Green said...

When (if) the EU question is sorted out by renegotiating powers and a referendum, will we then see the clout of the WTO questioned by our dear leaders? I doubt it very much.

Gaye Berry said...

Cameron surviving his latest EU Speech:
Though I can accept Scenarios 1 - 4, Scenario 5 is absolutely side-splitting.
It was a joke, wasn't it?

When Cameron was tearing down (EU), he should have been building up (EU).
It's not as though UK was doing so financially-well on its own - up a little, down a little - no real solutions falling out of the sky! If any country needed the supervisory/regulatory direction of Brussels, it was Britain and its London Financial District, followed closely by the United States of America's Federal Reserve (where is course the financial criminality really began with theft of taxpayers' money into the bankers' pockets).

Now that the EU is preparing to move forward with a Financial Transaction Tax in 10/17 of its member countries, I don’t see Britain biting at the bit to get a piece of that action. Why?
Because London Financial District could never withstand audit trails on 100% of its financial transactions, and God forbid that it alleviate the financial pressures on the average taxpayer.
The banks started this mess; the banks need to pay and keep on paying!

Europe barely registers on their list of Brits because they have been brainwashed - Britain is being pushed around, its powers are being stripped, its powers must be repatriated, etc. etc. etc. Just as easily, Brits could have been kept fully informed of what was happening in the EU, how they were affected, especially in relation to the FTT. Why were they not? My guess: the huge investment banks too big to fail really run the UK, just as they run the United States of America, and if you want to be elected you had better cow-tow - lower, lower.

(I'm still to be convinced re these concentric circles of yours. I try to imagine Canadian Provinces and Territories being run that way, and all I can see as chaos.)

quietoaktree said...

Scenario 6

Cameron is expendable.

--Her Majesty wants a change-- the opt-outs were not enough.

-Unlike most Brits --one can assume she read what she signed and advised. (praised incessantly and weekly)

Unfortunately apparently in bad faith -and suggests Treachery towards Europe.

-- The opt-outs were insufficient to protect against ideals of the original EEC treaty.

-- Now the truth is apparent.

Britain has no place in the EU with its present political system no matter who the political leader is -- Its citizens will always have fewer Rights than the UK elite and therefore also EU citizens.

quietoaktree said...


-- I have often travelled between UK and Germany.

Even buying 5 British newspapers, watching TV and listening to local radio - being informed about Europe was a useless endeavor.

If at all mentioned --it was only negative news and that in the 80´s. As one can still see with the British internet newspapers --nothing has changed.

-- The UK ´mad cow´episode really brought out the ´flag wavers´--- has nothing to do with Banks in particular.

--more like ´insular in-breeding´as being the cause.

quieoaktree said...

For those who can understand German --here is a witty German comment on ´mad cow disease´(Rinder wahn) and UK connections.

--Hope it functions -- open new window, copy and paste URL.

quietoaktree said...

For all the discussions about the UK and EU, I still haven´t figured out how the UK can meet the requirements for full or even partial EU membership.

This Wikipedia summary does its ´fair´best (read between the lines --but no matter how much ´huffing and puffing´ (propaganda) the UK and its media does, there is no way the ideals of both UK and EU can be considered compatible.

( Important Link !-- for understanding UK)

The comment by GB--

" Europe barely registers on their list of Brits because they have been brainwashed ..... Brits could have been kept fully informed of what was happening in the EU, how they were affected,"

--Demonstrates the crux of the problem -- To be informed the population must understand the problem.

That has been (and is daily) easily hidden --by simply stating ´the Monarch has no real powers´.

-- the population nods in agreement --and blames every other Tom, Dick and Harry or their present Prime Minister for their woes-other than the very limited democratic system they were born into.

quietoaktree said...

From ´Huffpost´

Scotch Git wrote--

"Some folk may think that taking power from London and giving it to Berlin is a good idea, but it sure as hell ain't "Scottish Independence"!"

I presume if Germany was not in (or left) the EU --then Scottish membership in the EU could also be considered as Scottish independence ?

Mr Lustig highlighted Scotlands ´problem´When he discussed Sark

-- In Britain there is ´Feudalism light´-- or to be precise ´one way Feudalism´and not the historical ´two way´

The Scottish Clearances is the prime example of which Scotch Git is certainly aware.

The previous Wikipedia link discusses the Royal Prerogative and states

"The monarch alone appoints members of the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Thistle, the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of Merit."

For Scotland, the Order of the Thistle is presently of interest.

The ´Telegraph´has been kind enough to show a video at St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh of its ´meeting´

--and the ´Daily mail´has put to rest the superstition non-involvment of British Royalty in politics --With PRIDE.

The Order of the Thistle can clearly be seen in the balcony photograph on its recipients.

-- If Scotland can finally rid itself of Feudalism , why should the EU (and God forbid) Germany not stand on the sidelines and clap?

Scotch Git -- How much are your prejudices overcoming your logic ?