Thursday, January 24, 2013

 

Cameron's Great Gamble


Most things worth doing involve an element of risk, though sensible people seek to minimize dangerous imponderables. Politics is steeped in risk, but David Cameron has become known as someone characterised by caution rather than a reckless Casino gambling mindset. Yet, by his speech yesterday, he might well have succeeded in placing most of his own and his party's (not to mention his country's) chips on that referendum square. Should he win in 2015 he has promised to renegotiate the terms on which Britain's membership is based and then to present the results to be voted on in a referendum. If the answer is in the negative then a British exit will ensue.

In one bound he has ticked several political boxes. He has delighted his right-wing euro-sceptics 81 of whom voted for an in-out referendum back in November 2011; one of that number now welcomes Cameron as the 82nd 'rebel'. Oh dear! Does he fully realise what he has let himself in for? Martin Kettle in an excellent piece today, thinks the immortal words of Robert Walpole are relevant  when receiving the cheers of the crowd after declaring war on Spain in 1739: 'They now ring their bells, but soon they will wring their hands.'. He also quotes the wickedly perceptive words of Tony Blair
  
"The British people may have their prejudices, but they get very uneasy when their politicians start to share them."

Lets just list the things which could go wrong for David Cameron as a result of his speech.

1. He has to win the election in 2015. Right now that looks a tall order, especially as he is denied the 20 odd seats redrawing of constituency borders would have delivered.

2. assuming he cannot win outright, he may have to form a coalition again which might well frustrate his objective. Clegg suggests he would still work with Cameron even after his speech but I doubt his party would and I doub Clegg can be taken seriously on this point anyway.

3. The 26 other countries are unlikely to agree to Cameron's agenda of repatriated powers. He has tested the patience of other members for too long for them to feel generous towards us and they m ight just be happy to let us leave- an outcome Cameron certainly does not favour.

4. How much of his demands will Cameron's party accept as sufficient? half? three quarters? All of them? 

5. If not sufficient how will his party react? The Tory party might well split and face terminal decline.

6. What if the uncertainty caused by all the talk about the forthcoming referendum helps ruin the UK economy? Sterling is already weakened by the speech and it seems likely we are already in a triple dip recession.

7. Will the obsession with Europe lose the election for Conservatives as it did in 2001? Micheal Ashcroft has already warned it easily could.

8. What if the 'irreconcilable' core of the sceptics refuse to campaign for a yes and in the event of it being delivered, break away to join UKIP?

9. What if public opinion is dead set against leaving the EU? a recent poll in The Guardian suggested opinion has shifted against any departure and this could continue.Voters do not think the EU is the most important political issue compared with the economy, public services and so forth.

All in all its a huge gamble. Cameron will receive the plaudits of his biliously anti-EU party, will maybe spike Nigel Farage's guns (though I doubt it) and be praised by the  quisling right-wing press, but I reckon there is so much to go wrong between now and any possible referendum date, that I wouldn't put any bets on sod' law not doing for him, his career and his party with him.       






    

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