LibLink: Stephen Tall: Why my heart won’t be too heavy this week when I vote Conservative (in a manner of speaking)

Conservative Party logoThere was much spluttering at LDV Towers this morning when we saw THAT headline. There was Earl Grey everywhere. Eventually, though, we managed to calm down and keep reading. In fact, our Stephen was messing with the heads of the readers of Conservative Home, as he does every few weeks or so.

In fact, his own vote for the fabulous Liberal Democrat team in the South East is secure. He is talking, though, about how he’s casting a proxy vote for a friend of his who has decided to vote Conservative.

There is a bit of a twist to his relative nonchalance. What happens to Cameron’s Conservative party IF they are still in Government and IF they get their in/out referendum and IF Cameron goes along with the In Crowd?

That’s when the fun will truly begin. The rumours are that George Osborne will take command as the next Foreign Secretary, tasked with obtaining a deal that satisfies his party. I have no doubt a deal will be struck. I would be staggered if it succeeds in satisfying the likes of Dan Hannan or Douglas Carswell. Nonetheless Cameron will tour the country taking his pro-Europe case to the country – as he himself put it in his January 2013 Bloomberg speech:

“… when the referendum comes let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul. Because I believe something very deeply. That Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it.”

Stirring words. Persuasive words. Winning words. Put like this – and it will be – there can be little doubt what the result will be: the public will side with Cameron and vote for the UK to remain within Europe. I’m not too sure what the Conservative Party will make of such an outcome, whether its ranks will be only splintered, or utterly riven.

Whatever, it’s unlikely to be pretty. At least people voting Liberal Democrat in the European elections this week know what they are getting – a party which is decidedly pro EU, pro reforming it (even though, as Stephen said, we might have shouted louder on the reform part. It’s all there in our manifesto, though.) You can read the whole article here.

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23 Comments

  • Crazy from a Lib-dem supporter, but doesn’t Tall post also on the conservative home?

    The party is in total denial, the party will suffer for what the liberal -enabling Tories have done to this country.

  • Charles Rothwell 20th May '14 - 3:45pm

    I have written elsewhere that if (God forbid!) the Tories did win a majority and Cameron got to hold his referendum and (as I also believe) the majority in the country would vote (as in 1975) by a thin majority in favour of staying in the EU, it would be the end of the Conservatives as a single party (as it would also be if the country voted against (and Cameron would, of course, have to instantly resign as PM (if not Tory Leader) and ask for a dissolution/fresh elections)). A good number of Tory backbenchers are now so far down the Kipper road, they will never accept anything except complete withdrawal. They are still (just about) hanging on as Tories to see what 2015 (and, if appropriate, 2017) will bring but if it is anything less than in favour of pull-out they will be gone and joining with the Kippers to form some new party. I have always felt that, since the day on which Thatcher delivered the Bruges Speech, the Tories have developed a schism/cancer within the ranks over Europe in just the same way as they did in the mid-19th century over the Corn Laws and in the early 20th century over Imperial Preference/Tariff Reform. As with 1846, I can well imagine a complete re-alignment of political forces taking place. In such a case, the Liberal Democrats should be fully in place to welcome the modern equivalents of the “Peelites” (Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine etc.) The part I am REALLY worried about (in the event of a Conservative majority emerging in 2015) are the years 2015-2017 as everything and anything will be totally subjected to “the renegotiation campaign” and Britain will de facto have a lame national government as Tories engage in ever bitter in-fighting and hostility, FDI takes flight, jobs begin to go, the Kippers probably start to pick up by-election wins etc (indeed, it might even get so bad that Cameron might not even survive until 2017!) The country, in my view, will be mad if it does return a Conservative majority government (and a minority one will be just a complete waste of time from the word go).

  • I’m not sure why anyone would think George Osborne is likely to be effective in renegotiating Britain’s position in Europe. The Tories have been a disaster in Europe, time and again they’ve failed to build alliances, got shut out of important meetings and veto’d when they should have negotiated. From Cameron’s absurd decision to pull the Tories out of the largest group in the European parliament and thus render them useless to his decision to pull the veto card in the middle of fiscal negotiations over the eurocrisis, he’s led this country into a blind alley. The UK should be a major player in Europe, instead our failure to co-operate and build strong alliances with potential partners has seen us surrender the stage to France, Germany and the Nordic nations.

    George won’t succeed in getting any meaningful change in Europe. He won’t succeed firstly because the UK actually gets a pretty good deal and secondly because his party have proven themselves woefully inept when it comes to getting the support they would need to get this change.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th May '14 - 5:05pm

    I praise Stephen for his article. I don’t want to see the country divided between unionist and nationalist lines, Cameron has the right policy on this and Lib Dems need to urgently realise the problem of dividing countries – you only need to look at Ukraine and the history of Ireland for proof.

    I want to project British values such as our language into the EU, but dividing the country is not a price worth paying.

    Regards

  • @ Charles Rothwell if there is a referendum in 2017 I don’t believe your scenario will be correct. I don’t believe that Ken Clarke or Michael Heseltine are liberals and certainly when they were in government they weren’t. In the Tory party pre-1830 there were liberal Tories and I wonder how many of the Peelites where really liberal Tories and so they could accept liberal thought on other matters not just the repeal of the Corn Laws and reducing duties.

    If Cameron wins the referendum then those Conservative MPs who want to leave the EU hopefully will leave the party and the party will support EU membership so those Liberal Democrats who should really be in the Conservative party can join it.

    If Cameron doesn’t win the referendum to stay in the EU then he may well resign but the Conservatives would just elect a new leader and the EU issue wouldn’t be important for the party any more. If lots of Conservatives then joined the Liberal Democrats it would be the death of the party I love as it would become more of a Libertarian party than a Liberal one. A new true Liberal party would be needed to replace the Liberal Democrats.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th May '14 - 5:24pm

    By the way, I recommend a vote for the Lib Dems and not the Conservatives because of their records in government: Conservatives standing up for the rich and destabilising the economy, Lib Dems cutting taxes for most people and saving jobs.

  • Passing through 20th May '14 - 6:53pm

    @ jedibeeftrix

    OTOH the AECR comprises a total of 49 MEPs over half of whom are Conservatives/UU. Of the remainder only two of the other parties have more than MEP and they represent only 12 of the EU countries and judging by the polls the expected big losses of the UK Conservatives this week will leave them with just 42 MEPs total. Add to which the second biggest party the “ODS” are climate change denialists and the third biggest party “Law and Justice” are anti-semites and homophobes and their sole Latvian MEP is a cheerleader for the Waffen-SS! The rest of the rag-tag group are so obscure it is hard to say what skeletons they might be hiding in their closet.

    They really are a tiny fringe of , let’s be charitable, oddballs but, perhaps more importantly, at around 5% of the total MEPs they also have little clout in the European Parliament and as such are of minimal use to forwarding the Conservatives’ EU agenda.

    In contrast the EPP have 275 MEPS, a plurality in the parliament, representing every other major centre-right party in Europe including Merkel’s CDU, Sarkozy’s UMP, Ireland’s Fine Gael, even Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. That’s where the real power is in Europe and that’s the people Cameron is going to have to make a deal with if he wants to get any sort of deal out over the EU.

    Instead he’s stuck with a tiny gaggle of neo-nazis and fruitcakes, all because the EPP pays lip service to federalism.

    I understand why he did it, to guarantee he’d win the Tory leadership election but the price of this shortest of short-term thinking has been to completely exclude the Conservatives from any real position of influence within the EU so now they sit impotently on the side-lines.

    And it is with that background Cameron believes he can wrest any sort of significant concession from the likes of Merkel who has already very publicly and deliberately poured ice-cold water over his chances.

  • Passing through 20th May '14 - 6:54pm

    “Of the remainder only two of the other parties have more than one MEP”

    That should be

  • jedibeeftrix 20th May '14 - 7:08pm

    @ Passing through –

    “OTOH the AECR comprises a total of 49 MEPs over half of whom are Conservatives/UU. Of the remainder only two of the other parties have more than MEP and they represent only 12 of the EU countries and judging by the polls the expected big losses of the UK Conservatives this week will leave them with just 42 MEPs total.”

    We’ll see how favourable the odds look in a month or so’s time. AfD for ECR perhaps…

    “Add to which the second biggest party the “ODS” are climate change denialists and the third biggest party “Law and Justice” are anti-semites and homophobes and their sole Latvian MEP is a cheerleader for the Waffen-SS!”

    And yet, they have an explicitly non-federalist manifesto, that seems otherwise sensible, in sharp contrast to the EPP.

    “And it is with that background Cameron believes he can wrest any sort of significant concession from the likes of Merkel who has already very publicly and deliberately poured ice-cold water over his chances.”

    We’ll see. As Charles Crawford has pointed out, power in europe ultimately derives from the size of ones chequebook.

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th May '14 - 7:47pm

    Charles Rothwell – Perhaps. But then isn’t the alternative to your (entirely plausible scenario) to have a hard, fast IN/OUT referendum in late 2015? That would cut out most of the problems you mention. Instead of at least two years of talk, let’s just do it. But I think that there is a bigger problem for any IN campaign. From the link in the article.

    ‘Reform the EU to cut waste, protect the UK’s influence in the Single Market and strengthen the role of the Westminster Parliament in scrutinising EU legislation’

    It’s not really a rallying cry is it? Now that might not be too much of a problem were the direction of reform travel in the EU not moving in just one direction, towards the EZ. At the moment 18 of 28 are in the EZ, that becomes 19 on January 1st. By about 2022, there will likely be 4 EZ outs with 24 EZ members. What level of reform can that group of 4 realistically hope to carry. For that matter what reform would be fair on the EZ. In the event that there is some sort of a single finance ministry in Europe then any hope of meaningful influence as an EZ out seems very fanciful.

    Pinning the EU IN future on the single market seems to me to, at best, be a, ‘more of the same,’ message and I really can’t see it working politically or indeed in practice. I am just at something of a loss as to how a future EZ OUT EU IN group might work, still less have meaningful influence.

    Now let me be clear. I am yet to see any compelling idea of what a post EU UK would look like from the Eurosceptic side of the debate. It strikes me that their wish is not more Europe but more corporatism. Not likely to enthuse I would suggest. The Swiss have just had a referendum on the highest minimum wage in the world (rejected) and have already passed the Minder 1:12 and have voted for immigration quotas, including with the EU in the teeth of business opinion. A citizens income referendum may yet follow. When Switzerland is held up as the model I have a suspicion that this is not what the UK’s mainstream eurosceptics have in mind.

    So there you have it – if the talk is of EU reform, let’s at least be honest about what reform there will be. Neither side of the debate at the moment seems to me to be full and frank.

  • Passing through 20th May '14 - 7:49pm

    @ jedibeeftrix

    I hadn’t actually read Edward Mcmillan-Scott’s article before my reply so it looks like things are even worse for the ECR in that they may even now be forced to trawl the stagnant shallows of the far-right to stave off the forced dissolution of the grouping even more so if the PIS (which could end up the single largest party in the group) decides to go its own way.

    Adding such dubious allies as the True Finns or Danish People’s Party simply in order to stay afloat would just further underline what a political blunder this was in the first place. OK perhaps the AfD will break through and return what, 6 MEPs perhaps? That might cover Tory losses but it is going to even further sour Merkel against Cameron, exactly how willing do think she’ll be to give him anything after that? It wasn’t as if he had much goodwill to start with.

    “they have an explicitly non-federalist manifesto, that seems otherwise sensible, in sharp contrast to the EPP”

    Speaking personally I’d be slightly more concerned about the whole “that nice Mr Hitler” thing rather than worry about vague sentiments about “an ever-closer union”.

  • jedibeeftrix 20th May '14 - 9:23pm

    @ Passing through – “Adding such dubious allies as the True Finns or Danish People’s Party simply in order to stay afloat would just further underline what a political blunder this was in the first place.”

    I really don’t care, i have no european political identity and they are not my problem.

    To the they very limited degree that i might care, it is the shared manifesto, and it is pretty unobjectionable.

    i.e. it is not federalist.

    @ Helen – you were going somewhere with that statement…?

  • Passing through 21st May '14 - 2:05am

    @jedibeeftrix

    “I really don’t care, i have no european political identity and they are not my problem.”

    Clearly you do care if the very mention of “federalism” has you recoiling in terror and that you’d rather the Conservatives were completely impotent rather than be associated with it; that almost literally you consider it worse than Hitler.

    In contrast, I imagine the vast majority of the public are completely indifferent to any vague federalist ambitions and would simply prefer the Conservatives to be effectively standing up for their interests in the EU. Damagingly splitting over trivial differences in ideology nobody really knows or cares about was what they used to mock the far-left over.

    “To the they very limited degree that i might care, it is the shared manifesto, and it is pretty unobjectionable.”

    It is also it has to be said highly platitudinous too.

    Change a couple of words and you’d struggle to say whether it had originated from the ECR, the EPP, the ALDE or even the PASD. It is hardly some shining city on the hill that it is worth sacrificing all political influence for, in order to preserve the principles of.

    I mean if we are quoting political principles the EPP’s are listed in the wiki as:-

    Freedom as a central human right and coupled with responsibility
    Respect for traditions and associations
    Solidarity to help those in need, who in turn should also make an effort to improve their situation
    Ensuring solid public finances
    Preserving a healthy environment
    Subsidiarity
    Pluralist democracy and Social Market Economy

    There is little for anyone on the centre-right to get too upset about there either.

  • Mr Clegg was brave taking on Ukip today his view he is staying on and I for one agree he should. In the interview he made the point that he is not afraid of a referendum but goes on saying not unless more changes happen

    Why can a party who I would sincerely hope believe in democracy deny the people of the UK a vote, I think it would be a bad thing to leave and would vote for staying but what is worse is denying a vote it it has an offencive smell of a dictatorship

    Mp’s want more trust then trust those who take time to elect you

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