The party's obsession with Europe is miserable news for Cameronby Robin McGhee / May 17, 2013 / Leave a comment
The Eurosceptics have won. In 1995, both the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, and the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, were in favour of continued integration and monetary union. Now no senior Tory would countenance anything less than considerable repatriation of powers. Clarke is a mere Minister without Portfolio, elderly and near retirement. There is nobody who comes close to replacing him. Now, the only question is when the calls for complete withdrawal become established as governing opinion. Or when the party itself disintegrates.
At the edge of this tempest stand the other big parties, frowning and scratching their chins. Torment over “Europe” has become an almost uniquely right-wing phenomenon. It makes no sense at all to the majority of Labour and Lib Dem MPs, who decided long ago that EU membership is generally a good thing.
Coalition politics makes the reappearance of the European cobra all the more bizarre. The Lib Dems are interested in getting on with running the country. This means concentrating on the stuff that is, in their eyes, actually important: sorting out the economy and public services. They, like Labour, will relish a repeat of the civil war that contributed substantially to the Tories’ slaughter in 1997 and 2001.
Cameron spent half a decade building up the Conservatives as a party that cared about the same things as the public. For the first three years of his premiership he was gifted a diabolical economic situation, and could force his party to concentrate on that. But as we used to say back in 2010, the economy has improved. He now lacks anything to distract his unwieldy legion. And they are dedicated. Within hours of the Eurosceptic amendment to the Queen’s Speech being roundly hammered in the House of Commons, dozens of MPs had agreed to launch a co-ordinated effort to put through a withdrawal bill anyway.