My response to an article by Jill Kirby in Conservative Home entitled:
“The people or the elite? Cameron has made a defining choice”
I recently read Asa Brigg’s Book “Victorian People: A Reassessment of Persons and Themes, 1851-67” for the Chapter on Disraeli. Briggs makes the interesting assertion that Disraeli attempted to “Educate” the Tory Party both to accept greater internal party democracy in order to better fight and win elections and to accept an extension of the franchise in urban areas and northern cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool in order to benefit from the increase in the size of the working class electorate that supported the Tory Party.
Reading this book I suddenly realised that I am an Urban Conservative – a particularly combative type of Tory that shares many of the prejudices of the skilled urban working classes.
Another question that I posed myself is: How successful has David Cameron, like Disraeli before him, been in “educating” the Conservative Party, in particular the party in parliament? “Detoxification” has been a phrase that has been bandied about in an unhelpful way to describe his aim of giving the Conservative Party healthier less diseased appearance as though its far less savoury political leanings were in some way contagious.
Witness the debate over the proposed Referendum on continued membership of the EU? The press is full of descriptions of recently elected backbenchers as some sort of collective throw back to the Euroskepticism of the Major years. Labels are important. Think less of what constitutes a quarter of the parliamentary party whose genuine convction must be deeply applauded as Euroskeptics and more as as Eurorealists acknowledging the hard truths of the structural flaws of the current institutional set-up in the European Union.
Indeed I’d like to coin a new description of those in favour of renegotiating Britain’s Membership of the EU: “Euro-Sensibles”. It should come as no shock that the vast majority of those that voted in favour of the referendum motion were by and large from the new intake of Conservative MPs.
It wasn’t brave nor was it a particularly skeptical view of the current relationship just a sensible realisation that what exists at the moment isn’t working for Britain. Indeed it is absolutely the right time to have a detailed investigation into all aspects of Britain’s relationship with the European Union. As a business intelligence analyst it is fair to say that so entangled and so complex has the European Union become that it is difficult if not impossible for even the most experienced MP to have a sufficient understanding of how the whole thing works.
That is why this Conservative Councillor is calling for a Royal Commission of Enquiry on Britain’s Membership of the EU and believes that now is absolutely the right time to pose the question of renegotiating Britains terms of membership.
That is why the lessons of history are so important. Disraeli would likely have cleverly have exploited the situation on Monday in parliament to divide the Labour opposition and tie the Liberal Democrat opposition partners into a different kind of referendum – one that committed the Government to holding a referendum which ineradicably renegotiated the terms and nature of Britain’s membership with the EU across the board.
There is no time like the present according to one famous political aphorism. The question I would like to pose is what is the difference between taking urgent decisions over the economy now and taking urgent decisions over the future of the EU? The two strands of activity are inextricably linked. This is what makes this decision especially curious.
One of Disraeli’s key motivations in driving through the 1867 Reform Act was the overwhelming movement for change in the country. Coalition politics aside has the Conservative Government misssed a trick in not riding the movement for national change and renewal?
The mathematics speak for themselves. Strip out the members of the government on the Conservative Benches and a hard core of Europhile integrationists and we find ourselves in the curious situation that only a small number of backbenchers supported the governments position that this was not the right time. Indeed there are clearly more than 81 Euro realists on the Conservative backbenchers.
Like the result of the General Election the mathematics are utterly compelling.”
There is a great deal of sense in what you say, particularly in the need to clarify and redefine what we mean by the term “eurosceptic”.
Perhaps we could classify the various attitudes towards the EU as:
Europhile: Those who are happy with the status quo and who would agree with further integration.
Eurosceptic: Those who would like to change the relationship but would only vote to leave if the only alternative was to accept further integration.
Eurosensible: Those who believe that substantial renegotiation is essential and that the results of this should be submitted to a referendum.
Euroleaver: Those who believe that sufficient renegotiation would be impossible and that to remain a member would entail greater integration and who therefore support Better Off Out.
I would also agree that one of the greatest barriers to any progress towards redefining our relationship with the EU is that very few people, including many politicians, have any deep understanding of either the scope or the practical workings of the EU or of its inter- relationship with our own legislative process.
One of the most frequent Canards of the europhiles is that people do not care about the EU. Of course they do when it is explained to them, most of them, however, have only a vague idea of what the EU really means.
Something along the lines of a Royal Commission to report as soon as possible into the full implications of our EU relationship would be an excellent idea since this would obviously need to include a much needed cost benefit analysis.
The only problem here would be how to ensure that this was impartial and not politically biased.