Tuesday, October 06, 2009


The "eurosceptic insurrection" against David Cameron is all got up by the media, according to young Daniel Hannan. Amongst the "eurosceptics" he has spoken to in Manchester, there is sweetness and light.

David Cameron is "genuinely working to deliver a referendum on Lisbon", we are told, and may very well succeed. If he's too late to stop it, Hannan thinks it would be "silly" to have a referendum narrowly on the Lisbon Treaty. Far better, he says, to push for a wider repatriation of powers from Brussels to Westminster – not just the rights surrendered at Lisbon, but those surrendered at Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice.

In other words, Hannan is lining up behind the fudge outlined by Nicholas Watt yesterday. There is a general election coming and tribal loyalties are asserting themselves. With the prospect of a closely-fought contest, which is "not in the bag", the pressure not to "rock the boat" is extreme, and most of the troops are falling into line.

The Telegraph leader is also doing its best to contribute to the damage limitation, telling us: "Britain betrayed over Lisbon referendum."

But the Telegraph's villain is Labour. The treaty was pushed through by the Labour Government, not only without a referendum, but without any popular debate that might have justified leaving the matter to parliament. It was Labour which reneged on its election pledge and, amid the continuing brouhaha over what the Tories should do next, this central betrayal should neither be forgotten nor forgiven.

In personal terms, however, what Labour did was never a betrayal. You can only betray someone who trusts in you, who has expectations of you. Like many, I did not vote Labour and neither trusted it, nor had any expectations of it. That it did what it did was only to be expected.

The Conservative Party, however, is a different proposition. We have expectations of it. We are told to trust it, and we have been given earnest assurances that Dave is a eurosceptic.

Yet this is the party that took us into the EEC, that agreed the Single Market Act and then Maastricht. It claims to oppose the constitutional Lisbon treaty. And now, it is on the verge of walking away from the battle, while the likes of Hannan tell us it would be "silly" to have a referendum narrowly on the Lisbon Treaty.

There used to be a law which permitted Englishmen to kill Welshmen who strayed across the border, without facing a murder trial – or so I am told. Whether that is true or not, there certainly should be an exemption for those who slaughter people who describe their dearly-held views as "silly".

Anyhow, outside the "bubble" and the cloying grip of tribal loyalties - and freed from the patronising Hannans of this world, Bruno Waterfield is saying what ordinary, simple human beings are also thinking.

"The Tories must be more open on Europe", he says. Their "slipperiness on the question" is beginning to resemble some of the new Labour's contortions over Lisbon and referendums. It is not a good beginning on Europe.

In short, though, Bruno believes that Cameron has no intention of taking on Brussels, a process which would also involve declaring war on the civil service, which would fight him tooth and nail on the issue. But if that is the case, then at least the Tories should be open on their intentions.

But they are not being open. They are playing both ends against the middle, in the hope of keeping some of the "soft" eurosceptics on-side, while trying not to alienate those who support the "project". It is that fundamental lack of honesty – the pretence – that really grates. If Cameron actually came out and said, "stuff Europe, we can't be arsed to fight the treaty because we want to play with our dolls" – we might actually have more respect for him.

Politics, though, is about choices. Cameron has made his. He cannot complain if we make ours.