Banging on about Europe
Ah, it feels like it’s never been away. We’re back to the days of Tory splits and little Englanders, with ferocious ideological battles between heavyweight and serious Europhiles and swivel-eyed Bill Cash-like sceptics. Happy days for Labour!
Except of course that we aren’t. There’s a rather nauseating quality about the delight in Labour ranks about the prospect of the trouble that an Irish ‘Yes’ vote in their ‘naughty children, have another go’ referendum today will cause David Cameron. It was always an uncomfortable position to be in. To promise a referendum on a new constitutional treaty is one thing (hell, all the main parties did it); to promise a referendum on a treaty that has already been enacted is another. What would the question be? What would the result be? So the Tories have hoped that somehow they could get to the election date before everyone had ratified the Lisbon Treaty.
That looks less likely now, though still not impossible given the attitude of Vaclav Klaus. But even if the Treaty is ratified and in force before the rotting carcase of New Labour can be decently interred, there will still not be the epic Tory battles over Europe that Labour hopes for. The Europhile wing of the party is dead. Literally dead in some cases, politically dead in others. The continued citation of Ken Clarke as proof that the Tory party remains divided over Europe is like citing Jeremy Clarkson as proof that the BBC is divided between lefties and righties.
We will have to wait and see whether Dan Hannan’s law that no party is Eurosceptic in office will prove true, but all the signs are that the Tory party is more united in its Euroscepticism than it has ever been.