Thursday, 5 November 2009

Performance politics

The closer they get to a scent of power, the more obvious it becomes that the Tories remain split from top to bottom over the UK's relationship with the European Union.

Most members of the Conservative Party are, at heart, deeply sceptical about the idea that political power should lie anywhere other than Westminster. From that perspective, sharing sovereignty at European level is much akin to devolving power to Wales - something to be avoided at all costs.

It's actually a valid political position to hold, even though not one I'd agree with. It's remarkably similar to the position of Ukip, in essence - and that's part of Cameron's problem. He knows that many of his party's members (and not a few of his elected MPs and MEPs) hold views which are very much in tune with Ukip; but he also knows that it's not a realistic position for a potential party of government to adopt.

The result is that he fudges. He is desperately looking for ways in which he can sound sufficiently anti-European to keep his own side happy without tying his hands too tightly in advance. He always knew that there was no chance of the Lisbon Treaty remaining unratified by the time he came to power; so a promise of a referendum was an easy promise to make, since it would never have to be fulfilled.

Now he's looking for another, similarly meaningless commitment, and he's come up with the idea of a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill – a bill which will change nothing very much, but sounds suitably tough.

For a minister in another European government to refer to the Tory position as 'autistic' was an unfortunate turn of phrase to say the least. Not only is it way out of order to use what is a serious condition as a term of abuse; it also serves to divert attention from the issue at hand.

It's also unfair at another level – Cameron is, I suspect, no more serious about this than he was about the referendum. It's just part of a tightrope act between now and the election. It's performance, not reality.


Unknown said...

Meanwhile, as politicians manoeuvre towards the election, placating their rank and file as best they are able, through sleight of hand, a time bomb awaits way down the road as the constitutional position of the UK becomes increasingly untenable.

Spirit of BME said...

Mr Dixon ,I agree with the overall view of the post.
Spliff Cameron has done quite well - he has taken his disruptive MEP out of the big league and put them in a sand pit were they can do no harm.He now has to take his fight back to the English Parliment and fight from there.The idea of a Sovereignty Bill is hoot as this impacts on Betty Battenburg and her Coronation Oath, can`t see that working out.
Lastly, in England Spliff is under greater threat than Labour of seeing his support leak away ,he has the BNP,UKIP and the English Democrats to worry about.Labour core support will vote or stay at home.