The Euro Referendum, Scots Nationalism and Tory Wars
I went drinking with a nest of pinkos at the weekend (the collective noun for lefties is “nest”, everyone knows this). What struck me is their constant refrains: “Tories should want Scotland to become independent”, and “Tories will implode with over the referendum”. The Tories ossified in their minds in the same way one’s music taste does somewhere between leaving school and getting a mortgage, in our cases some time around the turn of the millennium. Very few people in the media on the left understand the Conservative party or the Conservative mentality.
The Conservative party is an ancient, many-headed beast. It does contain English nationalists, but these are a small minority. The vast majority of Conservatives would take another 20 years of opposition rather than see the Union break up. As it is, for now, Labour has been slain in Scotland. The Tories have as much Westminster representation north of the Border as Labour or Liberal Democrats. This leaves an opening. 15% of Scots voted for the “hated” Tories, and the party came second in a dozen seats. As a major party of Government, I suspect the “hatred” is more media habit, than real. There is a good chance of a comeback in Scotland – remember the Party was once as dominant in Scotland as the SNP is now. No political hegemony lasts forever, especially it seems in Scotland, and the SNPs will be no different. Expect there to be one remaining ranty Scots Nat holding a Glasgow seat in following the 2040 election as some other party sweeps all before it. Securing the long-term future of the Union, however will be David Cameron’s main project as Prime Minister.
Which brings us to what commentators are confidently saying will be the centrepiece of this parliament – the EU referendum. Next to the Union, the EU referendum is now a trifle for the PM. Let’s be clear. There is absolutely no way ‘out’ will win. It’s major cheerleaders are too toxic. When the leadership of Labour, Tory, SNP, Plaid etc, as well as almost every major businessman, sports people, celebrities, The Sun, The Times, The Mirror, The Guardian and just about anyone else who matters lines up saying ‘in’ and UKIP with a handful of the Tory awkward squad and the Daily Express are for ‘out’, the public will notice. The vote will be 2:1 for ‘in’. For this not to be the case, UKIP, and the Tory right needs to lead a remarkable, energetic and subtle campaign nationwide, starting now. Yeah. Right.
So the result is a foregone conclusion. The nest of Pinkos assume the awkward squad will then all chuck their toys out of the pram. The fact is, for most of the Tory party, Europe is no longer a burning issue. We’d all go man the barricades should it look like we join the Euro, but we won that argument pretty comprehensively. We are not Euro enthusiasts, and look at Brussels with scepticism, relishing every opportunity to slap interfering eurocrats down. But we’re mostly grumpily in favour of staying in the project because ultimately the Tory party is the party of business.
So here is an opportunity for a Conservative prime minister to go to Brussels from a position of strength, and demand concessions. And we will get them. There is no way the EU felt the need to negotiate while it looked like the last Labour leader, Edmund Mili-something (I’ve already forgotten), was going to be PM. But now they need to consider a Generous offer – Germany cannot afford Brexit and Merkel will ensure enough is given to ensure the UK remains Germany’s bulwark against French economic dirigisme.
The point is, everyone’s already made up their minds how they’re going to react. The few headbangers will headbang about it being a “betrayal”, whatever Cameron brings back. They will be few in number. Half a dozen at most. There will be a large contingent who’ll take up the opportunity to campaign for ‘out’ but take great care to do so without being disloyal to the PM. The rest will slide in line behind the Prime Minister, hailing a great transfer of powers back to Westminster by an all-conquering leader. (Whether this is the case, is irrelevant). There will be few doing so enthusiastically, and a great continuum of gritted teeth lining up behind the PM. But Cameron has won an election. And that, for now, means his authority over his party is absolute. That is why he wants to accelerate the negotiation – get the major hurdle out of the way early.
The Tory party has made its peace with its Euro differences. The referendum has been delivered. The Euro “bastards” are not going to do to Cameron what they did to Major, however much the Labour party, nests of my pinko drinking buddies and the Media will be trying to replay greatest hits of the ’90s.