How will next weekend’s vote impact on UK politics?
With just a week to go before the French EU constitution referendum betting price on a “Non” have continued to tighten and now a full range of bookmakers are offering markets. The OUI position is still ahead but the best price on a NON is now 5/4.
But the result, whichever way it goes, could have an enormous impact UK domestic politics and particularly on the when will Blair go question, the next Labour leader and even the Tory leadership – all the subject the subject of active betting markets.
Many in the Gordon Brown camp are hoping that the French yes would make it easier for Tony Blair to lead a successful campaign in the UK next year which would provide the positive pretext for him to step down and their man to take over. Matthew d’Ancona describes it well in the Sunday Telegraph today.
…..And if you think Mr Brown is relishing the potential embarrassment to Mr Blair of a “Non”, think again. As I have said before, the Chancellor applies only one test to such questions: what will smooth my path to Number 10? A French “No” would certainly weaken Mr Blair’s chances of holding and winning a referendum next year. This, in turn, would scupper one of the most elegant exit strategies that the Chancellor’s allies hope the Prime Minister might take: triumph in the first national plebiscite for 31 years, followed by rapid departure from Number 10, undefeated. If France says “No” next Sunday, the odds on that tidy outcome will be much smaller. More to the point, the diplomatic ramifications of a “Non” might rumble on for years. Whenever he inherits the top job – assuming he does – Mr Brown does not want to be embroiled in a draining European crise d’identitÃ©.
And what about the Next Tory leader – could a French No boost the chances of Kenneth Clarke whose uncompromising position on Europe set him apart from the grass-roots of his party in 1997 and 2001.
Already the question of what he would do during the UK referendum campaign is being raised as a reason why he could never take over at the top. Could a French rejection make it easier for the Conservatives to support the veteran campaigner?