Is tolerating Lisbon the price for power?
On Friday October 2nd, just before the Conservatives gather for their last conference before the general election, the Irish vote in their second referendum on the Lisbon EU treaty having rejected it first time round.
A NO vote would be brilliant for the Tories because Lisbon would then be rejected with the UK having “clean hands”.
But if the betting markets have got this right then the outcome will be a YES and, indeed, PaddyPower make this a 1/10 shot. The current favourite for the YES vote share is, at 6/4, a comfortable 60 – 65%.
The timing could not be more awkward for David Cameron for the issue that could dominate the conference is whether a Tory government would hold a retrospective UK referendum.
So far the leadership has managed to duck this as being “hypothetical” but after October 2nd there’ll have to be a clear statement for the most challenging audience of all – Tory conference delegates.
Julian Glover described the dilemma well in an insightful Guardian column:
“..Until now, the Conservatives have played a defensive bat to all questions about what happens if Ireland passes the treaty before a British general election. “We will not let matters rest,” they say cryptically. This can mean different things to different people, but many Tories have missed the subtle implication that there will not be a British referendum, which would be impossible after ratification; or impossible on anything other than the terms “In or out of the EU”. Cameron may have to face up to his party this autumn. He will have to tell it that tolerating Lisbon is the price it must to pay for power. Better, perhaps, to get this out of the way sooner rather than later, before a head of steam builds up among Tory Europhobes
..The invisible barrier that shields David Cameron from the old Tory party on other areas of policy may fail to protect him on Europe. There will be a temptation to give in to primeval Tory instincts. The lesson of the Cameron leadership so far is that that is always, but always, the wrong thing to do.”
My guess is that this will be dominating the leadership’s thinking during their holidays and they will come out with a form of words that will sound tough – but will in fact accept the reality. And that could be the driver of UKIP votes at the general election.