Coffee House

Cameron starts playing catch-up over the EU referendum vote

19 October 2011

Adjust your calendars, CoffeeHousers. The parliamentary vote on an EU referendum is no
longer set for next Thursday. As the Mail’s James Chapman revealed this evening, Downing Street has moved it forward to
Monday so that David Cameron and William Hague can both attend. They would have been away on government business otherwise.

What to make of this hasty measure? I suppose it could feasibly be seen as a scare tactic on the part of No.10: strengthening the current three line whip by making it very clear that Dave Is
Watching You. But it’s far more likely that Cameron is appearing in order to set out the sorts of concessions that James mentioned earlier. There are, after all, almost
50 Tory backbenchers signed up to the original motion — 50 potential rebels. The Tory leadership will want to avoid provoking such a significant portion of the parliamentary party.

So expect Cameron to use the intervening days to craft a position on Europe that will sway his backbenchers; a position that speaks of repatriating powers, and perhaps of a potential referendum in
the next parliament, given certain conditions. As for other possible areas of concession, Zac Goldsmith has just tweeted
that "This will inevitably be a free vote by the time the bell rings". In the circumstances, Mr Goldsmith’s breezy confidence may not be misplaced.

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Show comments
  • Cynic

    @David LindsayBut speaking of 1975, it is clear from the appearance of Andrew Rosindell on Newsnight that the pro-referendum “argument” is to be that hoary old chestnut about only ever having signed up for “a free trade area” called “the Common Market”.” On your own admission, David, you are 34, which means you were not there. I was and what was on the document I voted on were the terms “EC, EEC (Common Market)”. I am no Little Englander; I speak five languages and have friends throughout Europe whom I visit regularly. As a naive youngster I believed what I was told, that this was about a Common Market and involved no loss of sovereignty. It may have been in the small print, but I had no access to that. If I had had, I would have voted against. As it was, I voted for a Common Market and only a Common Market. Since my vote was garnered under false pretences, I want a proper ballot.

  • Cynic

    So expect Cameron to use the intervening days to craft a position on Europe that will sway his backbenchers; a position that speaks of repatriating powers, and perhaps of a potential referendum in the next parliament, given certain conditions. In other words, lies to kick the can down the road. We want a say and we want it now!

  • David Lindsay

    Will Rees, I am 34.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    A post from 2004 (h/t Eurorealist website)

    ….I have a copy of the 1975 referendum leaflet from the Wilson government. It gives the overwhelming impression that we were voting to stay in a “Common Market”.

    It used the term thirty nine times and also assured us of the abandonment of Economic and Monetary Union.

    That was a deliberate lie. Those of us who were mildly europhile had been reassured by Mr. Heath that”no essential loss of sovereignty” was involved.

    We eventually discovered that we had been consistently misled . The policy of deceit had been set out by Peter Thorneycroft as early as 1947. We would be nudged a little at a time into what can only be called a superstate. The idea was that, by the time we noticed, the process would be irreversible.

    the EU project……… The Big Idea could have been sold to Britain honestly. With the accretion of fifty years of deceit, it is a dead duck.
    Yours faithfully,
    Edward Spalton”Unquote

  • Will Rees

    Re David Lindsay, and its all been above board. Your arguement may seem reasonable to those aged 60 and above (though my personal experience is that many of that age and older DO feel lied to), those of us younger have never been asked AT ALL, despite numerous treaties passed in our lifetime that have ratcheted ever closer union.

  • I S

    P from M – the instant you brought Hitler and Stalin into the discussion was the point at which I shook my head in disbelief.
    Also, your Conservative MP votes in favour of her party’s legislation and this proves ‘she is not a conservative.’ (!?)

  • Peter From Maidstone

    It is absolutely irrelevant whether Helen Grant is a nice person or not. I am sure she is a nice person and much loved by her family and friends. But she is not a conservaative and voting with the Government on every issue as a matter of course simply illustrates the fact that she is not a conservative.

    There are Conservative MPs who have conservative principles and are willing to oppose the left-liberalism of Cameron. Unfortunately for the conservative electorate of Maidstone, Helen Grant is not one of them and shows no evidence that she will ever be one of them.

    I did not vote for Davod Cameron, he has his own electorate. I did vote for Helen Grant. I do expect her to represent me to some extent. She does not. Ann Widdecombe did.

    I don’t moan about privilige or toffs, so that is another red herring. I have no problem with people having vastly greater amounts of money than I do. Indeed I would prefer a Government of those who were independently wealthy by their own efforts and were not obsessed with gaining power and wealth through Parliament.

    I certainly don’t despise Helen Grant, but since she was made MP of Maidstone by probably 10 people in a selection committee in a back room somewhere I don’t have to applaud her lack of conservative action.

  • Ghengis

    So far in this thread, only Mudplugger has shown any understanding of the harm already carried out, and residual threat posed by the eurocrats to our sovereign nation. Their ambition is totally incompatible with such a concept.

  • Publius

    Shame Cameron and his Cabinet can’t devote such effort to delivering what they promised – bonfire of quangoes, slashing of red tape, supply-side reform, sound money, sovereignty over our borders and fisheries.

    But no. On the above, nothing. Nada. All too difficult.

    But when it comes to betraying us on the EU, Cameron happily springs into action.

  • Publius

    “So expect Cameron to use the intervening days to craft a position on Europe that will sway** his backbenchers”

    ** “sway” – i.e., deceive.

    After his “cast iron guarantee” turned out to be written in water, Cameron has no credibility.

    Nothing he says, no promise he makes, will count for anything.

  • michael

    Be gone EU… together with all your blatant deceit and outrageous corruption.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Axstane, you called PofM a racist and now you cavil.

  • Ian Walker

    No matter what the coalition decided to “park”, the EU was bound to become an issue during this parliament.

    I am totally lost as to how Cameron’s team have allowed him to get so comprehensively outflanked on this. Europe is like a great big Santa’s sack full of votes, just waiting for one of the parties to break the truce and grab it.

    The whips were never going to work – MPs are going home to their constituencies and being asked by everyone under 50 who has never voted on Europe, why their taxes are going to be handed over to every wastrel who washes up uninvited on the beach, and why all the savings made in government spending were swallowed up by the EU’s budget increase. In short, they’re asking “Do we get value for money” and the answer, unless you’re a politician with the chance of a fat sinecure in Brussels, is “No”

  • Axstane

    Peter from Maidstone [and others]

    I wrote to highlight that you hold rather extreme right-wing views. You have had a complaint going about Helen Grant since she was selected. I have met her and she seems to be an educated, competent and reasonable person. It is absurd for you to pursue a vendetta because she votes mostly with the government.

    Mrs Grant is a person who made it the hard way from most inauspicious beginnings, brought up on a rough council estate [as did I] -but consistently excelling. Her professional and personal knowledge guided Ian Duncan-Smith in his formative policy work on benefits and the problems of sink estates. You, and many others of all stripes, find it easy to moan about the privileged toffs at the top so it is ironic that you despise her so much.

    When you ask a politician one of your loaded questions do not expect ever that you will receive a revelatory reply – those who speak without thought are fools.

    Finally, I reject absolutely your links of Cameron to evil dictators.

  • PayDirt

    Ken Livingstone compared Boris Johnson to Adolf Hitler recently. Most amusing.

  • Heartless Perry

    A snapshot of two losers?

    I hope it’s an omen for the ‘debate’.

  • Man in a Shed

    A vote on Scottish Independence is fine, but not leaving the EU ? I guess this tells us what those Lib Dems told the US embassy (Wikileaks), that its really all about keeping us in the EU whatever the people want, have been promised, or vote.

  • alexsandr

    for the record the 1975 referendum text was

    “Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (The Common Market)?”

    As I understood it (I was 19 at the time) the EU was the European Coal and Steel Community, Euratom and the EEC.

  • PayDirt

    As a contrarian I would like to point out that democracy only really works at a local level, where one’s vote actually can be seen to make a difference. The European institutions are where the locally elected representatives get the chance to influence proceedings. The process is one of adapting to the world market. The institutions could fail, but then again the UK parliament is failing to deal with the regional aspirations of Scottish, Welsh, Irish etc. So far the UK historical destiny is to unite the island nations against the continental foe. However, things change.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    I don’t know who Axstane is, but the idea that criticising a black MP is racist is so bizarre that it could only be penned by a socialist.

    I do think that many Western leaders have much in common with Hitler and Stalin. Not the casual violence against persons of course, but in the total disconnect with the population they are supposed to lead and represent.

    Both Stalin and Hitler were willing to sacrifice their populations for their own agenda, and considered that their populations had betrayed them rather than that they were the servants of their people.

    I can’t help getting that same sense from Cameron. He is not yet like Brown, who did a very good impression of Hitler in the bunker blaming everyone else for failure. But he is already completely arrogant in his conviction that he knows best and that the democratic process has delivered him a petty tyranny over us all for the next 4 years.

    If I criticise my own MP it is because as far as I can see she is entirely subservient to the decisions of her master and is not willing to represent her constituency at all.

    When I asked her about the conservative view that it was not appropriate to require Christian foster parents to teach young children that homosexual acts were normal and desirable she disagreed, not stating her own view as my representative, but stating that Cameron had expressed the view which was to be held. I am offended by her because she is not a conservative at all, but has stolen a Conservative constituency. Her skin colour is of no interest to me.

  • EC

    daniel maris, October 20th, 2011 12:21am

    “The political elite are determined to prevent the public from expressing their will on this vital constitutional issue.”

    It’s the same everywhere, Dan. Pick any European country you like. France? Germany? Spain? Ireland, Portugal, Greece? The EU is not a democratic construction.

    For all the reasons that Nigel Farage, and many others, have stated since its conception, the collapse of the Euro, Eurogeddon, is inevitable.

  • EC

    “The Tories lost the election by number of votes that went to UKIP. “


    Unfortunately Nigel Farage hasn’t had the success that Geert Wilders has in Holland. This could be for a number of reasons, not the least the Dutch electoral system being a form of PR.

    When it comes to selling, “Party For Freedom” sounds altogether a lot more encompassing and marketable than “United Kingdom Independence Party” or British National Party.

  • Chris

    “Where would our anti europeans be if, horrors, if a referendum voted to stay in?”

    They’d be saying they hadn’t read the question and it should be held again. That’s what happened last time.

  • EC


    If only Cameron had more in common with Berlusconi, if only!

  • normanc

    Cameron behind the curve and playing fire fighter rather than shaping events.

    Ye jest surely?

  • Sir Everard Digby

    Pantomime season is back. Parliament stages its own version of Jack in the Beanstalk. The difference being that nobody is going to be climbing the beanstalk to take on the EU giant.

    If EU membership is such a wonderful thing for the UK, give MPs a free vote. If they vote in favour of a referendum,take the overwhelming argument to the people and let them confirm the view. Surely Cameron could not lose?

    Surely that would be democratic?

    Corporatist Dave lines up against the people with corporatist Nick and corporatist Ed.

    Perhaps they should throw custard pies at each other instead of having a debate? It will be mildly more entertaining and just about as meaningful as the charade which the debate will be.

    What’s next? Doing away with tiresome elections? They are an unecessary interruption to the ‘work’ of the political classes.

    I suggest we are already disenfranchised, as witnessed by the actions of the government over this debate. Might as well make it legal,so we all know where we stand.

  • Frank Sutton

    The enthusiasm for this referendum seems to ignore the probability that the three options will mean a vote to stay in.
    Is this why Cameron is softening his position?

    This is not the in/out referendum most of us want.

  • David Lindsay

    Like any referendum, this one would be a cession of the decision to the BBC, just as happened in 1975, when an initial two-to-one against in the polls became an eventual two-to-one in favour at the polls. But speaking of 1975, it is clear from the appearance of Andrew Rosindell on Newsnight that the pro-referendum “argument” is to be that hoary old chestnut about only ever having signed up for “a free trade area” called “the Common Market”.

    No organisation by that name has ever existed, the Attlee Government had rejected even the European Coal and Steel Community as “the blueprint for a federal state” which “the Durham miners would never wear”, the principle of ever-closer union occurs in the first line of the Preamble to the Treaty of Rome, the establishment of the supremacy of European over British law in the legislation taking us in is a textbook definition of a federal state, and – now, this is the killer line – that was made perfectly clear by opponents of that legislation both during its parliamentary progress and during the subsequent referendum campaign.

    Furthermore, no proponent (and they included a very enthusiastic Margaret Thatcher at the time) ever used the term “free trade area”. Find a specific example of any of them saying it. Go on. I know for a fact that you never will, because they never did say it. They never lied. If you chose not to listen, both to them and to their (mostly Labour) opponents, then you have only yourselves to blame.

  • daniel maris

    The political elite are determined to prevent the public from expressing their will on this vital constitutional issue.

    That’s not acceptable. We need a full debate and a proper referendum.

    I think that a truth would emerge from the debate: that we could be members of the EEA with no economic armageddon following our withdrawal from the EU.

  • echo34


    who’s whipping you mate?

  • 2trueblue

    The Tories lost the election by number of votes that went to UKIP. Think about it Cameron, we are fed up with politicians who think they know what we want, ask us. Not difficult is it? I am totally and utterly disappointed with this government, they do not seem to be ahead in any area. They come across as totally arrogant and have no idea where it is all going, or what to do.

  • TrevorsDen

    The usual donkeys rabbit on – there is no majority in parliament to come out of the EU, thats democracy not treason.
    And thinking that we should stay in the EU does not make you treasonous, nor does not believing in a referendum make you treasonous.
    Pointless ranting is no substitute for an argument.

    Where would our anti europeans be if, horrors, if a referendum voted to stay in?

  • Hepworth

    I just wish this rag would give me the opportunity to give your post the thumbs up.

  • Hepworth

    It’s all absolut bo***x. We all Know nothing at all will result from a talking shop owned by by the “usual suspects”.

  • David Ossitt


    “Peter from Maidstone

    I have seen you also attack your local MP and I also know that she is a black woman. That taints you, and us by association, with racism.”

    What utter bollocks; so Peter has attacked (your word) his local MP and because she happens to be black, he is tainted (again your word) with being a racist.

    Does this mean we cannot disagree with the elderly without being labelled ‘ageist’ or women ‘sexist’ , gay homophobe, etcetera.

    It is bastards like you who happily sprinkle the word racist at every opportunity that cause friction between the different races.


  • Nicholas

    “I have seen you also attack your local MP and I also know that she is a black woman. That taints you, and us by association, with racism.”

    I don’t know what the attack consisted of but isn’t there a danger here that any robust criticism of a politician who happens to be black could be described as “tainted with racism” and isn’t that a rather ridiculous, if sadly predictable, state of affairs that undermines and suppresses honest debate?

  • kinglear

    I’ve said for some considerable time, where dave likes it or not, in order to get in in 2015 he either needs to do a deal with UKIP ( ghastly lot) or promise the referendum

  • JohnPage

    Peter’s right. No promise on the EU from Cameron or Hague is to be trusted. They know they know better than the public.

    This really is a miserable little government, with the exception of Gove and IDS, and possibly Pickles. They cleave to intellectually bankrupt and politically impossible green policies, their NHS policy is incomprehensible, their supposedly carefully crafted planning policy looks doomed, and they seem in thrall to the EU.

  • Boudicca

    The People’s Pledge campaign team have been organising a mass rally at Westminster for Thursday 27th. Could it be that old Cast Iron doesn’t want a display of popular demand for a Referendum.

    After the tissue of lies he told over the Lisbon Treaty, does Cameron seriously expect anyone to believe anything he has to say about repatriation of powers and a possible Referendum after the next GE? He must still be smoking the waccybaccy if he thinks we will trust him again.

    This is what he had to say about Brown in 2009

    “Gordon Brown, it’s a gesture to the British people saying: “I know best. Your views are irrelevant. Get used to it.”

    “Make no mistake, that’s the reason he (Gordon Brown) refuses to give the British people a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty — he simply doesn’t trust them. It’s the arrogant belief that he — and only he — has the right to decide what’s best for Britain’s future.”

    Two years later and Cameron is just as infected with the Arrogance of Office as Brown was.

    Vote UKIP.

  • In2minds

    “Cameron starts playing catch-up……….” –

    But only with the MPs. The general public are way ahead of him and out of sight. He promised a referendum then backed away, he can’t be trusted again.

    “a potential referendum in the next parliament, given certain conditions” –

    This does not even sound like a promise from Cameron, so who, apart from an MP, would fall for that?

  • Abigail

    Peter, I really do agree with you, he has stated on several occasions, and I did find it offensive, that we do not want a referendum. Well, I do not mind having Free Tade with these People, but, on the other hand, I do not want this Island to be part of the EU. I think the thing that really annoyed me was his arrogance, he said that the British People do not want an In or Out option. As a Conservative it does not sit well with me, he came across as quite arrogant. Sorry, he really irked me on that one.

  • Fex Urbis

    Why should most backbenchers give a toss what Dave things; we’ve all been told that any MP elected in 2005 (or before) isn’t going to get promoted as the recent reshuffle showed.

    So perhaps these MPs might think about representing their voters, which is after all what they were elected for, rather that being pushed around by school bully Cameron. You never know they might even get some respect back from us poor saps that have to pay for them.

  • Mudplugger

    Ignore the trivia of the Euro crisis, the agriculture and fisheries policies, the uncontrolled immigration, the impractical red tape and all the nest-feathering EU corruption. This is about sovereignty. We carelessly let Heath gave it away, we want it back.
    Then we can decide all that other stuff for ourselves.
    If my MP votes against the referendum, he will never get my vote again (or those of all my close friends). If we all tell our MPs that, they might just get the message.
    There is no more important issue than the possession of sovereignty, so let’s grab it back now.

  • Dennis Churchill

    A political class that can’t even do politics!
    Don’t they do Game Theory as part of PPE?
    A whipped vote is his worse case scenario. He has to lose in the long term.
    He can sell a consciences vote and keep the grass roots thinking he is a Conservative, he can also use the result as a bargaining counter in the EU.
    The sooner he goes back to PR, Clegg resettles in Spain and Miliband does whatever Milibands have always done the better.

  • Axstane

    Peter from Maidstone

    Because someone holds a different opinion to yours they are not necessarily treasonous. Those of us who are balanced and Eurosceptic hate to be tarred with the brush of your type of incentive – treasonous, Hitler, Stalin and so on. It makes all of us look like demented extremists and makes the task of those who work quietly for change [many of us] far more difficult.

    I have seen you also attack your local MP and I also know that she is a black woman. That taints you, and us by association, with racism.

  • toco

    If we can stop EU imports from Eastern Europe such as Rumanian and Bulgarian child pickpockets living on the backs of British taxpayers then let’s get on with it.Repatriation of powers from the EU troughers is an overwhelming goal of most British people.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    What position can he craft that is not lies, deceit, anti-democratic and treasonous?

    He does not want out of the EU. He has no intention of listening to public opinion. He has no desire to represent the will of the people, or allow that will to be determined. He believes that he is above all petty public concerns and will just let us know what his opinion is in due course. In that regard he is no different to every other tyrant – though he wears a smart suit.

    He knows best. He can’t understand why we don’t realise that. He is neither a democrat nor a conservative, and he has much in common with Blair and Brown, and even Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Hitler and Stalin, all people who think that they know best and have a right to rule.

  • nonny mouse

    Labour won’t vote for it, so it is gesture politics by both sides.

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