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David Cameron needs to detail EU referendum plans soon to avoid future rebellions

1 November 2012

‘I thought it would hurt more than it did’ one loyalist minister remarked after last night’s government defeat on the EU budget. The fact that the vote isn’t going to bring the government down or bind its hands is what is consoling Cameron loyalists. They are also pointing out that the Eurosceptic vote split with Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel and Andrea Leadsom staying on the government side this time.

But what should worry Number 10 about this rebellion is its flash mob nature. As Isabel pointed out last night, there wasn’t — unlike with the Lords revolt or the EU referendum vote — months of planning put into this one. Instead, it was a rebellion that flared up as soon as the amendment went down — gaining 24 supporters in the first 24 hours.

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I suspect that this kind of thing is going to keep happening, at least, until Cameron sets out what his Europe policy actually is. So far we have a vague direction of travel and nothing else. We don’t know what Cameron would like a renegotiated British membership to consist of. This ambiguity both encourages Tory MPs to try and push the Prime Minister to a more sceptical place and to doubt reassurances that they’ll like the Europe policy when they see it.

Before Christmas, Cameron is meant to set out what he does want a renegotiation to look like. They’ll be many in Downing Street and the Foreign Office urging him not to show too much of his negotiating hand. But if he is to reassure his party, he is going to have to get into specifics. Without them, the revolts will keep on happening.

Update: Several people point out that Patel actually abstained.

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  • Frankly Francophone

    Nobody has anything to gain from British separatism in the world of today. Except possibly the Scots.

  • Frankly Francophone

    The world of today, whether one likes it or not, is globalized. We have so many important challenges to face, and we shall only succeed if we can pool forces, engage in joint action and shared initiatives. A global financial crisis is hitting us hard. Climate change is threatening the planet. How can British separatism help?

    Well, it might push Scotland out of the UK and into EU membership in its own right, of course. So in leaving the EU you could divest yourself of what you seem to perceive to be two burdens at one fell swoop. Go for it.

  • Collamore

    You’d think a Conservative party leadership that sees its own party stuck at 29% in the polls (latest Guardian poll), would want to associate themselves with a referendum, which is much more popular. Winning parties latch on to popular issues. Losing parties don’t.

  • Barbara Stevens

    All Conservatives should be concerned, this alience with the mad Lib Dems is destroying them from within. Their membership is falling, activists are all but gone, so what about the future. I hope they will see that joining together and standing up for the country for once instead of party politcs. What we should be doing is telling the EU, we either get reduction or we walk, that might frighten the life out of them at the thought of losing 55 million pounds per day. He has to find his Churchillian moment, and damm Clegg. I hope he walks and does us all proud. Lets hope its not his Chamberlain moment for that will really spell his end.

  • Iain Hill

    Why is last night’s vote not binding if parliament says it is? Why are shareholders’ votes on executive salaries not binding at all times? Why can constituencies not recall MPs whenever they feel like it? Who wrote our rules,min whose interest ,and isn’t it time we rewrote them?

  • Alexsandr

    Why f*ck about, cameron? Just announce an in-out referendum for first Thursday in December.

  • Daniel Maris

    This is a bit like holding a Medieval jousting tournament while your main enemy is advancing across your borders and marauding at will.

    None of this is important because none of the parties intend getting out of the EU, so we are stuck with our ineffective policy of being “in but ignored”.

  • @PhilKean1

    It’s too late for any bogus EU referendum strategy

    His own MPs and his natural supporters have lost what little respect they had for him.

    I said it a few weeks back, and it is more true today, but Cameron is finished. It is just a matter of time before he is removed from office and recorded as possibly the worst Prime Minister in living memory.

    • dorothy wilson

      You have a very short memory if you do not remember Blair and Brown.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Too little too late. Cameron (and Hague’s) problem is that they have equivocated and prevaricated with their mealy mouthed euro girations for far too long. Nobody really trusts them anymore. So It doesn’t really matter what they say as (too) many will not believe a word they say and in many ways thats fair enough. They have lost the right to be believed with their many previous verbal contortions. Only when something actually happens like a referendum or a revised treaty will people take notice and nothing is actually going to happen in this Parliament. Cameron has tantamount said as much and beyond that Cameron and Hague will not be in power.

    And for those arguing that he should not disclose his hand. Way too late for that now. Cameron has already destroyed his negotiating position because he has said never will never lead this country out of Europe. So be it. The British people will need to find a leader who is prepared to do so if they ever want a decent deal with the EU.

  • caress that whip

    “‘I thought it would hurt more than it did’ one loyalist minister
    remarked after last night’s government defeat on the EU budget. The fact
    that the vote isn’t going to bring the government down or bind its
    hands is what is consoling Cameron loyalists.”


    It’s stunning how little regard the Cameroons have for anyone who isn’t them.
    They’re are so bold that even in the face of a clear rejection of their plans, they shrug and then sneer at the miserable plebs who rejected them. And these pr!cks are so bold as to have one of their Speccie lickspittles plaster up their sneering rejection of the rejection, and sneering announcement that their hands will not be bound in any way whatsoever by that rejection. The lickspittle didn’t even bury the lede… it’s right there at the top of this post.

    Simply stunning. But he who stuns last stuns best.

  • WitteringsfromWitney

    Er, according to Hansard Priti Patel abstained – she is in neither the ayes or the noes list, neither did she take part in the debate. Correction required, methinks.

  • EJ

    Let’s hope the revolts DO keep happening – getting bigger and bigger each time, eh James?

    It’s only fear of losing power that motivates the H2B – not principle or patriotism. The next election is lost unless true conservatives assert themselves against Cameron or get rid of the slippery fraud altogether. All this conniving to pull the wool over our eyes and shut us up while they sell us down the river is a disgrace.

    • EJ

      PS love the photo! “Let me be perfectly clear…” Blairite hand gesture, faux sincerity, I’m just a straight up kinda guy…

      • Heartless etc.,

        + the flicker of that stoopid smirk – the kind that dodgy used car / double glazing / windmill salesmen and ‘saved’ preachers wear.

      • FRANKP1

        Nah! He looks like Jimmy Savile about to avail himself of two hands full of 14 year old burgeoning mammaries. Change the picture FFS, Forsyth, you’ll have ‘Operation Yewtree’ knocking at his door.

        Wonder why they called it Yewtree? Can only think that one of the victims claimed he said, “Yew tree over there, report to my dressing room, Jim wants to fix it for all three of you – how’s abaht that then?”

        • Angevin

          I suspect that anyone who plucks the phrase “14 year old burgeoning mammaries” from his fevered imagination is rather more likely to find paedo-plod on his doorstep than the Spectator’s picture editor.

  • Steve Tierney

    Backbenches? Who cares? I’m more worried about what is happening to the grass roots membership. The lifeblood of the party is leaking away and it seems as though the consequences of this will not be realised until it is much, much too late to do anything about it.

    • EJ

      Hear hear. Everyone I speak to of the “grass roots” is absolutely disgusted with the lurch to the left and the absolute inability of the Cameroonians to tackle any of the REAL issues like the EU and immigration. You only have to read the comments here and on the Mail website to see how fed up people are with many turning to UKIP.

  • Robert_Eve

    Hopefully rebellions will continue until we are out of the EU.

    • telemachus

      Problem is that out of the EU equates to the crackpot right and UKIP
      OK Labour played along yesterday but when the chops are down it will be back with the crack pots

      • fubarroso

        On the contrary @telemachuss:disqus out of the EU equates to one giant leap to freedom. When we are out we can start putting our own parliament in order.

        • telemachus

          One giant leap to freedom
          One small step to poverty

  • Rhoda Klapp

    And the mechanism he plans to use to do the renegotiation within, that would be interesting too, to those who actually know the rules. And to those who speak to Cameron, can you please ask whether he supports ‘ever closer union’? Because that is what we are treaty-bound to.

  • David Lindsay

    A fortnight to go until the Cory by-election.

    Look up the Eastbourne by-election of 1990.

    Or has the Conservative Party lost the will to live?

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