Coffee House

David Cameron puts Nick Clegg on the spot

23 January 2013

Downing Street always hoped that once David Cameron had given his Europe speech, the pressure would shift on to the other party leaders. They believed that once Cameron had committed himself to a referendum, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg would be required to say whether or not they’ll match this pledge.

But Cameron has put particular pressure on the Deputy Prime Minister by making clear that renegotiation and a referendum will happen if he is Prime Minister after the next election. In other words, this is not up for debate in any 2015 coalition negotiation. Every interviewer can now ask Nick Clegg if he and the Liberal Democrats could be part of a government that was committed to renegotiating Britain’s terms of EU membership and then putting the result to a referendum.

Last week, Ed Miliband had great fun at PMQs, mocking Cameron as the weak leader of a divided party. But I suspect that this week, it will be Cameron who enjoys their encounter more. For he can constantly demand to know whether or not Miliband is ruling out a referendum. By gripping an issue that has been avoided too long he has stolen a march on this opponents.

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Show comments
  • Jebediah

    A democratic choice on being part of the new federal Eurostate, about time. Can Labour match it or will it be another “I don’t know what we’d do, but we wouldn’t do that.”

  • HooksLaw

    He has put clear blue water between tories and LDs for the election.

    Clegg still needs to explain how the UK should relate to the EU when it invokes its forthcoming fiscal union treaty.

  • Rhoda Klapp2

    One day you will give up the stupid idea of presenting this sort of story as a bubble sensation, a tory split / coalition slit / Labour stymied point of view. One day the Spectator might care to examine who is being realistic, who is lying, how the various arguments hold up under scrutiny. One day. But I am not holding my breath. All these EU speech items today, and not a bit of perspicacity or depth in any of them. Pablum for the brain?

  • Gary Gimson

    But the LibDems were strongly advocating such an In/Out referendum at the last election, so one assumes that Nick Clegg will be very keen on this. As such David Cameron has nothing to worry about from his present coalition partners.

    • 2trueblue

      That was before they had any real say in having to deliver anything. Easy to promise when you do not have to deliver.

      • telemachus

        Wait till Simon Hughes gets his teeth into the issue

        • DWWolds

          Has he got any teeth?

        • 2trueblue

          So? The situation will still be the same.

        • Noa

          And into whose issue will he sink them?

  • LB

    And what about the pledges in the past? We will have a vote if you elect us.

    Ah that was the advertising, this is the reality. See these two fingers? Well we’re in power now f-off.

    That’s what Cameron has done. It’s got enough holes in it as a promise, that it won’t happen. If you look at the picture closely you will see he’s standing on one foot. To make a promise hold, you have to be standing on both feet, with your hands visible so people can see you haven’t crossed your fingers.

    All the more reason to force the issue and vote UKIP.

    • Chris lancashire

      Eh? Cameron is entirely straightforward on the issue – there will be an in/out referendum if he is reelected. Now it’s just possible Miliband will make the same commitment – though I doubt it. In that case, the one sure thing you will get by voting Ukip is a pro-EU Labour government. You won’t be forcing the issue by voting Ukip you will be ensuring status quo under Labour.

      • Span Ows

        Trouble is I doubt it: Cameron has to be reelected, no Coalition, a new settlement needs to be negotiated (new EU? what chance) and if that fails they’ll be a referendum: too many ifs and buts.

        • LB


          Cameron is trying to play for the UKIP vote.

          However, we’ve had promise after promise after promise, and they have all been broken.

          So the question for Chris, why should we trust them, when experience tells us clearly that they lie to get elected, and then stick two fingers up to us afterwards?

          If Cameron thinks there should be a referenda, have one know.

          The Liberal Democrats had it in their manifesto.

          So no reason not to have one. Clegg if doesn’t want one can stand up and say, well, you know we lied on the Tuition fees, we also lied about the referenda.

          See how well that works at the next election.

          • HooksLaw

            No – no promises have been broken. You ruin any pretence that you are a coherent thinking human being by pretending that they have.

          • Chris lancashire

            By that argument it’s not worth voting for any political party. Which is a fair enough point of view. Presumably Nigel is included in your list of liars/promise breakers – or is he exempt?

            • LB

              Which promises has he broken? None yet as far as I know, because he hasn’t been calling the shots.

              I’ve no doubt once in power, which is unlikely, he will be breaking them like all the others.

              Now for Hookslaw,

              Cast Iron Guarantee – Broken.

              That relates to a basic democratic deficit. If we are offered a vote, and we don’t get it, that’s dictatorship not democracy. The flip side is that if we haven’t had a say, we aren’t responsible. Someone else can pay.

              I see no problem with a referenda. It clears up the mess. If the democratic wish is we stay, or we go, so be it. .

              What we currently have is a small minority dictating to the public, and they aren’t prepared to put it to a vote, for fear of losing. ie. They want to go against the democratic majority.

              Meanwhile, how’s it going on your debt research? 5,300 bn hidden off the books because they don’t adhere to the accounting standards. GAAP and FRS17. Why should the government run hooky books?

        • HooksLaw

          You doubt what? You are far from clear.

          • Span Ows

            It’s perfectly clear if you read the comment I was replying to: I was answering Chris Lancaster and I mean that I think David Cameron is not being clear: I doubt that there will be an in/out referendum if David Cameron is reelected, that is only one of many conditions he placed on it.

        • telemachus

          Actually no ifs at all
          The Tories are finished and the public like the understated supposed euro scepticism of Ed Balls

    • HooksLaw

      Cameron broke no promise.

      The lisbon treaty was signed before the election. It is either a lie or an admission of thick ignorance to say that a promise of a referendum was in the tory manifesto in 2010.
      Tell us which one is it.
      Mind you you are in good company it is a falshood endlessly repeated by thick UKIPers

      • LB

        Conservative leader confirms U-turn on his ‘cast iron guarantee’ that a Tory government would hold a public vote on the controversial treaty

        So who is spreading the falsehood?

        • HooksLaw

          No falsehood. Quoting a Guardian misquote is no defence. See what was promised in the tory Euro elections manifesto. The promise is clear. And it was not broken. The treaty was signed and there could therefore be no referendum on ratification.

          The treaty was signed before the election and the Guardian story is dated Nov 2009. No 2010 manifesto commitment has been broken.

          You will see in the story Camerons commitment to a ‘triple lock’ and that commitment has been met.

          So stop peddling the lies. Its a sad numpty that has to live a lies to justify his prejudice and bigotry.

          • LB

            Come on how much does the state owe people for its pensions?

            I know that’s your real concern because your so adament that the state doesn’t owe people a penny for their pensions.

            On the referenda, I’m all in favour of one. On balance I would vote to be out.

            90% of the trade rules are WTO, 10% EU. With the EU we just get a fraction of the say on the 90% because we have to go with majority voting. Out we would have a full say.

            We would be able to control and restrict low paid migration. That would reduce the benefits bill.

            The EU would still need to trade with the UK, because there is a trade imbalance in their favour. If they put up trade barriers, they lose more than the UK.

            Historically, its far better. Look at the Italian renaissance It worked because you had competing states. It flourished. Compare that to central controlled economies, and they fail.

            All the benefits, free trade etc, are there if the EU wants to trade etc with the UK. If they don’t want to trade, they lose as does the UK. A UK out of the EU isn’t going to put up barriers. So who is? EU in a fit of pique?

            • Noa


              A lucid, factual riposte to an abusive poster best known for swearing at the truths smacking him in the face.

      • James Strong

        Cameron left himself a get-out, so in strict terms you are right to point out thyat he didn’t break his promise.
        However, Cameron was, at best, disingenuous. He deliberately allowed people to believe there was a cast-iron guarantee, he consciously deceived people. In strict terms you are right, but I think that what he did was a deliberate deceit and I don’t think that is effectively different from lying.

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