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The Labour MPs who could make trouble for Ed Miliband on Europe

21 January 2013

So the Prime Minister’s speech is, as James hinted yesterday, going to be on Wednesday, and in London to avoid any further strikes of the Curse of Tutancameron’s Europe speech. His official spokesman confirmed the date this morning.

Thanks to briefed extracts and further briefings over the weekend, we now have a rough outline of what’s going to be in it, which will mean it’s impressive if anything the David Cameron says causes anyone in the audience to gasp with surprise. What is more exciting is what the response will be from the other benches in the Commons.

Labour spokesmen on the broadcast rounds yesterday were squirming rather when asked about whether the party might offer a referendum too. ‘It’s rarely wise in international relations to ever say never,’ said Douglas Alexander uncomfortably on the Sunday Politics. ‘Of course you don’t rule out a referendum forever,’ Stephen Twigg clarified helpfully on Murnaghan.

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Ed Miliband’s party clearly believes at the moment that great capital is to be made from poking Cameron on Europe. When he runs out of other things to say at Prime Minister’s Questions, for instance, it’s very easy for Miliband to start shouting ‘his party is divided on Europe’, backed by Dennis Skinner bellowing about a return to the Maastricht days.

But though Stephen Twigg yesterday said ‘we are united behind our position’, once we finally know the PM’s position on a referendum, Labour will remember that it does in fact have its own divisions on Europe. Though the party whipped its members to support the government in 2011’s backbench vote on an EU referendum, 19 Labour MPs rebelled and voted in support of the motion. Here are the names:

Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Cruddas, John Cryer, Ian Davidson, Natascha Engel, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Stephen McCabe, John McDonnell, Austin Mitchell, Dennis Skinner, Andrew Smith, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Mike Wood.

One of the most significant names on that list is of course Jon Cruddas, who is now the party’s policy review chief. But Graham Stringer, a former party whip, was upset at the time that the party was trying to block the vote. He told me that it was a ‘fundamental error’ to whip it.

There’s another list, which doesn’t contain an identical set of names, of Labour MPs who could make trouble if the leadership tries to unite the party behind a rejection of a referendum. Nineteen of Miliband’s merry men and women have signed the People’s Pledge calling for an EU referendum, including Cruddas:

Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, David Crausby, Jon Cruddas, John Cryer, Natascha Engel, Jim Fitzpatrick, Roger Godsiff, Tom Harris, Kate Hoey, Lindsay Hoyle, Kelvin Hopkins, George Howarth, Iain McKenzie, Austin Mitchell, Graham Stringer, Gerry Sutcliffe, Derek Twigg, Keith Vaz.

Beyond this group of pro-referendum MPs, YouGov’s Sunday Times polling threw up some interesting results on Europe and Labour. When asked whether they would support or oppose holding a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe, 58 per cent of voters said yes, with 23 per cent opposing and 19 saying they didn’t know. For those who voted Labour in 2010, 47 per cent supported a referendum and 33 per cent opposed. While Labour leads the Conservatives by 23 per cent to 20 per cent on the question of which party is most trusted to look after Britain’s interests in Europe, David Cameron streaks ahead of Ed Miliband who is most trusted to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU. The Prime Minister won the trust of 26 per cent of those surveyed, with Ed Miliband at 18 per cent, Nigel Farage at 11 per cent and Nick Clegg on just 5 per cent.

Those figures suggest Labour shouldn’t immediately view Conservative machinations on Europe as a victory. It would also be a nice insult for the Prime Minister to turn back on the Labour leader at a future Prime Minister’s Questions: your party is now divided on Europe. He might add for further measure: we’ve offered the British public a say for the first time since 1975, doesn’t the Leader of the Opposition trust the voters? Whether the Prime Minister would be able to say that without it exploding in his face does, of course, largely depend on how well he can manage his party in the aftermath of the speech.

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Show comments
  • sceptic3

    Stop listening to all the waffle. It’s all a pack of lies.

  • 2trueblue

    Amazing that those who support Liebore fail to remember that we were promised a referendum under that government, and over 13yrs we did not get it.

    Blair gave away the hard fought rebate the Maggie obtained for us.

    Brown scuttled off and signed us up the the Lisbon Treaty,

    Darling snuck off in the last days of them being in power and gave another 10billon to the EU.

    Are these people mad? How anyone can think that Liebore can be trusted with the EU, (or anything for that matter) is beyond me.

  • George_Arseborne

    What ever your so called polls puts it, Europe is a Conservative problem. The Economy is too heavy for them to handle and now they turn to distract the country with Europe. Pure nonsense

    • 2trueblue

      As ever, a problem that Liebore left us. They are so clever, how come they improved neither our position in the EU, or delivered the promised referendum over the 13yrs., and managed to totally wreck the economy whilst they were at it?

      • David Lindsay

        Eh? The only referendum promised in 1997 was if Britain ever tried to join the euro, which in any case was never going to happen as soon as Gordon Brown and John Prescott replaced Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine as Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister respectively.

        • Boudicca_Icenii

          They promised a Referendum on the EU Constitution and reneged on it when the title was changed, but not the contents.

    • Chris lancashire

      I assume your last two words relate to the previous 30 odd.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Lindsay is a busy little bee, isn’t he? Here, there and everywhere. I don’t think we should encourage him.

  • David Lindsay

    Make trouble for him? He agrees with them, at least broadly. But can we please get over this referendum business? It would only deliver a vote to stay in, anyway. Parliament should legislate without either renegotiation or referendum, as Michael Foot understood in 1983. Did this magazine support him then?

    Labour MPs have elected three Eurosceptics out of three to represent them on the party’s
    National Executive Committee, and one of those has voted against every Treaty since the first one. The only other candidate was no more pro-EU than those three. One third of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party have voted for it to be chaired by John Cryer, an outspoken and dynastic advocate of withdrawal from the EU. Ed Balls is Shadow Chancellor. Jon Cruddas heads the Policy Review.

    One of the places for Labour’s 2010 intake to see and be seen is at the Morning Star Readers’ and Supporters’ Group, reading and supporting Britain’s original Eurosceptic newspaper. Labour’s principal Eurofederalist has had to resign. Ed Miliband has already defeated the Government over the EU Budget, without a single Labour rebel. The number of Conservative rebels was fewer than the number of Liberal Democrat MPs.

    And Miliband has now declared himself in favour of the repatriation of industrial and regional policy, two more specific proposals than anyone speaking officially on behalf of
    the Conservative Party has ever managed. Or will manage in the unlikely event that The Speech is ever delivered.

    Any trouble would come from Blairite throwbacks such as Stephen Twigg, as it does on several issues. For example, Twigg has so far blocked a commitment to the restoration of the Educational Maintenance Allowance. But there are no longer very many Blairite throwbacks in the Commons, there will be extremely few after 2015, and their second Ministerial careers, if any, will be decidedly brief.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Mr Lindsay has been reading the runes of Labour scepticism for some time. It is plain to me only that any electoral advantage to be gained by being the sole eurosceptic big party is being squandered by indecision or failure to commit. A case could be made quite solid if only in terms of giving the electorate a real choice. Why do they not have the bottle to go there? Why do they long to wound but dare not strike? Might it be that they are as split as everybody else, or that the envelopes from Brussels contain too convincing an argument to be resisted?

      • David Lindsay

        They are not as split as the Conservatives. Setting the bar low, I admit.

        Come the Election, and probably well before that, a nuanced, convincing position will have been developed and published. Mostly by Jon Cruddas, with whom even Nigel Farage wants a deal, whereas Farage explicitly rejects the whole idea of a deal with the Conservative Party.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          I fear your ‘nuanced’ will mean all things to all men, designed around electoral positioning rather than the interests of the country, on which subjects all concerned are ready to lie and cheat just to get the seat which is marked ‘power’ but actually has to defer to the EU on every significant issue. But still, you see thinkers and leaders where I can only perceive a bunch of weasels. Or to quote an internet authority: A **BOOGLE,
          GANG, *CONFUSION
          or PACK of

          • David Lindsay

            Oh, no, it will be very specific. Its shape is increasingly clear.

            Cameron, on the other hand…

            • DWWolds

              “It will be very specific”! Just like you think you are no doubt.

              • David Lindsay

                I am in no doubt.

                • DWWolds

                  That is entirely in accordance with your posts. A good many other people have a different opinion.

                  And, by the way, a query I’ve raised before: don’t you have anything better to do with your life than write rambling posts on internet blogs? You appear to be relatively young so shouldn’t you be working?

                • Hepworth

                  These people tend to be on the young side with no experience of life or a family of their own, they are generally the young and impressionable.
                  If they had children it would focus their minds and forget the Marxist dogma taught in our “schools”.

        • Boudicca_Icenii

          Not true, David Lindsay.
          Nigel said he couldn’t envisage a deal with Labour, but he would do a deal with the Devil in order to get a free and fair In/Out Referendum.
          He hasn’t rejected a deal with the CON Party. He just said it was virtually impossible whilst Cameron was Leader. If they got a reasonable, pragmatic leader (ie Gove) then he would be prepared to talk.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        The Millipedes will soon be in power, and so no reason strategically for them to do anything to alter that status quo trajectory.

        Kick the ball around. Muck it up a bit. Feint and jab. And run the clock out. That’s the winning strategy for them.

        All while the Cameroons destroy themselves, and it is they who must move here, because shortly they’ll be handing over the keys, otherwise.

    • michael

      “It would only deliver a vote to stay in, anyway”… Nevertheless it would deliver a vote. Which ever way it goes. -Some will be happy some will grumble but, after a protracted period of name calling and finger pointing, we will a ALL get on with the aftermath and its democratic(ish) directive.

      • David Lindsay

        Well, we have certainly not “ALL got on with the aftermath and its democratic(ish) directive” either from 1975 or, since it was a point of differentiation between the two main parties, from 1983.

        In fact, the Labour manifesto commitment to withdrawal in 1983 was itself precisely a direct, principled refusal just to “get on with it”.

        Referendums settle nothing. Demonstrably. Nor are General Elections ever the last word on anything. They are not supposed to be. Parliament cannot bind its successors. Nor can Parliament be bound by a referendum.

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