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EU budget victory: What does Cameron do next?

8 February 2013

The Haribo they were eating all night clearly worked: European leaders have just agreed on the first budget cut since the EU’s formation. All credit to David Cameron for getting more than even he’d imagined was possible. But what does the Prime Minister do next?

Well, he could do what he did after his historic EU speech, which is to make a rather paltry attempt at capitalising on the excellent mood in the Conservative party by organising an afternoon Commons debate with William Hague congratulating his leader on being so eurosceptic and poking fun at Labour. Apart from that debate, which barely made an impression within the parliamentary estate, let alone with voters, the Downing Street machine retreated again, job done, leaving Tory MPs to start fighting over gay marriage and which unlikely backbencher they could line up to replace Cameron or how they could eject George Osborne. A month or so ago, it was difficult to get through even the briefest of conversations with a Tory MP without the words ‘Europe’ or ‘referendum’ cropping up. Now they’re happy to talk about anything else.

Or he could do what he did with gay marriage, which was to make a personal, principled push for legislation he believed in over a number of months and then, as the second reading approached, go to ground. As James noted, this backing away from confrontation is pretty typical Cameroon behaviour. It wasn’t entirely unwise: the Prime Minister would have received just as much flak had he gone too far the other way, giving a series of speeches and interviews in the days running up to the vote which appeared to put pressure on his backbenchers when some were already questioning whether the free vote they had been promised was quite as it seemed. But it also meant that he wasn’t there to put his own stamp on the legislation, to claim Conservative credit for what he sees not only as right but a key part of the party’s ongoing modernisation project rather than allowing the bill’s opponents to steal the limelight. The Bill still has committee stage, report stage and third reading in the Commons before it even goes up to the Lords, so the Prime Minister still has an opportunity to make a big song and dance about what his party is doing and make it clear that this isn’t a Labour victory, it’s a Conservative victory.

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The Prime Minister needs to become more obsessive about his messaging. Those backbenchers who are loyal to him find it frustrating that he never seems to quite capitalise on his good moments. He sometimes picks up nice ideas and then seems to forget about them: in his party conference speech, he talked about ‘spreading privilege’, but hasn’t mentioned the phrase since. Which is odd when you consider that a number of the announcements from the government since have very neatly fitted this description: Nick Boles on planning, Liz Truss on childcare, Michael Gove on education reforms. All of these policies will help spread privilege, by giving children an equal start in life, by giving families the opportunity to afford their own home, or at least afford to rent a property near jobs, and by helping mothers get back into work. Yet there doesn’t seem to be enough central message discipline for the phrase to have made it into the launches of any of these policies. If he realised that ‘spreading privilege’ was an oxymoron, why not start talking about the ‘great ignored’ again: a phrase he seems to have, er, ignored since using the phrase to launch the 2010 general election.

At least Ed Miliband, to give him credit, hammered his message (what there was of it) home using a series of speeches and interviews over several months. That message wasn’t about a policy, it was about who Miliband was, and he had the space to do it because he didn’t have much else to really talk about at the time. But the point is that by the time we reached last autumn’s conference speech, it wasn’t just Westminster village inhabitants who were aware of Miliband’s parents’ story and his own identity. Then he moved on and branded everything with ‘One Nation’.

Obviously this is easier when you are the Opposition leader whose policy review hasn’t reported back yet, but Cameron needs to have that same obsessive focus on themes, wrapping big ideas up in regular policy announcements. And he needs to keep talking about victories and big policy pushes, not assuming that just because he’s mentioned them once, voters will have noticed at all. The old mantra about the rest of the country only noticing when your own team is bored to death of an idea is something Cameron needs to remember.

All of which means that Cameron needs to start banging on about Europe, not just at Prime Minister’s questions, and not just using dull backbench debates or the statement he’ll give to MPs on his return, but in television interviews, speeches, newspaper articles. And he needs to keep banging on about his other victories until he’s sick to the teeth of talking about them. The opposition won’t do it for him, and neither, at the moment, will his backbenchers.

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  • Smithersjones2013

    In case people hadn’t realised, Dave doesn’t ‘do’ politics. So all this is moot. Dave will retire to Downing Street once more and circulate amongst his clique and continue to rule in splendid isolation having brought about peace ‘economic continence in our times’.

  • HooksLaw

    I dare say Ms Hardman Cameron will get on with governing. With leading.

    • Deputy Dawg

      Well he can’t get on with what he hasn’t started doing!

      • HooksLaw

        A dipstick comment we are rapidly becoming accustomed to. Heath education welfare pensions and defence reforms. All which labour ducked out of. Add to that pulling out of Afghanistan and overthrowing Gadaffi.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Yes local government reform. You mean all those Tory councils abandoning weekly bin collections but still being allowed to dip their mucky little paws in Eric’s contingency fund.

          As for the PCC’s. Will we ever hear from them again?

  • George B

    @Deputy Dawg: Let me correct you…..
    1) It was the Labour government that approved the reduction of our rebate – The conservatives NEVER had any say. THAT is why we are paying more.
    2) It is a victory because we will be paying less than we would have been. Cameron did his job. Credit where credit’s due.

    • Smithersjones2013

      So its a victory on figures that no one has agreed and for all we now were bandied about in the first place so that the likes of Cameron could come home crowing.

      The reality is whatever he has achieved the country is likely still worse off for it So its a pyrrhic victory in my book.

  • David Lindsay

    The answer to the question at the top of this post is, “Resign, in favour of the Party Leader who denied Cameron’s claim that this was impossible and who convinced the majority of the House of Commons accordingly.”

    Or is this another “triumph”, like Michael Gove’s yesterday?

  • don logan

    Is the Ed Miliband we’re supposed to give so much credit to the same Ed Miliband who got so excited it looked like he was going to wet himself when that waste of space Hollande got elected.

    • telemachus

      You mean that Hollande that saved France from the Jaws of Marine Le Pen.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Clearly you have not been keeping up. The UK Left’s other brainless groupies have gone rather quiet in their Obamaesque adulation of yet another Red Icon bleating growth through spend. Something to do with France’s coming economic meltdown.

        “Whereas UK unemployment is now below 8% and falling, France’s unemployment figures have been rising for 19 months in succession, making it impossible for Hollande to escape his due share of responsibility.”

        “Hollande was forced to introduce a budget that CUT government spending by €10 billion and increased taxes, including VAT…”

        • telemachus

          You should read the Economist

          “First came the decision on January 11th to order French air strikes on an Islamist incursion from northern Mali into government-held territory. With no warning, Mr Hollande sent French fighter jets, based in France and nearby Chad, as well as attack helicopters, to strike a rebel column advancing towards Bamako, the capital. After days of air strikes, in which one French helicopter pilot was killed, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said that the Islamist groups, which have ties to al-Qaeda, had been partially pushed back. By mid-week, Mr Hollande announced that he was increasing to 2,500 the number of French troops in Mali, as part of “Operation Serval” (see article). ”

          And so on

          This man has Balls

  • Russell

    Labour spokesman has just said they are pleased that Cameron got the cut which (they) proposed!!!!!!!!Sour grapes or what.
    Labours last act in the EU was to sign the UK up to a Eurozone bail-out fund, the one before that was to sign up the UK to the Lisbon Treaty without giving the people of the UK a referendum and their act prior to that was to give away £billions of UK rebate.

    The Labour party cannot be trusted with the EU or the NHS, or the Financial sector(FSA and Knighthoods for RBS etc) or the Education system (Fall in UK International standings) or Defence (Iraq & Afghanistan)……..
    In fact labour cannot be trusted with anything.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well, best think of something quick then, because in less than 27 months time, they’ll be in power.

      • Russell

        I already did in a previous article post on the EU.
        All Cameron needs to do is introduce a bill which ensures an EU referendum in the next parliament. If Labour vote against, (which Miliband has said they will) and the Bill is defeated, the electorate will make Miliband & Labour suffer in the 2015 GE and labour will not be the next government.

  • Hexhamgeezer


    You forgot to say by how much our contributions are going down.

    • HooksLaw

      A numpty response. Our contributions will be less than otherwise .

      Blair and labour are responsible for giving our rebate away. And blind thick headed opposition to the tories will simply put Labour back in power.

      • Deputy Dawg

        Cameron is responsible for whatever we pay. He can just say what we are willing to pay and the EU would need to deal with it. He is happy giving £14 billion to corrupt countries and he is happy supporting the EU to whatever extent is required. He has told us this. He doesn’t want to leave the EU.

        • HooksLaw

          Our nation is responsible for honouring its treaties. You could get up tomorrow and declare the earth is flat – it would be a pointless assertion.
          Cameron’s actions clearly show he is NOT in fact happy supporting the EU ‘whatever’.

          Cameron voted against the Lisbon treatry in parliament.

          Its a perfectly reasonable position to hold to say you think the EU is on balance a good thing for the UK – especially when you look at the EU regulations that Norway and Switzerland obey even though they are not in.

          These are the only European countries of any significance not in the EU but you demand we leave.

          The fact is Cameron is going to renegotiate our position in the EU and then give you a vote on it. So get used to the idea that your pontifications and prejudices are barking mad wrong.

          • Smithersjones2013

            The fact is Cameron is going to renegotiate our position in the EU and then give you a vote on it.

            He’s got an election to win first of all and unfortunately for you that will be ‘a bridge too far’ for the Cameroons (he couldn’t win a majority in 2010 so he aint going to win one now).. So get your head out of whichever of your orifices it is stuck in (permanently it would seem) and start talking about the reality of the situation and not your delusional fantasy ‘facts’

            PS When Heath betrayed the country and joined the EEC didn’t he shaft any number of treaties and agreements we had with the Commonwealth because he thought we could make more money that way. Not that I’m saying that Tories hide behind treaties only when it suits them

      • Smithersjones2013

        Blind thick headed Tories are no better than Labour

      • Hexhamgeezer

        We all know that Blair is responsible for degrading the rebate. And we all know that the Heir to Blair has just come back with a win for the EU that will cost us more. The H2B and his blind thick headed supporters seem happy to indulge in semantics (“Our contributions are going down!”) trumpeting Pyrhhic victories.

        It must be dave’s stardust in your eyes that is making you such a winker.

  • Archimedes

    “Then he moved on and branded everything with ‘One Nation’.”

    Yes, most wonderful. Everyone that knows who Disraeli is will be most impressed. Everyone else will wonder why Labour is so so focused on stopping the break-up of the UK…I mean…do they really not have any other policies? Only in Westminster does One Nation mean something.

    Cameron’s greatest strength is that he avoids interfering in the running of individual departments, and he really has changed the job of Prime Minister in a positive way in that regard. What he needs to do is turn that into a simple and appealing message. People want competence, and they’re not going to believe that competence can unified under a single vision, and a simple motto – leave that stuff to Miliband.

    • Deputy Dawg

      In what way has Cameron shown himself to be competent at anything? We have had greater immigration than under any other Government. Greater spending. An assault on the heritage of Britain. Greater integration with the EU and now increased funding of the EU. He is certainly heir to Brown and likely to be considered the worst Prime Minister ever.

      • HooksLaw

        There is no assault on heritage and no closer integration with the EU in deed he has proposed a more distant relationship. We have had health education and welfare reforms and faced up to a disastrous inherit.

        Despite what you say our funding to the Eu Is far less than it would have been but for his intervention and he has forced a cut in its budget.

        In everything you say you are appropriately barking mad wrong

        • Fergus Pickering

          Lot of barking here. I think we’re all too old and too loony.

          • Smithersjones2013

            You speak for yourself!

        • Smithersjones2013

          Despite what you say our funding to the Eu Is far less than it would
          have been but for his intervention and he has forced a cut in its

          The way that this went through relatively easily suggests to me this was hardly a hard fought victory through a single intervention but far more a consensus (given next year is an election year in Europe and much of the EU is skint).

          The fact it is being presented as such is just a sop to the UK to reduce Euroscepticism.Of course its also typical ‘little man syndrome’ behaviour. You know making something that on the face of it is on the tiny side of small, sound enormous.

          Do you have that problem?

      • Archimedes

        You’re making a list of things you disapprove of and designating that “incompetent”, but if you look at the broader picture people have had significant downward pressure on real pay, the government has pushed through large reforms to many different areas, and despite all that the UK has remained largely functional. Crime has fallen at a difficult time – whatever disagreements anyone may have over particular policies, that is competence.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Lass, I understand you’ve got a cheerleading job to do (and given all the above paragraphs stuffed with sycophancy, you’re doing a fine job), but an increase is not a cut.

    It just isn’t.

    It is in the Speccieland bubble, yes, but it isn’t in the real world.

    It wasn’t when the Speccie bubble denizens were celebrating the fake Cameroonian “cuts” a few years ago, which like today’s were non-existent and were in fact increases.

    And it isn’t today.

    An increase is an increase. It isn’t a cut. It’s an increase. That’s what your boy Dave is executing here. It isn’t a cut.

    • HooksLaw

      Its a cut. The negotiations were about the budget. The budget is cut. Live with it.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Huzzah for Europe (well anyone who gives a f***).

      • an ex-tory voter

        A “net increase” in contributions is “an increase”, it is not a cut. There is no sane way to argue otherwise. As somebody else pointed out elsewhere, David Cameron could and should have said “non”.

        As the Prime Minister of a bankrupt nation struggling under enormous, unsustainable and ever increasing debt, his first duty is to his suffering electorate. Treaties or not, the EU would have had no choice but to accept his totally justifiable insistence that the UK’s “net” contribution would not increase. Sadly David Cameron is no leader. History will not judge him well and all the apologists here and elsewhere will not change that one iota. His only apparent quality is his unerring ability to “miss an open goal”. A “net” reduction, or even a freeze would have been a “victory”, nothing else cuts it.

      • Brian Mooney

        No it isn’t – everything still has to go through the European Parliament, who don’t like cuts. Stop trolling and go back to Brussels.

  • Deputy Dawg

    We are paying more. It isn’t a victory at all. It is all part of the planned and intended advance of the EU which Cameron entirely and publically supports.

  • telemachus

    You mean all credit to Angela
    Girl done good

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