I've just been listening to Iain Dale on Simon Mayo's show discussing the Tory slip in the polls with Peter Riddell. Iain stated that he thinks the main reason why the Tory lead is now averaging in the low double digits rather than the high teens as per a couple of months ago is largely attributed to David Cameron's decision not to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Now we have already established that I am no Mike Smithson, but I did decide a few weeks ago to have a small flutter at 10-1 that there would be some sort of referendum on Lisbon by the end of 2010. Of course now that is looking very, very unlikely but when I put the bet on, I tried to think if there was an upside if the bet did not come in. I thought there was and that it would be an entertaining spectator sport to watch the Tories tear themselves apart over this issue if Cameron dared not to have a referendum.
The thing is that although there were (and are) plenty of Tories who were deeply unhappy about Cameron's Lisbon decision, the media side of this was handled very well. Expectations were managed and although people like Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer were mightily miffed, as a story it was all over within a few days and the narrative moved on. So you might think job done.
I don't think it's that simple though. For a start, Cameron's supposed way of making sure "matters do not rest there" are widely recognised as very insubstantial and some think they are almost meaningless. A law to ensure any further cessation of powers to Brussels is deemed by many to be too little too late and all the indications are that this and the other measures will be kicked into the long grass anyway.
So if I was a Eurosceptic Tory (and the term nowadays is almost a tautology) then the only party truly representing my views on Europe would be UKIP. I am sure there will be plenty of Tories who for the sake of putting in the most Eurosceptic of the main parties will still vote Conservative but I am sure there will be some who feel so strongly that they cannot stomach doing so and will vote UKIP, whatever the consequences. The question is how many.
I wonder if Cameron will eventually rue his decision on Lisbon. I know that he wants to be able to focus on more important and substantive issues if he becomes PM and in a way I admire him for facing the Eurosceptics down but in order to be in any position to focus on anything he actually has to be in power.
The risk is that by going against what many in his party feel so strongly about, he jeapordises his chances of ever actually being in that position.