Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Lisbon II - Cameron's dilemma

So apparently the Lisbon treaty which appeared to be done and dusted will actually be back before parliament in a few weeks time for technical ratification of a few points regarding seat distribution that had to be rushed through previously.

Now at first glance this may seem like a golden opportunity for David Cameron. He always said that he wanted a referendum on Lisbon and in a few weeks time he may well be Prime Minister. The question is what will he do?

There are suggestions that he could announce a referendum and then use that as a bargaining chip with the rest of the EU about repatriation of powers.

I think that David Cameron will actually view this situation with dread. He thought that Lisbon and the EU were now well and truly kicked into the long grass. This would bring it all to the fore again. Worse still it is likely even if the Tories can get a majority that it will be pretty slender. We all know that there are a sizeable chunk of Tory MPs (and many current PPC who may well be MPs on Friday) who would actually like to see us renegotiate the UK's position in the EU in a much more fundamental way. These MPs could find themselves able to exert great pressure on Cameron to make any referendum more wide ranging.

If instead the Tories do not have a majority (which is currently the most likely outcome according to the bookies) then Cameron may not even have enough votes in the house to call a referendum or block ratification. I wonder how Tory MPs would react to that.

Things could get very interesting on this front very quickly.

1 comment:

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

If Cameron is as good a politician as he ought to be then this Lisbon business presents more opportunity than threat.

He either (A) opposes the treaty measures, saying it is part of his stance on redefining the EU/UK relationship or (B) presents them as merely technical, "good housekeeping" clear up which would be self-defeating to oppose since it would poison discussions on redefinition.

His best chance is in coalition, formal or informal, where if he can undermine his coalition partners whilst pleasing his party he will opt for (A) (it will please most of the public too). If he is uncertain of the risks, he can choose (B) whilst pretending privately to his coalition partners that he is making a major concession for their benefit, such to be repaid in kind.

His worst chance is with a small majority since some in his party may rebel whatever he does - yet he ought to be able to point out to them that the technical, "good housekeeping" clear up is not the issue on which to tackle the EU nor to jeopardize the government - whatever anyone wants, they can have it later.

A complexity is if he has a minority government where option (A) would probably not pass the 'Commons - but then option (B) can be explained as before to his own side and the other parties would appear hypocritical and opportunist to criticise him. He could still go for option (A), face defeat and dare a confidence motion for a new general election - that would be done not for Lisbon reasons but if prospects looked good otherwise.

Simples :-)