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Friday, 17 May 2013
Rebellion? What rebellion? Tory backbenchers support frontbench policy on Europe
The media have been building up the week’s events as a mass rebellion against the Tory leadership–a vicious assault on the authority of Mr Cameron. This could not be further from the truth.
Peter Bone (left) and John Baron (right) tabled the Amendment which supports Tory frontbench policy on referendum
On Wednesday over 110 Conservative backbenchers voted in favour of an amendment to the Queen’s Speech of the previous week. That is nearly half of our whole backbench parliamentary party.
The amendment to include laws guaranteeing an EU referendum by 2017 was not so privately supported by the frontbench. Mr Cameron has said he is “very relaxed about it”—hardly an attitude of a Prime Minister facing a mass rebellion in disdain of his leadership. The frontbench support is not at all surprising. After all, a referendum on Europe by 2017 is a Conservative frontbench policy.
On Wednesday’s vote, Cameron said that he doesn’t think “people can read in anything really to the scale of that free vote”.
Cameron is right. The vote and the imminent private member’s bill are actually putting increased pressure on our Coalition partners and Labour to get in touch with the country over Europe and to give the British public a say on our future relationship with Brussels. The level of support for the amendment demonstrates the growing public anxiety and appetite for a referendum, yet Labour continue to completely ignore public concern and their right to vote on our future relations.
Prime Minister David Cameron (above) has promised a referendum on Europe by 2017.
Whilst Labour are completely out of touch on the subject, at least they have been somewhat consistent in their hostility to an in/out referendum.
The Lib Dems, on the other hand, have gone back on their word. Their 2010 General Election manifesto pledged a referendum on the very issue. It said: “The European Union has evolved significantly since the last public vote on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain committed to an in / out referendum”. The Lib Dems since then apparently prefer to bury their heads in the sand and oppose any talk on Europe–even as the direction of the EU continues to fundamentally change, as they scramble desperately to save the Euro. A dramatic U-turn in Lib Dem policy has lost all shock factor in recent years.
Going forward, clearly it is only the Tories who are serious about delivering a referendum on Europe. This is a cause evidently backed by half of our backbenchers, in support of Cameron and his frontbench’s promise to give the British people a say on our relationship with an ever-weaker and remote European Union. This bodes well going into 2015, where we will be the only party in a secure and credible position to give the public what they want on Europe.
The Tories need to win in 2015 to deliver their promise of a referendum on Europe