Conservative Diary

« The Tories will NOT hold a referendum on Lisbon but seek a 'manifesto mandate' to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU | Main | Iain Duncan Smith recommends scrapping jail terms of a few weeks because they do nothing to reduce re-offending »

Blogosphere reacts to news that Tories are unlikely to hold any referendum on Lisbon or renegotiation

Picture 26 ConservativeHome's analysis of Lisbon from last night has lit up the blogosphere since it was posted shortly after 7pm. Following a weekend working the phones ConHome suggested that there would be no post-ratification referendum from the Tories on Lisbon and, more interestingly, the Cameron leadership would also be unlikely to hold a wider referendum to win authority for renegotiation. Instead the party will seek a 'manifesto mandate' to renegotiate. Here is a selection of the reaction:

The Telegraph's Benedict Brogan: "Tim Montgomerie has livened things up tonight with a post crystallising what has been apparent for some time: there will be no referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it is ratified by the time David Cameron gets to Downing Street."

James Forsyth in The Spectator: "A vote on Lisbon once it had been ratified would only have had moral force so the Tory policy shift is not a betrayal of Euro-scepticism." I had argued that Eurosceptics would trust the leadership on renegotiation if the job was given to someone like John Redwood or David Davis. James suggests Theresa Villiers.

Iain Dale sympathises with the Tory belief that a 'manifesto mandate' will be enough and a post-Lisbon, pre-renegotiation referendum might not be necessary: "I can see a very strong case for a referendum with the aim of giving the British government a direct mandate to negotiate repatriation of powers, but it is equally possible to argue that this mandate would already have been given by virtue of the policy being included in a party election manifesto.

Guido also addresses the issue of a 'manifesto mandate': "Only if the Tory manifesto says “we will renegotiate our relationship with the EU thus…” will they be able to say they have consulted with and won a mandate from the British people."

MARTIN IAIN Iain Martin, at the Wall Street Journal, says European leaders will be delighted at the shift in the Conservative position. He goes on to worry at the weakness of the Eurosceptic movement:

"As a movement, Euroscepticism is a mess. After the sceptics won the battle on a single currency (which had as much to do with Gordon Brown’s opposition as it did with their efforts) the movement effectively decommissioned intellectually. No enduring institutions or think-tanks were built to advance ideas for reform of the EU. Beyond endless calls for a referendum, and the important interventions of a few figures such as Dan Hannan MEP, there was virtually nothing of any value."

Paul Waugh, of course, got there first. On Friday he wrote that there would be no Lisbon vote from the Conservatives. With ConHome's report of a 'manifesto mandate' I hope we've taken the story on. Reacting to this, Paul Waugh blogs: "The idea of a plebiscite appears to be dead and its place is the "general election mandate" idea - the very same argument that has been pushed by David Miliband and Gordon Brown ever since Labour abandoned its own referendum pledge."

Barry Legg of The Bruges Group has issued a withering statement: "The final reason we must have a vote is trust. Gordon Brown talks about "new" politics. But there's nothing "new" about breaking your promises to the British public. It's classic Labour... Small wonder that so many people don't believe a word politicians ever say if they break their promises so casually."

Andrew_lilico It's worth highlighting this post from Andrew Lilico from March 2008. In that post Andrew highlighted the dangers of a post-ratification vote: "There is of course the chance that we might lose a referendum - who knows how matters might pan out over the course of a campaign?  This would have three very bad consequences:

  • (A) We would not be able to conduct the fundamental renegotiation required.
  • (B) (probably worst of all) We would have entrenched the passing of sovereignty from Parliament (where it still resides now, for EU measures act through the Acts putting the Treaties into UK law) to the EU - it would probably not be practical for Parliament itself to take such powers back without a subsequent referendum.  So, whilst at the moment we only need to win once at a General Election for everything to change, after a referendum defeat matters would not be so straightforward.
  • (C) (most obviously) Our first Conservative government in more than a decade would be totally discredited within months of taking office.  Why on earth would we want to take such risks?"

Tim Montgomerie


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.