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I agree with the Editor. We have to talk about issues that the voters are interested in not what "political wonks" are interested in.

OK, so there are big issues that Cameron the Prime Minister has to address and Europe is definitely one of them.

The only snag is that Cameron has to become Prime Minister in order to do that. As Josh says to Matt Santos when he'd rather decide foreign policy than have a photo op with his children, you have to focus on what is important to voters. They needed to know what sort of man Cameron is, and actually, he's received far more scrutiny personally than Blair ever did before becoming PM.

The politically active might scorn, but most voters really needed to get to know Cameron and the new Tory party and that's what he's set about doing.

HW:"...Europe is definitely one of them.
The only snag is that Cameron has to become Prime Minister in order to do that."

Actually, the only snag is that Cameron has to address certain big issues in order to have a chance of becoming Prime Minister in the first place.

For me, Europe is of overriding importance because unless we retain independence from Eurocracy, it really doesn't matter much what the other policies are, if there is no real authority to implement them.

I will not vote for a party that acquiesces in the steady absorption into a Eurostate.

Love Europe; Hate EU.

As somebody who is pro-vouchers and for changing the NHS into a social insurance based system like Germany's, UKIPs attention to these matters is worrying, especially alongside our dropping of them.

This is particularly true as these policies, which are the logical conclusion of any proper analysis of the ideas in books like Jesse Norman's Compassionate Conservatism, are meat and drink to the activists who deliver the leaflets and knock on the doors.

If the activists desert, you can have as many photo-ops with the kids as you like, you lose.

UKIP does not pose a threat; it is nothing more than a club for ultra-Tories who have forgotten that conservatives are only successful when they act pragmatically.

What's pragmatic about splitting the conservative movement?

I hate the EU as much as anyone and would certainly vote to leave. That said I agree there is no point in talking about EU (unless there is some particularly egregious scandal that week) until such time as the Party follows the logic of its (members) convictions and announces a referendum to quit. Talk of reform or improvement has grown tiring and unbelievable - the politicians know it and the voters know it. They don't believe it and it engenders cynicism not votes.

If UKIP do re-brand as the Independance Party and put forward a full programme of reform, I will join and work for them. Not because they will win but because it is right and they will deserve it.

The public are not interested in the EU because no leader in the main parties is making the connection between the EU and the things the public do care about. I see no reason why Cameron could not, for example make a speech about the environment and in it refer to the disastrous CAP and CFP and the Emission Tradings policy. He would be right to criticise them and he would be laying the ground for taking a much tougher stance with the EU.

This would give his leadership the tough edge that it needs. If there is a "clause four" for our party it is to affirm our opposition to any kind of EU state and all the loss of sovereignty that goes with it.

Cameroons are now trying to hush up talk of the EU, and are portraying it as some sort of separate subject - somehow divorced from other home issues.

Putting aside the fact the polls show consistently that a large majority of voters are sick of the current EU control and only want a "common market", and that a considerable number want withdrawal (good reasons for our party to mention the EU), it is a fact that many of our "domestic" issues are actually controlled by the EU. If voters were more aware of that fact. then the EU and its effects would becmoe an evenb greater issue.

Closure of post offices - due to EU funding rules.

Loss of fisheries and environmental ruination of sealife - due the EU Common Fisheries Policy (which Dave no longer opposes).

Roads cracking up - EU rules forcing continental juggernauts on our small roads.

Farming industry destroyed - EU Common Agricultural Policy.

And maybe the public's "biggie": immigration out of control, low paid jobs hard for our own people to get, vast dole and extra NHS costs due to hundrends of thousands of outsiders coming in - due to EU open-door immigration laws. And while we are at it... the number of extra houses being built on our tiny island almost exactly matches the number of immigrants from the EU who have come here - our own indigenous population is actually static, if not declining slightly.

I could go on, but you should get the message. With over 70% of our laws now made by the EU, Dave will not be able to address many of the issues he talks glibly about, without tacking the reason these things are happening, and who is actually controlling them. Until we regain control over our own country and our own laws, we will continue to be paralysed politically and mere bystanders as "harmonisation" brings our country further to its knees.

Ken, I think the important part of your sentence which contains For me, Europe is of over-riding importance is the For me at the start. I'm sure it is of over-riding importance for you, and I'm sure you have really good reasons.

I can tell there are some CHers -- those who write about the EU regardless of the topic -- that it's of supreme importance to many of the visitors here. It may even be that some policy objectives of a Tory administration cannot be achieved without reworking the EU-UK relationship. But it doesn't follow, in a logically deductive sense, from any of this, that in order to achieve a Tory administration then David Cameron should prioritise the EU in his public communications. I think the empirical evidence suggests that there's greater support for the alternative hypothesis (that the more a Tory discusses the EU the lower his/her electoral support) although note I am suggesting that the data support this hypothesis, not that any particular result or election proves or disproves what I or anyone else "feel" about the European issue.

I would rather not hear another word about the EU between now and the election, even though had I the ability to organise the world according to my exact whim then I would certainly re-order our relationship with the EU to that of free trade association. However, I don't connect what I would like with what is necessarily true. I think this is a certain differentatiation from those whose written style implies that they've seen a revealed truth about Europe (or any other issue) from which it is logically deducible that unless one holds a particular view one isn't a Conservative (eg the increasingly strident and narrow tone employed by Telegraph journalists).

I don't believe - I simply do not believe - a single word that is written, repeatedly, on this site, about how thousands of Tory activists arer fleeing our newly successful party in order to join up with UKIP. There will be at least half a dozen such notices posted to this Diary item today I predict. How come I never meet a single active Tory who matches up with these repeated, unprovable assertions?

As somebody who is pro-vouchers and for changing the NHS into a social insurance based system like Germany's

Germany is currently involved in a major Gesundheitsreform which will get rid of most of the insurance funds since healthinsurance premia are now a driving force behind unemployment

There are hospital closures and bed reductions under way in Germany because the system is bloated and inefficient with well over 2 million employed in administration and assorted agencies.

German Health Care is in major crisis and is looking to the NHS for models of future development to contain healthcare costs which are out of control

Graeme hits the nail on the head. I would like to be out of Europe because I dislike the principles behind it and the actual working of it, but then I'm a political anorak.

Tory-voting friends of mine simply do not see Europe as an issue because they don't UNDERSTAND its implications in everything we do now.

Cameron's tactic should be to surely to nod understandingly every time something outrageous happens and then point out (if applicable) that of course this is due to EU legislation/interference etc. It's a sort of 'not leading on Europe, but following up on it'.

Of course he then needs to address the elephant in the room: would he call a referendum on staying in the EU.

I find it odd and depessing that sjm's "Tory-voting friends ...simply do not see Europe as an issue because they don't UNDERSTAND its implications in everything we do now." Odd because just about everybody I meet seems able to join up the dots (after all we have had 30 years to work out how we were duped); depressing because if sjm's experience is closer to the norm than mine, we seem "doomed".

Given Cameron's record on Europe to date, probably best to keep shtum. All he has achieved so far is to alienate Eurosceptics in his own party without doing anything to appeal to floating voters, unless you believe that the fiasco over EPP and the U turn on the Fisheries policy is, in any way, appealing.

If CCHQ do not wish to talk about Europe publicy, I suggest they send a sheet of A4 with their next begging letter to party members. They could state, unequivocally, their stance on the EU. Party members can then like it or lump it.

I know that my own Conservative MP, an arch Clarkeite, would love to ditch the pound and reduce Westminster to town hall status within his nirvana, a Europe of flabby soft-left consensus capitalism-with-a-conscience. But I cannot say that I know what the leadership thinks. Hague's "In Europe, not run by Europe" was a good soundbite that never had the opportunity of being tested. Does Cameron have the same outlook, and if so, how is this achieved?

Saying one will not "bang on" about Europe is no substitute for having an opinion. Cameron is said to be bright and a good communicator, so come on, Dave, find a way of articulating to your members a hugely important area of policy, but without banging on in public.

Og

Cameron's "bang on" comment, like so many others, was deeply patronising.

While I am still breathing I will bang on about The European Union every day. I will take the fight to the whole country and every day I see and meet more people that do NOT want the European Union.

I would Like to say its not the activist that we really want its the VOTERS.

BUT if any activist want to come and join us then thats OK as well!!

Teaching law I see how EU law is destroying Britain's own law & legal system, with a profound and mostly detrimental impact on our society. The EU also imposes large economic costs on our economy. All attempts to reform the EU have failed miserably, unsurprising since it was designed from the start to make such reforms impossible. The EU is designed for ever closer union towards a single 'United States of Europe' (actually, a state rather more unitary than the USA) on a Franco-German model, and it is also designed with an in-built immune system that neutralises any attempts to deflect it from this path.

The only solution for Britain's survival would be for us to leave the EU. I agree that "Talk of reform or improvement has grown tiring and unbelievable - the politicians know it and the voters know it".
Since such talk has been going on for 20 years without result, it has zero credibility with voters. Furthermore it upsets the Europhile media, the BBC in particular. In terms of electoral expediency, then, ignoring the EU seems like the best tactic. Indeed both Conservative & Labour leadership often make statements that seem to indicate they're not even aware the EU exists, such as on food labelling recently.

"'Europe may be important but it's probably best not to campaign on it much.'"

I've been trying to make this point for a while now, but every time I seem to get drowned out on this site by the baying of the resident wolves.

Yes, Europe is politically important but, for the most part, it isn't electorally important and so, the question for a party like ours - that is serious about seeking power and addressing the problems facing the people, the country and the world - is should we expend our time and energy banging the Europe drum, trying to persuade the public how important an issue it is (as per 2001 election disaster), or should we instead focus on what really matters to people, like money in their pockets, police on their streets, decent schools for their children, higher standards in their hospitals, better pensions for their parents and a cleaner environment for their future?

And, as Graeme says above, please can we once and for all dispel this nonsensical myth about a looming mass exodus to UKIP, which has supposedly been a danger ever since David Cameron became leader, but is actually a threat as empty as the Riyadh branch of Bargain Booze?

One doesn't want to "bang on" about Europe but the fact is that the EU affects our lives (and just as importantly, our businesses)to such an extent that any party that genuinely aspires to government must have a policy on the matter (just as it will have to have one on immigration as well).
As has been pointed out,Ukip is also developing wider policies that will have some attraction for traditional tory voters.
As Ken Stevens said at 10.25: "Love Europe; Hate EU".
A policy that successfully reconciles that dichotomy wouldn't harm DC's chances of winning the next GE (October?).

An incoming conservative government should not be afraid of giving the people a referendum on our current membership of the EU. If anything , the result will be an emphatic 'NO' , and this would send shockwaves round the EU bigwigs( France/Germany) because they have always calculated that Britain will eventually join the Euro. If Britain pulled out of the EU , i can see the farce that is the Euro decending into chaos with most of the EU countries in a parlous economic condition anyway- and that's not including the new arrivals! So it's a good thing to keep 'banging on' about the undemocratic, bureaucratic nightmare that is the EU. If it upsets the BBC all well and good; it just shows how gutless the Party is not taking these looney tunes on.

Voters ARE asking questions about the EU on the doorstep !

Will it be 80,000 a year or 180,000 a year? How many Romanians and Bulgarians will now be coming to England to find jobs, despite the growing unemployment among our own young people?

Whatever the figure turns out to be, there is little we can do about it as long as we continue to be controlled by the incompetent, corrupt, gravy train that is the EU.

The fact that a large European Free Trade Area has produced economic benefits does not justify the tighter and tighter grip the EU Institution has gained over all aspects of our national life. The two issues are quite separate. Nothing justifies sacrificing our sovereignty in the way that we have.

Enlargement may well have produced benefits for Poland and Spain and now Romania and Bulgaria, but what matters is putting Britain first. The eventual opening of our borders (such as they are) to 67 million Turks will be the final madness.

Every objective cost/benefit analysis concludes that at best, the economic benefit to the UK of the EU is neutral. The political cost is enormous. We do not need it. We are better off out.

Although the local council elections this May are supposed to be about local ‘dustbin’ issues, the truth is that almost everything our local District Council does, is affected by rules made in Brussels. So, when local candidates, from which ever party, come knocking on our doors – we should force them to take some responsibility by asking ‘What will YOU doing to bring back powers from the EU and put Britain First?’

If at least DC said he'd hold a referendum on continuing membership, that would be great.


If we don't talk about our relationship with the EU now, and decide how we're going to deal with it in government, then when are we going to talk about it?

Let's assume we win the next election. Will posters here be happy being told "don't rock the boat about Europe", or "We know you're not happy about EU, but there's nothing we can do about it", and think it's fine to just transfer ever more powers to EU institutions just because a Conservative government is nominally in charge of this country.

We need to formulate a strategy, now, for dealing with the EU, and recovering powers from it, so that we can implement it in government.


And to reiterate, German rearmament was not electorally important, c.1935, but it turned out to be extremely important for our country's future.

Just like the EU really.

On the contrary, it would be a disaster. The image of the Tory party as a refuge for Europhobic retired generals and greedy businessmen would be reaffirmed in the minds of the floating voters, undoing all the good work Cameron has done to change the party's image. We'd then be back to 33% in the polls, condemning Britain to yet another term of pro-European government.

So what if a few disgruntled Tory activists are considering defection? They make up only a microscopic proportion of the electorate.

Sean, you were one of the last people I'd expect to resort to such shameless Godwinning.

Before people start carping on too much, it should be noted that as an organisation UKIP is a shambles. The Party is going BACKWARDS, not forwards. Across the South West, supposedly the area of their greatest strength, their membership has gone down and their organisation is collapsing. In Torridge and West Devon UKIP have lost, albeit just 4 councillors, to either defection or resignation, whilst in West Dorset their entire constituency party exec resigned! Whilst I agree that we should not underestimate them, this is not a Party, despite what some posters claim, that is “going places” – on the contrary, it would appear to be going in the opposite direction!

I think some of the posters on this site should show some more perspective when discussing UKIP.

CDM

The Tory party may have/had an image problem to address. I do not however believe it was one of a refuge for "Europhobic retired generals" or "greedy businessmen". Nor from my experience are retired generals Europhobic or businessmen necesarily greedy. And that is the problem with Project Cameron. It is posited on false premises which makes it stupid or hypocritcal or both.


My point still stands. An issue can be of supreme importance, even if it's not one of the electorate's priorities.

An alternative analogy would have been if we'd decided that trade union reform, or economic liberalisation, were far too contentious to talk about in the late seventies, and we should just trust the government to do something about after election.

Simply hoping that everything will turn out alright if and when the Conservative Party wins an election really isn't good enough. I for one am not interested in having a Conservative government that just dances to the soft Left europhile tune when in office. In fact, I think that would pretty well finish the Conservative Party off for good.

A Tory government under Dave would not suddenly then get round to taking on the EU - just the opposite.

New Labour or Blue Labour: it would make virtually no difference.

If anything a Brown government would probably defend British interests with a bit of conviction.


To paraphrase Enoch Powell, I want the electorate to be offered more than a choice between a man with a smile, and a man with a frown, at the next election.

Sean

You are quite right. Burying heads in the sand is not the right approach. It's a bit like letting a dunk drive himself home from the pub.

Oops, "drunk".

Actually Sean, after reflecting on your comments, our opinions seem to be a lot closer - Nazi analogies aside - than I first thought.

We agree that Britain's relationship with the European Union is an important political issue.

We seem to agree that it isn't necessarily an important electoral issue.

I agree with your point that we therefore need to formulate a coherent strategy for dealing with the European Union when we return to government BUT wouldn't you agree that it is electorally sensible, and a more effective use of campaigning resources, to focus our electoral campaigning on issues that matter most to the voters?

Sean you are absolutely right about 1935.But I'm sure you know your history and will have read that at that time that the anti-appeasers were regarded as a bit of a joke. They were right but completely and totally unelectable,perhaps a little like UKIP now. I think DVA is right the electoral threat from UKIP is negligible even 'though they have a personable and charismatic leader.I suspect the BNP of the minor parties are far,far more to be feared.
I also agree with sjm,the majority of my friends are only superficially interested in politics and have absolutely none of the hatred for the institutions of the EU that I have.Putting Europe at the height of our political priorities might be morally right but will I think, be electoral suicide. This is why I think that people like Ken Stevens and the majority of non-deranged UKIP members are wrong.

Regardless of the electoral pros and cons of promoting the EU as an issue, does anyone really believe a Conservative government lead by Cameron or any of his supporters would do do anything to stop the growth of EU competences and reverse them?

Yes I hope so Esbonio.The vast majority of MPs, activists and members are broadly Eurosceptic now. That wasn't the case when we were last in government.

Malcolm

I wish you were right but fear you are wrong.

Perhaps Conservatives should go beyond asking just "Is the EU an electorally important issue?" to asking "Should the EU be an electorally important issue?"

For all the many reasons repeatedly given here and elsewhere, the answer to the second question must be "Yes, the EU should be an electorally important issue".

So if the answer to the first question is "No, the EU is not an electorally important issue" then there must a third question: "How has it come about that this issue, which in reality is vitally important for our country, is not electorally important?".

And then maybe a fourth question "What should we do to make it an electorally important issue, and one which plays to our electoral advantage?"

I suggest that the Tory leadership could start by showing respect for the voters by telling the truth about the EU, whenever anything comes up with a significant EU connection, instead of either ignoring or deliberately concealing that truth.

But if that's too difficult or embarrassing, and they would rather keep shtum and stand idly by while Britain is flushed away down the euro-drain, then what is the point of the British Conservative party?

This is for all those here who want the Conservatives to have a closer relationship with UKIP or who are thinking of jumping ship to UKIP.

It is often said that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour or the Liberal Democrats.

UKIP activists and supporters who post on ConservativeHome deny this and rubbish this suggestion.

Perhaps Conservatives should take time and see what UKIP are saying about fighting Conservatives:

http://www.ukiphome.com/comments.asp?sid=735

“We should be working now, in every possible seat where our votes could result in a defeat for a Conservative candidate.

This will help Labour and the LibDems this one time”

and

“If we do this, then for one more Labour term, there will be the real chance of a Tory split”

and on the Epping Forest Borough Council by election Grange Hill ward 14 December 2006:

http://www.democracyforum.co.uk/about15916-0-asc-70.html

“…By winning this seat the Tories gained control of the Council which they were denied by our standing in another ward in May,when the long term incumbent and Eastern Regional Assembly member for Theydon Bois ward was ousted by 23 votes.UKIP took 136 votes having never stood there before.Had we had the notice of the Grange Hill by election in time we WOULD have stood and I’m confident that we would have denied the Tories success.”

And on the Basingstoke By election where the Conservatives Gained overall control of the council:-

http://www.democracyforum.co.uk/about16603-0-asc-0.html

"As UKIP could split the vote and lose the Tories this seat and its overall majority, and shock Cons, it is strategically important."

and...

"The Tories are desperately worried about losing control there. This is exactly the type of situation where UKIP can give them a black eye."

"UKIP should be identifying similar situations up and down the country and sending in "flying squad" task forces to set up opposition. Meanwhile members on the ground should monitor Tory discontent, seeing if they can persuade Tory malcontents to make that vital switch."

"UKIP has to show that it can manipulate the Tories to suit the ends of the patriotic movement. Remember all the time that they're traitorous scum so don't hesitate to double cross them if necessary."

"I know these Tories. They're grasping unintelligent fools. Take them for all you can get."

...and on a forthcoming by election:-

http://www.democracyforum.co.uk/post-158720.html&highlight=#158720

"Yes the tories are the real enemy. We must examine all the seats that are up next May and decide which seats, our intervention, will allow UKIP candidates to split the tory vote. We must put all our resources in handing victory to Labour or Liberal Democrat candidates. We must aim to make the Conservatives lose seats and lose control of Councils. This should be the aim of UKIP next May."

"Yes indeed - UKIP must destroy these Tories wherever we find them. We must locate their most vulnerable seats and go out of our way to split the Conservative vote. We must ensure we get Labour and Liberal Democrats Councillors elected. By losing Tories control of Councils we will cause shock waves all the way to Cameron’s door. These shock waves will reverberate around the Conservative party and cause them to split in half. Thos loyal euro-sceptic Conservatives will come flocking to UKIP their natural home. This must be the tactic adopted by every UKIP branch up and down the country. Destroy the Tories. Destroy them all."

I think these comments show what UKIPs game really is. Not to campaign to get Britain to withdraw from the EU.

Oh no - their aim is to defeat Conservative candidates and get Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates to win. Their long term aim is to split the Conservatives. What a pathetic waste of space and a waste of good votes. They are betraying everybody who votes for them.

A VOTE FOR UKIP IS INDEED A VOTE FOR LABOUR OR THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

We shouldn't "bang on about Europe". That's why we must confront the issue and say: We Want To Leave! EFTA is better. Love Europe, Hate The EU.

The people accusing us of banging on about Europe are those with hugely unpopular Eurofanatic views.

I agree it now seems that the EU, as an issue, is like German rearmament and the Nazi threat in 1935. Politically vital but electorally unimportant. This is not a reason to ignor it as an issue, quite the opposite! The public need to be told about it, awareness must be raised. Thank God we had Churchill in the 30s to stand up and say what was right, instead of what seemed electorally right.

Public opinion moves when they know the facts, which currently only a few serious political observers know. Look how the sands have changed over multi-culturalism since a year ago.

We just need the courage to say something, and a clear, simple, non-xenophobic, anti-EU message. Focus on "the liberty of all nations to govern themselves" and "not just Britain but all nations" - and suddenly the Eurofanatics look like the undemocratic, illiberal egotists they are. We must take the liberal high ground on the issue.

The EU is an undemocratic socialistic project wherein the abolition of constituent nation states is axiomatic. But heh, let's not bang on about it.

If a member of your family or a friend had a deadly problem (for example drink or drugs) but were in denial over it, would you stop do nothing and ignore it.

DavidTBreaker, well summarised!

So why didn't any of this work under William Hague? The 2001 General Election was focussed firmly on Europe and the Conservatives made no progress whatever.

Adam

Labour were still on a roll then. The media (no names no pack drill) were still sucking up to them. The baseball cap might not have helped. A flat cap might have been better. FWIW I have not worn one for years but got one for Xmas. I'd forgotten how useful they are.

Thanks for providing a dose of reality to proceedings Adam.

People seem to forget how badly the voters responded when we tried playing the Europe scare card in 2001, and, although the political climate is different now, there is little reason to suggest they would respond much differently today.

Absolutely DVA. Every poll sadly shows the EU to be low on the list of voters concerns and the appalling performance of UKIP in 2005 shows how well we are likely to do if we follow the advice of Denis or David Breaker.
Having said that I'm glad the Telegraph published their leader today. Not because the defections of the two Lords really matters but it does I hope concentrate the minds of the leadership into coming up with a more credible position on the EU than we have currently.

Not this old europhile chestnut again. There was very little chance of the Tories making much progress in 2001, whatever they said. Most of the country had turned against them when the sacrifices made during the ERM period proved futile on Black Wednesday, and it was unlikely that the authors of that disaster would be forgiven so quickly. The only way they could have recovered would have been if the Labour government had quickly brought about an even bigger disaster. Few people were even interested in what the Tories had to say in 2001, but if they had been then they would have noticed Hague concentrating on the euro, even though it had already been agreed that there would be a separate referendum on the euro. If he'd called for a referendum on the Nice Treaty he would have been performing a useful service and might even have attracted some more votes, but he chose to help the Labour government and the EU by remaining silent on that.

Hague didn't win in 2001 because the country was not ready for change. He would have lost whatever he had said. Cameron has a chance of winning next time because the country is now fed up with Labour and looking for an alternative.

We have got to show we have the policies on the issues that matter to the voters, but that should not mean avoiding mentioning the EU - we should be mentioning it in the context of these other issues.

The people must be informed.

malcolm is right when he says the Party is Eurosceptic. Nearly all conservatives I know are Eurosceptics but only a minority are "Better Off Out". We are better keeping EU policy in the background and watching developments.

The expansion to 27 states has bought the expected stresses to the deepening agenda of Brussels and while we see continuing attempts to increase the competence and aquis communitaire of the EU there is no great desire for this in the majority of countries. Merkel & Chirac's successor may well try again but the French are in practice trying to redraw the rules to increase political oversight of the Euro and protect national industry, which means trying to go back on the Common Market and on Maastricht.

Gordon Brown is apparently already deeply unpopular in Europe and doesn't strike me as wanting to put the UK at the centre of Europe - he's more interested in Africa, global poverty & education. The Lib Dems are also showing welcome signs of scepticism. The left as a whole seems less taken by the Eurofanatism that followed Delors, when Social Policy enabled them to use Europe as a way of attacking the Conservatives policies and more concerned now as trade unionists about job protection and overall protectionism - which runs counter to freedom of movement of people, jobs and capital.

We must be clear that we are against a common foreign policy and European army and the other attempts to give the EU statehoood and I think the Party could say it would not consider itelf bound by any treaties or attempts to put in place a constitution unless agreed by a Referendum but otherwise lets let the EU make the errors that enable us to campaign as reasonable sceptics with the UKs interests at heart.

Denis Cooper makes the really important points

"Should the EU be an electorally important issue?"
"Yes, the EU should be an electorally important issue". Because it defines all the other policies

"What should conservatives do to make it an electorally important issue, and one which plays to their electoral advantage?"

If they are not prepared to do that then what really is the point of a Conservative party. To offer a change of management in Westminster perhaps?

Too true, Denis. My wife and I were just debating whether a house bought in the 80s had recovered its purchase price by 2001.

The Magnificent Seven political heroes...

Please vote at:

http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/politics_show/6161847.stm?dynamic_vote=ON#vote_6161847


Daniel and Malcolm, yes I think we're in broad agreement. I'm not actually suggesting that we should "bang on" about it. My comments were more in response to people saying we shouldn't even talk about it.

I think opposition is the ideal time to talk about important issues, as governments generally don't have the time to discuss such issues with their supporters.

As to your question, Esbonio, I don't know where David Cameron stands on Europe. The promise to leave the EPP in 2009 is eurosceptic. His support for the Common Fisheries Policy, and increased environmental competences for the EU is europhile. I think the litmus test will be whether the members will have a free vote on EU candidate selection, or whether it will be stitched up in favour of sitting MEPs.

Scottish/Welsh and local elections and GE's elections tend to be focussed on domestic issues, people vote on Europe at the appropriate elections, so in spite of voting in a Labour government they have been very eurosceptic when voting for MEP's.
I think that most voters are a damn sight more savvy over just how much power Europe wields in their lives, they get fed a constant diet of stories from various newspapers!
We have to accept that although the conservatives are probable the party most in tune with the electorate on Europe it is at the moment not a major issue in their lives.
And no matter how much we wish it to be an overriding factor in choosing a UK government, it will not be any time soon unless new moves are made to push us down the road to further integration. And even then the voters know that a referendum would be essential.
I think that most voters are not prepared to leave the EU but would simple like to see their government display a tougher stance on protecting the interests of the UK. It is vital that David Cameron does keep his EPP pledge but he must form a credible coalition of the willing rather than go it alone or get into bed with dubious parties for the sake of it.
That would display leadership and a commitment to put our interests first when in government.

Scotty:
"I think that most voters are not prepared to leave the EU but would simple like to see their government display a tougher stance on protecting the interests of the UK."

I think most voters dislike the EU but don't fully appreciate just how inimical it is to Britain, they are scared to leave* because the 'mainstream media' is Europhile and tells them it would be disastrous, so they default to the "tough stance on protecting our interests" position, which in practice achieves very little of any value since the EU's systems are designed to ensure that non-Franco-German interests are not considered.

*The general public attitude is similar to that re re-armament in the 1930s - disliking Nazi Germany (Eurosceptic) but scared to provoke her through rearmament (scared to leave).

Those of you dismissive of the impact of Europe on more than a few ultras should perhaps read the current posts on UKIP on the Telegraph comment website.

What is wrong with the party including an EU referendum pledge in its manifesto, even if it states an intention to campaign for a Yes vote in the run-up to such a referendum.

Likewise as regards a referendum on the Scottish Independence v Union question.

Let the people decide one way or the other -- hey that's a novel concept!

Actually the problem most voters have is knowing where the Conservatives stand - we are told Brown will be more distant from the EU than Blair but have no idea about the Conservatives, but I suspect neither do they.

There is a letter in today's Yorkshire Post relating a MacShane comment in a Spanish newspaper that referenda is an impediment to Europeanism and is best avoided................he has not made the statement in English to Rotherham voters...............perhaps someone should help him out there ?

that referenda ARE an

The EU is low on voters priorities because it has never been explained. When it gets press, it rises very rapidly. Secondly, it doesn't need to be a theme for the next election, a commitment to a referendum is all that's needed. The Europhiles oppose a referendum on EU membership because they would lose it, just as Ken Clarke doesn't think referenda suitable for constitutional issues [after all, we only live under the resulting government].

Hague lost in 2001 for many reasons. He failed to inspire the public, his image was of a bald man wearing a back to front baseball cap, most thought Labour deserved longer to deliver what they had pledged, everything was fairly stable and well. He offered nothing new. Can anyone remember the 2001 Manifesto? And his Euroscepticism was rather pathetic in its tone;
Save the Pound was ruined by Blair's pledge to hold a referendum first. Hague only promised to save it for one Parliament. That's all he talked about.

We must confront the EU issue, inform the public, and then move on.

As regards the EPP issue Scotty I completely fail to see why we really have to be allied with anyone in particular.It seems the only point of being in a larger grouping is to give a few of our MEPs Chairmanship of a few meaningless commitees. DC would have been better off keeping his promise unequivocally and pulling Conservative MEPs out of the EPP regardless of whether we had another group to go into or not. Keeping his word is in my opinion far more important than the fate of our MEPs.

RBLee 14.51 makes some interesting points.

If I was a strategist at UKIP, I would be following the same plan regarding the Conservative Party: “If we do this, then for one more Labour term, there will be the real chance of a Tory split”.

Precisely. A Tory schism over Europe has always been a possibility and UKIP would be mad not to fan the flames.

Cameron could shoot the UKIP fox stone dead if he was minded to do so. In the leadership campaign, he posed as a principled Eurosceptic and offered the hostage to fortune that his EPP discomfort turned out to be. We thought that the right flank, as regards sovereignty, was defended.

That he cannot shoot the UKIP fox, therefore, is down to the fact that he is undecided about Europe in terms of policy or stategy. This worries me.

Og @ 18.41
It shouldn't worry us, not yet anyway, we have just got to convince him. What he has been saying about the countryside needs independence from Brussels, so hopefully he'll come to that conclusion in the end. We have got to make the liberal case for leaving the EU (i.e. freedom of all nations, a Europe of free and independent democracies, governments built around the people instead of people built around the governments, self-government for all etc).

If he wants to throw a bone to the liberal left, he could even mention the Kurds or Tibet... DC meets the Dalai Llama?

"As regards the EPP issue Scotty I completely fail to see why we really have to be allied with anyone in particular."
Big mistake Malcolm, what would it achieve other than to appease a group within the party who advocate total withdrawal from the EU? You would be leaving us open to accusations of wanting total withdrawal from the EU at a time when we are pitching to form the next UK government, madness.
Can you imagine the ammunition that would give to Labour and the Libdems who are the real opposition. You have to deal with the EU whether you agree with them or not, we will not get the British public to vote for total withdrawal.
It is not europhile to understand and try to deliver a mandate which recognises the views of the electorate you are hoping to represent. The real threat is not one trick ponies like UKIP, but pushing the large majority of moderate voters into the arms of Labour and the Libdems. I just can't understand why some people advocate appeasing a small group of voters obsessed with withdrawing from the EU when it would probable scare off millions of other voters and push the agenda of more europhile parties?

A number of things are clear from the comments above.
Firstly UKIP are far more interested in fighting us than they are Labour or the Lib/Dems and bearing in mind both of those parties are still in favour of both the Euro and the constitution I would have thought it was a bit like turkeys voting for christmas. Mind you nothing surpises me about that refuge for fruit cakes.
Secondly its clear that it would be madness for the party to start banging on about the EU and opening up all the old splits and arguments we have had for over ten years now. I am afraid you have a choice. Talk and talk and talk about the EU and not get elected or keep the subject in context and actually start talking about the real concerns of ordinary people and get elected.

Thirdly to say that the threat faced by this country in the thirties by Hitler and the Nazies is the same as that faced by the EU is laugthable, it doesn`t bare comparison.

Ken/Denis, I wonder if I can persuade you that because you are 100% sincere in an opinion, this is not sufficient to demonstrate that all Conservatives should agree with you, without mentioning any pro- or anti-EU concepts. I hope this electronic forum is able to transmit the mild way I'm trying to express myself by the way, just thinking out loud. You wrote:

"Should the EU be an electorally important issue?"
"Yes, the EU should be an electorally important issue". Because it defines all the other policies

Can you see that you're not even halfway towards a syllogism here? I agree with you (and Sean) that it should be, but I don't believe it is (I'm assuming you would write the syllogism's conclusion as "And if the Tories campaigned for withdrawal from the EU they would benefit electorally").

But let's suppose I'm wrong (ha ha, OK not the hardest mental exercise of this horrible rainy Saturday). Suppose not only that it should be the most important topic, but that it wouldn't be electorally toxic to discuss it.

I think this proposition is demonstrably false because it's flatly contradicted by the piteous electoral performance of parties which campaign strongly and near-uniquely (please, Jorgen, don't list another set of UKIP "policies" which will never be implemented anywhere) about the general importance of Europe and the desirable reasons for withdrawal. In other words, if the "EU assertion" was true, then UKIP would win (at least) a majority of votes. This is as far from the truth as it's possible to be.

PS My contention is not disproved by a list of constituencies from 2001 where (it is asserted that) UKIP have deprived Tory candidates of victory by the way: that is only evidence that voting UKIP may reduce the probability of a Tory win in a seat, conditional on the assumption that the X (where X is very small) UKIP voters would vote Tory were there not a UKIP candidate. This remains an untestable assumption & to me not even an interesting one (I see no point in targetting voters for the sake of it, if (1) you don't agree with their views and (2) they're numerically tiny).

PPS I'm not sure why, but two CH regulars cc'ed me onto an email discussion they had about my lack of belief that David Cameron's approach is causing mass defections from our resurgent party. I don't want to quote anything even though I didn't ask to be copied onto the discussion - which was quite revealing - save only to report that it confirmed my belief in my first post, that these "mass defections" are fictitious. No real names were used and no evidence was given. I'm quite sure that if the hundreds of Tories about whom we keep reading here actually existed then some local media would have managed to pick up on it.

"I'm quite sure that if the hundreds of Tories about whom we keep reading here actually existed then some local media would have managed to pick up on it."

I'm sure the redoubtable UKIPh**e is on the case, Graeme! They're probably snowed under the deluge of membership applications at the moment!

Scotty, I normally agree with most of your points but definately not this one. Please could you explain in as much detail as you want what are the benefits (a) to Britain and (b) to the Conservative party of our MEPs remaining within the EPP.
I would also be grateful if you could explain why it is a good idea to make a promise and then only seek to fulfill it more than three years after it is made.I ask that as a Cameron supporter who feels that this was his only really major mistake of 2006.
Please finally explain to me why our pulling our MEPs out of the EPP (a promise Cameron did not have to make) will immediately result in our leaving the EU (something that no Tory leader has ever promised). I fear the 'big mistake' is yours.

I haven't read every post on this item,so forgive me if I'm repeating someone else when I advise anyone interested in this subject to read the story in the Mail online today titled "what if Britain hadn't joined the EU". It is a very convincing piece of journalism, which if articulated correctly and often enough to the electorate would be a vote winner for any political party.


Scotty: "You would be leaving us open to accusations of wanting total withdrawal from the EU at a time when we are pitching to form the next UK government, madness."
Why is this madness? The public do not like the EU.
http://www.yougov.com/archives/pdf/SYK060101003.pdf shows 76% support a referendum, 12% against, and 11% don't care.
http://www.yougov.com/archives/pdf/RMW050101026_1.pdf shows 24% supporting pulling out, and a further 35% for a free trade area only (which includes me). Only 21% support no change, and just 10% want further integration.
"Can you imagine the ammunition that would give to Labour and the Libdems who are the real opposition. You have to deal with the EU whether you agree with them or not"
Yes, but you don't have to integrate with them.
"We will not get the British public to vote for total withdrawal."
Why not offer the chance?
"It is not europhile to understand and try to deliver a mandate which recognises the views of the electorate you are hoping to represent."
No, indeed. See polls above. Out of the EU, we could represent the public far more.
"The real threat is not one trick ponies like UKIP, but pushing the large majority of moderate voters into the arms of Labour and the Libdems. I just can't understand why some people advocate appeasing a small group of voters obsessed with withdrawing from the EU when it would probable scare off millions of other voters and push the agenda of more europhile parties?"
See polls above. Also an EU referendum wouldn't be our only policy, it should also be tied to global free/fair trade, ending poverty etc.
Jack Stone: "Firstly UKIP are far more interested in fighting us than they are Labour or the Lib/Dems and bearing in mind both of those parties are still in favour of both the Euro and the constitution I would have thought it was a bit like turkeys voting for christmas. Mind you nothing surpises me about that refuge for fruit cakes."
True. All the more reason to neutralise them.
"Secondly its clear that it would be madness for the party to start banging on about the EU and opening up all the old splits and arguments we have had for over ten years now. I am afraid you have a choice. Talk and talk and talk about the EU and not get elected or keep the subject in context and actually start talking about the real concerns of ordinary people and get elected."
I agree. Pledge a referendum, then move on. Who can oppose a democratic vote?
"Thirdly to say that the threat faced by this country in the thirties by Hitler and the Nazies is the same as that faced by the EU is laugthable, it doesn`t bare comparison."
That's not what we were saying, no body mentioned a 'threat' of such a nature. We were saying the political situation is similar (i.e. there is a problem, the public aren't that interested, no politicians are saying anything).
Graeme: "I think this proposition is demonstrably false because it's flatly contradicted by the piteous electoral performance of parties which campaign strongly and near-uniquely...about the general importance of Europe and the desirable reasons for withdrawal. In other words, if the EU assertion was true, then UKIP would win (at least) a majority of votes. This is as far from the truth as it's possible to be."
Indeed. The EU referendum/exit cannot be our only policy. UKIP did do very well in 2004 I remind you as well though. The EU is just one issue, so even if everyone supported leaving the EU, a single issue party wouldn't win. The fact 2-3% of the general election electorate voted for a single issue no-hope-of-winning party says the issue has some support. It is an election, not a referendum.
"PS Conditional on the assumption that the X (where X is very small) UKIP voters would vote Tory were there not a UKIP candidate. This remains an untestable assumption."
Indeed, although polls suggest a slightly higher inclination of Tories voting UKIP. YouGov said 14% of Tories would consider voting UKIP, compared to 9% of Labour voters and 8% of Lib Dems, it isn't a huge difference. (See: http://chameleonsonbicycles.wordpress.com/2006/12/22/the-others-are-out-there/).
"I'm quite sure that if the hundreds of Tories [defecting] about whom we keep reading here actually existed then some local media would have managed to pick up on it."
I agree entirely, very few have jumped ship. Later, maybe, but not yet.

Malcolm, I want us to leave the EPP and I do not think that our long term interests would be served by remaining in the EPP a minute longer than is necessary.
But I also want us to be in a position to form a credible coalition with like minded parties from other countries so that we are in a position to try and set our agenda within the EU. I believe that withdrawing from the EPP to sit in isolation would be incredible damaging and render us totally powerless.
The electorate have no stomach for withdrawal from the EU, I am not saying that will always be the case but at the moment it would be electoral suicide to send out this kind of isolationist message to British voters.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=426827&in_page_id=1770
That article Steve mentioned.

Scotty, leaving the EU doesn't mean isolationism. An EU-exit must be mixed with free/fair trade, poverty busting, outward looking sound track. The world doesn't end with Europe, or as I wrote in my A level politics: "The World does not end at the Ural Mountains or Straights of Gibraltar, nor at the Atlantic or Bosphorus, a 'Europe' that looks inwards is a historic reverse to a Britain that has always looked outwards."


FWIW, I believe that a Conservative government which put forward quite reasonable proposals for returning powers from EU institutions to the UK, and was turned down (the likely outcome), and then proposed withdrawal in a referendum would be able to weigh the votes in favour of leaving, rather than having to count them.

I agree with sjm's first post. I don't like the EU, I really don't, but there is a critical issue here that we do need to understand and is real. Firstly when we talk about the EU for some reason many people remember the more negative things about us as a party and the ordinary floating voters get less keen on us during this process. Secondly and again I think sjm is right, is that I honestly don't find lots of people on the doors that go on about the EU. Yes I do find a very small and very, very loud group that do talk about it and write in capitals across canvass survey forms etc. It has to be said they sometimes do seem to be the same people that often have quite excessive views on other issues. Okay sometimes I also share those concerns myself but when we go down this road it seems to appeal to a small core but put off many others. The serious point is what do we do? I don't like the EU either but I want us to win an election so we can do something about this and other issues. UKIP are never going to win and in fact tend to take the focus away. I agree with those that say we have to focus on the main things that concern voters and they are health, crime, education and pensions. I also agree that when issues come up then we need to really point out that the EU is part of the problem so that we do include the European angle but maybe the best way to communicate that (keep centre voters listening) is not to always start from that point. I know people groan when ceratin politicians start saying, "ah thats because the EU etc"

Matt

Esbonio wrote about the EU: "If a member of your family or a friend had a deadly problem (for example drink or drugs) but were in denial over it, would you stop do nothing and ignore it".

I know what he is trying to say and I also do not like the EU but inadvertantly Esbonio has really highlighted exactly why his argument is not working and the EU does not appear (at least so far) to have gained real electoral traction. Let's turn Esbonio's argument round a bit as follows:

"If a member of your family could not get proper hospital treatment, whose kids couldn't get dental care and were going to poor schools, the streets were full of thugs and their pensions were wrecked would talking about those things appear more connected or going on about the abstract notion of Europe"

If a member of your family could not get proper hospital treatment, whose kids couldn't get dental care and were going to poor schools, the streets were full of thugs and their pensions were wrecked would talking about those things appear more connected or going on about the abstract notion of Europe.

Mass unlimited EU immigration is connected and not an abstraction to the above.

Michael, I agree it is a component of above and I too do not like the EU but the problem I am trying to point out stands in terms of what we talk to mainstream voters about,

Matt

Surely the point about the EU is that its legislation and regulations are now all pervasive in the government of this country. Consequently, it doesn’t matter who wins the next General Election in the UK, the EU will continue to enhance its powers over us.

The EU is not a stand-alone issue which is why polls showing that it is a low priority for voters are meaningless e.g. immigration is a high priority with voters but British policy in this area is constrained by EU membership. Similarly, environmental issues are increasingly important but this again is a policy area determined largely at European level.

So if we want to talk about what matters to people “on the doorstep” we have to acknowledge to ourselves and to them that our freedom to act in government is constrained by EU membership.

If voters realised the extent to which the EU shaped the policy and legislative framework in areas that really concerned them, they might appreciate the importance of the EU as “an issue”. Unfortunately, they might then demand to know how successive Tory and Labour governments had got us into that position over the last 30-odd years.

Graeme I think you are inadvertently creating a straw man by misinterpreting my meaning of an electorally important issue. I do not argue that it would be advantageous electorally for the Conservative party to campaign on the EU in the present circumstances. I am making the obvious but often ignored point that as the EU is now (according to official German government figures) responsible for 80% of our laws. To mount a campaign in which the EU does not feature is ignoring the reality of the situation, this means that when the Conservative leaders do make outline policy comments, those policies are often vacuous, because they ignore the fact of EU involvement. There have been quite a few such policies announcements which do not carry the weight of any depth of thought.

I will try to explain my point by offering for evidence the now defunct Conservative proposal to take back control of our fishing waters. On the surface this seems to be a very good idea because our fishing industry has suffered badly from the EU fishing policies, where fish landed are counted but not the actual fish caught, when we have the ridiculous situation where thousands of tons of dead fish are thrown back into the water because of EU laws. But as fishing is part of EU treaty arrangements, for a British government to take back control would require negotiation with the other member states. But the question “What will happen if the negotiations are not successful” (a very likely scenario) is raised the Conservatives have no answer because they have already said they will not leave the EU which is the only answer which makes any sense, if we are really serious about the policy and we have been thwarted in the negotiations. In reality to take back fishing would require a change of the treaties to be ratified in all of the member states parliaments and would break the so far unbroken Acquis.

David Cameron has made a big thing about green issues, yet the environment is an EU competence, this means in reality he can do nothing which is not sanctioned by the EU, further, because it is sanctioned by the EU, any other party in government would have to have the same policies.

There is in fact an EU involvement is just about all of the areas of government authority, so the argument is not that the Conservative party would garner more votes by occasionally mentioning the EU, but that it would be reality to clearly demonstrate the EU involvement in our political life, in that way a cohesive EU policy would be formed.

I feel that to try to demonstrate the lack of support for EU issues in the country by using the electoral performance of parties which campaign on the EU, is not a fair point, and is putting the horse behind the carriage, in fact there are only two parties which could at this stage gain enough support in the country to form a government. When neither of those parties are prepared to offer a convincing argument for the EU and both of them in conjunction with the main stream media are keeping the issue of the adgenda there is bound to be a lack of interest, because the general public do not really understand how intrusive the EU has become.

So the point is the Conservative party instead of trying to appeal to those who would never vote for it should begin to really demonstrate the mess our membership of the EU has created in this country, and to really put forward a raft of policies which are reality based, for the running of this country for the benefit of this country, and to get out and sell those to the voters.

I do not expect anything like this to happen, It has already been decided that the EU will be kept off the adgenda and the nice soft new Conservative party will try to win the next election on soft cuddly issues, the only problem is that they will then not be in a position to do anything different than the present NuLabour administration because all the real leavers of power no longer reside in Westminster.

Very soon we will be able to dispense with the charade Westminster has become and just concentrate on our real government in Brussels.

When William Hague wanted to make the Euro an issue, Blair took it off the agenda by promising voters a referendum. Whenever the Conservatives sought to raise the issue thereafter, the commentariat were able to say, quite simply, that since the people were to be allowed to decide, the euro was a non issue in the election.
A similar promise on EU membership would pull the teeth of UKIP and attract those from all parties for whom the EU is the number one issue. Furthermore, it would show Labour and the Lib/Dems in a bad light if they were to argue against a referendum.
Conservatives need to recognise that, to win an election, they need those folk who voted UKIP at the last election. They made the difference in so many seats. They may not all have been potential Conservative voters but they were clearly passionate about the EU. For example, Lord Stoddard is a de-whipped Labour peer. If the Conservatives offered a referendum on the EU, people like him would vote Conservative for the first time in their lives.
The danger from Clarke, Curry, Taylor and Gummer would be minimal. Arguing against a referendum would carry no weight with the electorate. The electorate are sovereign, are they not.

In reply to Ken Adams, the importance of the Fishing policy was that Michael Howard in 2004 stated if Member States couldn't agree on National control, then it would be done through our Parliament amending the European Communities 1972 Act. By Cameron dumping this policy he has sent a clear signal out to the electorate he has no intention of upholding the supremacy of Parliament, and if he became PM he would still allow Brussels to walk all over him, giving rise to why elect a Tory MP, when they can't do anything for the electorate, and change can no longer take place through the ballot box. Cameron said he would take back National Control of social and employment regulation - how?. He has proved over fish he isn't going to do it so his credibility is shot.

The "European" issue is quite simply the greatest threat to our liberties since the Battle of Britain. It is, quite simply, today's Battle for Britain.

Getting this country out of the EU is far more important and urgent than securing the careers of a few more Bluelabour timeservers. The question is, how to achieve it? The Telegraph leader at least points us in the right direction.

Personally the solution I would like to see
ultimately would be a Conservative/UKIP alliance divested of the TRG federast element. Nigel Farage would make an excellent Conservative cabinet minister.

They're on here, of course, trotting out the usual cr*p about how Europe is "boring" etc. Actually these people have no interest whatsoever in saving Britain from European tyranny. They're only interested in their own careers.

Nigel Farage and UKIP are the only party warning Britain that right now 45,000 Bulgarian and Rumanian foreign criminal types are heading for Britain.

This tide of foreign crime is heading here right now and only Nigel Farage is warning Britain of these dangerous foreign criminals.

Only UKIP has the policies to stop and deport all these foreigners from Britains shores.

Well the UKIPers appear to have woken up this morning. Who led them on to this site I wonder?

UKIP are the ones warning about the gradual Islamification of Britain. We are actively campaigning against plans for Mosques in Dudley and West Ham. Not a peep from you tories. Only UKIP has a policy to put a muzzle on Muslim extremist by unveling the Charter of Muslim Understanding. Again not a peep from your tories. UKIP are in the forefront of stopping Britainistani. UKIP are the ones debating the issues that matter you tories are silent.

I'm definitely in favour of the Conservative party promising a referendum on continued EU membership, with MPs and ministers free to campaign on either side. I don't think the continued-membership side would win, but if they did at least it would be clear that Britain's future lay in a united states of Europe and we could get on with that.

Graeme, I wasn't really trying to construct a logical syllogism, more trying to suggest that in a democracy those who aspire to political leadership have some responsibility to ensure that the people are properly informed before they cast their votes, whether in a normal election or in a referendum. If politicians are going to set out to suppress debate or mislead the people on vital issues then we might as well drop the pretence that this is a democratic country.

I completely agree with Simon Newman. Whatever our points of view, why not have a full up-or-down public vote on the issue?

I am too young to have voted for or against the original Heath lies and no General Election has ever given me an option to vote for leaving (but go away UKIP trolls, you won't ever get me to waste my vote) but I want to register my view.

Let the best argument win. If the integrationists win then let it be by the ballot box, not by stealth tactics and subterfuge.

UKIP appears to have arrived on ConHome, but I will post anyway.

Nobody can argue against a referendum. As the polls I linked to earlier show, there is huge support for both leaving the EU and especially, a referendum. Therefore such a referendum policy would be electorally beneficial, even more so if it was opposed by Labour and the LibDems.

Europe should not be a key theme of the party's election plans, but it should be there in the background. The party must inform the public as well. On another thread it was stated that floating voters float, it's up to us to change the direction of the tide. This is very true.

Supporting an exit from the EU would allow the party to propose many popular policies on the environment, trade, third world etc which Labour couldn't steal. This would be hugely beneficial, even more so when the EU tells us we can't and we reply "says who? we want out, it's called democracy!" We could portray the EU as that "computer says no" sketch in Little Britain...

We could even propose spending our annual EU membership fees on the NHS instead.

And they say it wouldn't be popular?

So UKIP are anti-European, Anti-Immigrant and anti-Muslim.

Tories have tried the first two and Labour are trying the third one.

If UKIP want to become the torch bearer for anti-foreigner hysteria then good luck to them.

And what would a UKIP Government do to all these migrant workers in Britain? Mass deportations?


Ignoring the elephant in the room will not get Cameron elected. He needs to confront it. I know the EU comes very low down on the list of priorities for the voters, but that is because most voters are ignorant about the role the EU plays in their lives.

If he is prepared to tell the voters that the Govt cannot do much about Post Office closures because the EU is now in charge, he might spark a bit of interest.

Yes John Asworth, you are quite correct I remember the day Mr Howard put that promis in writing. But the point remains that had Mr Howard won the election and then carried out his threat he would have unilaterally broken the EU treaties and by the by the Acquis. As he had already said he would not take Britian out of the EU that would have meant a serious of fines if we failed to pay those and give back control of the fishing waters it would have created an impossible situation which could well have lead to Britian having to leave the union. So why not make the case at the start and why do something in such a half-hearted manner.

Make the case for reclaiming competence from the EU, make the case that the British parliament and British law is supreme and insist that we will accept no further move towards integration and make a very clear statement that Britian wants a common market not a common country.

I was expecting this to be long thread, and I was right!

I've written at length on other threads about this, broadly in favour of the Ed's motion, most recently for example here, here and here, to try and help colleagues keep a sense of electoral proportion. I'll try and avoid repeating myself too much.

The YouGov poll quoted above by David T Breaker showing 24% in favour of EU withdrawl jars badly against of the cries of "a majority of people hate the EU"? Although don't tell Blair of course, it's about the same "majority" of the electorate as actually elected Labour, I suppose. That 2005 poll was about a month after the Populous poll for Ashcroft that I quoted in one of the above links, showing that the EU was a significant issue in determining voting intention for only 15% of the electorate, and the most significant factor for only 7% of Conservatives. The one question that YouGov didn't ask in the poll above was "how much do you care?". In harsh political reality, there's no point campaigning on an issue however worthy that is not going to shift anyone's VI.

Of course we do need serious long-term policies to deal with our relationship with the EU. The EPP issue I think is a bit of a sideshow, but it would be good to keep the MER bubbling along at a bit more of a pace to show we're seriously thinking about the issues in European politics.

I was interested to read a sugestion above that we could "neutralise UKIP" by taking a pro-withdrawl stance, or giving them their day in a referendum. Even if they were a threat to warrant it, I'm not sure whether that would neutralise them, they seem unpredictable in that and not really focussed on their stated goals (witness the thing with candidates vs MP's and Better Off Out). I think it would dignify them, actually. Why would we want to fight a small minority party on their own turf? Treat them as any other opponent, we set the terms of the debate, stay in the moderate mainstream, and let them come to our ground if they can.

"we do need serious long-term policies to deal with our relationship with the EU"

Which are? (Apart from the policy of not having a policy, as Sir Humphrey put it.)

Which are? (Apart from the policy of not having a policy, as Sir Humphrey put it.)

I take it from reading your posts above, Denis, that you fall into the group that would rather see us campaign on the EU irrespective of electoral impact? I've writen elsewhere that I believe a danger of that is that it can "unwind" a little of the spirit of change around the party in the last year or so, so that the act of us "ramping" the same old issue just so we can campaign in our comfort zone would do us harm rather than good.

On the policy front, I'm not going to pretend to you that I'm aware of any detailed developments in what can be a highly technical policy area just yet.

Some guiding themes can be found, however, in the broadly well-received speech on European reform that David Cameron gave in Brussels in early December.

Torygirl @ 16.24
You are right, a pro-withdrawl policy would allow Cameron to campaign on a far wider range of issues - many highly suited to his softer conservatism (such as post offices, which got the largest ever petition in their support).

Richard Carey @ 17.47
The poll has 24% supporting withdrawl, and a further 35% supporting a free trade only alternative. Only 21% support the current situation, with just 10% wanting further integration. I cannot see how anyone can interpret that as a majority in favour of EU membership? If it was rephrased as EU or European trade agreement, a majority would be for the trade. I agree it doesn't affect many people's voting intentions, but as I have said it shouldn't be a main theme in the election. Confront it, take the great opportunities a pro-withdrawl stance offers the party in terms of both new policies and finances, and then move on.

I wonder what a poll would say if phrased: "Should Britain spend X-billion on EU fees or the NHS?" Or "Do you support the Conservative plan to replace the EU with a free trade agreement and NATO peace pact, investing the savings in the NHS?"

Strange how as soon as posters argue for Eurorealism the predictable pro-EU element comes out of the woodwork and accuse all except the Eurofanatcs of being "UKIP"

Well I'm not UKIP for a number of reasons, although I have nothing fundamentally against the party. I have stuck with the Conservative Party for many years and I believe that it is the only party that will be ultimately capable of leading our great nation out of the EUSSR.

I don't have any confidence in Mr Cameron to achieve that, however.

Further to Ken Adams comment: EU Treaties, unlike other Treaties, only work in the UK through an Act of Parliament, because Parliament has no right to give UK sovereignty away permanently, Parliament can only give sovereignty away on a temporally basis, where a future Parliament can take that control back if it so wishes. That is not breaking a EU Treaty obligation. I well remember EU Fisheries Commissioner Emma Bonino saying words to that effect years ago.

I have started a Blog charting the rise and rise of UKIP. The first article is on UKIP and Islam. It makes interesting reading.

Enjoy!

I can't find the article by Mr Davies (UKIP Woking) to which you refer on your page.

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