Monday, July 27, 2015

Flying a kite?

Once again there are rumblings that, perhaps, the IN/OUT referendum will be earlier than 2017, possibly as early as June of next year, a month after the Scottish and Welsh Assembly elections. Rumour, as peddled by the Independent on Sunday, says that he had intended to have the referendum at the same time but was dissuaded by various MPs and other advisers. He would probably have been dissuaded, had it ever come to a crunch, by the Electoral Commission, who expressed the view in the past that referendums, which are essentially cross-party exercises, should not be held at the same time as elections, which are essentially party exercise.

Of course, there is no possibility of any serious change in the treaties being negotiated, agreed on and implemented before June of next year, so there are three possibilities;

1.      Cameron really does think that his own and his party's popularity is such that they will carry the yes vote just on that, aided by the mess the Labour Party seems to be in and by the fear engendered by the Greek crisis. That sounds a little odd to me. I can see why he might want to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible and he, presumably, knows as well as we do on this side that the sooner the referendum takes place, the less likely the NO side to produce a set of coherent ideas and arguments.

On the other hand, the party's popularity is not quite as overwhelming as all that. They did win the election decisively and the Labour Party is in a mess over the leadership election. If it ends up with Jeremy Corbyn, they may well split and if they end up with one of the others they will spend a good deal of time patching up their various differences. In any case, they are not going to campaign for an OUT vote. But that does not make the Conservatives truly popular and while at the moment popular opinion (not least thanks to the UKIP shenanigans) seems to be on the side of staying in, that can change, especially if it can be shown that Cameron's "changes" and "reforms" amount to less than Wilson's did in 1975. (I have to admit that it will be hard to prove that, given the joy with which the media and the public manages to misunderstand everything that comes out of Brussels and the readiness with which they are prepared to give the PM, any PM, the benefit of the doubt.)

2.      It is possible though not very probable that Cameron is leading towards a NO vote or, at least, a situation in which he can threaten his friends and colleagues with that vote to get what he sees as a better deal though if the article is correct about what he would like from the EU we have to accept that he has little imagination.

3.       He is flying a kite. That would not be the first time. Choose a time when news are slow and the silly season is in full swing and come out with some kind of an idea, get it to some hack, let it be published and see what the reaction is. Then act according to what anyone says in response. So far the response has been a little apathetic and one cannot blame people. After all, none of it is of the slightest interest until there really is some kind of a negotiation and not just endless threats or promises of one. As a corollary of that, it is entirely possible that the Prime Minister is trying to wrongfoot the eurosceptic movement, in so far as it exists, and create even more schisms. That I can well believe.