Things are heating up as EU Referendum prompts politicians to forget party allegiances in a bid to be the winning side in this historical vote
The EU debate is really heating up. Big names like Tony Blair, Mandelson, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage are all at heads, debating, and in some cases rather passionately arguing for something they believe in. MPs are usually criticised for only following official party line, their vote being whipped in the Commons instead of mirroring what they actually believe in. This week though, MPs and top cabinet ministers have abandoned all party concerns and fought for your vote.
I usually focus on one particular topic in this blog, but this time, given that it was such a busy week of politics, I thought it best to look at the whole thing.
Jeremy Corbyn may be attracting new support to Labour, but the party risks losing its core vote over Europe.
Before a famous address by Jacques Delors to the Trade Union Congress in the autumn of 1988, where he advertised the EU as supporting workers’ rights and employee benefits, Labour was anti-EU, so much so that they fought a general election in 1983 on a platform of outright removal. It wasn’t until Tony Blair that the party had gone full circle and began to back Europe. Labour are not planning to change their mind again, despite their leader being Eurosceptic (voting against the EU in nearly every Commons vote), and regardless of the danger in the possible loss of northern voters.
You would expect Britain’s second biggest supported party to play a key role in the EU Referendum. Labour is searching however for something to unite its members and MPs. Europe is its best chance. To count, there are only a small number of Labour MPs who back a Brexit, with all the big names supporting the remain vote. But though its MPs back remaining, do its core voters feel the same? The north, a Labour heartland, is where some of the most Eurosceptic places can be found. Newcastle and Sunderland, both Labour safe seats, are polled at swaying towards an exit. However, in Scotland, pollsters are consistently supporting SNP claims that Scotland is pro-EU. With the party supporting a vote to remain, its team headed by Hull MP Alan Johnson, will Labour lose support when it comes to the election from the north, but at the same time, gaining support in Scotland? So it’s Scotland or the North? The North is more valuable.
The hesitation from Labour, to come out in full force for the remain vote, may possibly be down to not being able to answer the above question. I think they may be hoping to get away with staying largely quiet in this campaign, so as not to lose voters in the North, while secretly counting on gaining some support from Scotland. It’s a risk, but clearly one Labour sees worth taking.
The Royal Affair
When the Sun claimed that the Queen Backed BREXIT, both sides were hesitant to use the Queen as a campaign tool.
For such a lavish and controversial headline the article that followed lacked substance and facts; nevertheless, the Sun are sticking by their claim. The Palace responded angrily not just by launching an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission but also stating: ‘the Queen has been independent for 63 years … and will continue to be’.
As Michael Crick pointed out on Channel 4 News, the Queen has been a monarch for 64 years. So where is that one year without independence? The answer is 2014 and Scotland. In the referendum the Queen said ‘she hopes voters will think carefully’, echoing those in politics supporting the remain side. Once the Queen had intervened in this present debate, it was always going to be tricky for the Palace to make sure sources don’t leak her views on the EU.
Grayling Boris vs Cameron
The rows this week between Cameron and his cabinet colleagues were evidence of an ever-growing Tory split. They never named each other in their arguments, but their speeches were aimed at what the other had said.
The EU Referendum has practically brought much of Westminster and all Cabinet business to a halt. My fear is that the Tory Party is about to split, leaving us with a split opposition against a fragmented government that will result in issue after issue remaining unresolved and poorly debated.
I’m going to use MP Liam Fox’s analogy: ‘the more you break jumpy dumpy, the harder it is to put him back together’.
All it takes is one fiery debate or newspaper article naming their Cabinet opponent and it will trigger a violent split in the Tory Party and the government. When sides get desperate, personal attacks will be used. It’s not a matter of will it happen, it’s when.
George Osborne wants to become Tory leader but at the moment, that looks increasingly unlikely. He’s lost backbench support over his part in the EU deal and will continue to lose support when, as expected, his Budget next week reveals cuts.
The northern powerhouse was meant to persuade the north to vote Tory, at the moment that seems unlikely and his position on the EU will anger many northerners. He also has an image of being a posh boy from a private school — unelectable in many parts of the country. The Sunday trading reforms defeat in the Commons was as much a vote against him as the government. His tax cuts were famously blocked by the Lords earlier in the year, making this embarrassingly the second blocked proposal.
Osborne hopes that the EU Referendum can boost his support across the country, but if Britain votes to leave, he may just be a finished man.
I’d like to leave you with the following. On Sunday I was shocked at the news that the Turkish Government had closed down one of the country’s leading newspapers, simply because it didn’t agree with the government. I expected an international response, after all, independence and freedom are values we should be protecting. Instead the EU remained silent and continues to encourage Turkey to become a complete member of the Union.
‘The EU remained silent over its neighbour destroying the rights of freedom and independence’.
So, whom to believe?
The ballot paper will not say this, but maybe it’s the question we will all be asking ourselves: ‘Whom do we believe?’. Do we believe in the figures and claims from the Leave Camp or the Remain Camp?
The truth is that nobody can predict what would happen if Britain leaves. When Norway announced it wasn’t going to join the EU, many experts predicted economic gloom and job losses for Norway. They were proven wrong. Norway took a risk, and it has paid off. Despite these failed predictions, the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, not known for his political interference, offered his analysis — his words carefully scripted, balancing each side with each argument. He said if Britain did leave the EU, the value of the sterling could fall, foreign direct investment could decline, and that there could be upward pressure on inflation. Furthermore, he argued that there was likely to be ‘some relocation’ of financial services sector jobs to other financial centres in the EU — although the level would depend on the type of trade agreements Britain was able to sign with the EU (the latter part of this statement balancing the argument).
Mark Carney went on to say though, that remaining is not danger-free, with the biggest risk of a remain vote being ‘associated with the unfinished business of [the] European Monetary Union’. Both sides can take courage from these words, but the remain side will be the happiest. To ordinary voters Mark Carney’s intervention will be seen as yet another so-called independent voice, scripting a speech in favour of remaining, but it is not enough being pro-EU for him to be accused of bias.