The Euro-noose tightens around Cameron’s neck…
Although the next General Election is, in theory, legally guaranteed to be on the 7th May 2015 I have never believed that would be the case. This government is too unstable – it has too many internal contradictions to stay the course. I don’t just mean the obvious ones between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats but also the ones within both parties. It is these tensions that I would argue that are potentially more explosive and, specifically, it is those within the Conservative Party that will ultimately bring the government down.
Europe is not only a major cause of these tensions but, potentially, it is a huge lightening rod for discontent over other issues. David Cameron is in a bind something that the tone of his article in The Times today seems to rather encapsulate. On the one hand, pragmatically, he knows that the Eurozone needs to survive and prosper if it is not to drag the UK down with it but on the other hand he is surrounded by a Parliamentary Party that is instinctively hostile to Europe. So, he cannot be seen to be giving too much away but can’t be seen either to be holding Europe to ransom.
Since it is outside the Eurozone, Britain’s bargaining position is phenomenally weak. Why on earth, after-all, should countries whose economies and currency is at stake accept dictation from a country who has a lot at stake but nowhere near as much as that. My guess is that Cameron will not ultimately be able to win the concessions that his back-benchers want and that even if he does even a limited success will push them to demand more.
If Cameron is forced to depend on the Liberal Democrats more and more than that will only ultimately weaken both. The Liberal Democrats will not want to come across as too close to Cameron, especially as the election draws nearer and their losses mount. For Cameron, a similar problem exists, by dint of his social background (aristocratic as opposed to the upwardly mobile middle class Thatcherite wing) and occasional flash of social liberalism, he is alienated from large swathes of his Party. Depending on the Liberal Democrats will only reinforce the feeling in the Conservative Party that he is not really, at heart, one of them.
Labour needs to skillfully exploit these fissures. To do so it needs a worked out position on Europe which recognises the faults of the status quo but also ultimately drives the European project forward in the way that is best for the European people. Regardless of whether it can or not, Europe could be the issue which ensures we have a General Election on our hands much sooner than expected….