Tory MPs have fallen for David Cameron’s cast-iron pledges to hold a referendum before. So are they right in buying into his latest promise?
Labour is trying to expose cracks in the pledge to re-negotiate our relationship with the EU, then hold a plebiscite mid-way through the next Parliament, if the Tories win the election.
But Ed Miliband rather misses the point when he asks Mr Cameron at PMQs whether he might later change his pledge to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote. Surely, the problem is not that Cameron could change his mind and campaign for a ‘no’ vote.
The problem is that Cameron could try to re-negotiate with the EU, fail to secure his demands on one or more key points, and then claim that the failure to claw back powers from Brussels means that there is no longer a valid call for a referendum until that negotiation is complete.
It could then be in the long grass yet again as vague promises are made about continuing negotiations.
Cameron has form on evolving his cast-iron pledges as he goes along. He promised in opposition to allow the British people a vote on the EU Constitution, then when it morphed into the Lisbon Treaty, and was ratified, he said rather legalistically that this meant a referendum was no longer possible or relevant. Then he promised that there would be no new ceding of powers to Brussels – and once the Coalition was formed that pledge was broken as well.
I hope the initial confidence being shown by eurosceptic Tories about his latest promise proves founded.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.