Coffee House

Lynton Crosby gives Tories ‘lovely’ roasting as MPs demand govt EU referendum bill

4 February 2014

7:10 PM

4 February 2014

7:10 PM

The Conservatives have just held a party meeting where Lynton Crosby was supposed to be reading them the riot act over their behaviour in the past few weeks. But the MPs leaving seemed to think it was ‘lovely’, ‘very positive’ and ‘all very tame’, which sounds like an unconventional roasting. The meeting focused on turning technical achievements into an emotional message and strategy for the European elections. The latter includes listing where the Conservatives have already delivered: on the EU budget, the veto and cutting bailouts, which should be proof enough that the Conservatives can deliver more.

Apparently the Prime Minister and George Osborne said nothing. It will be interesting to see whether this ‘roasting’ makes any difference to party discipline: Crosby has been successful in cheering up a number of backbenchers who were very grumpy about the way things were going through a combination of message discipline and swearing at the party.

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But it is difficult to pin all the blame on those naughty Tory MPs. The Prime Minister has, as we pointed out in last week’s leading article, been a terrible manager who has often encouraged the rebellions by leading his MPs on. And one of the ways he’s led them on recently is to talk about forcing through the EU referendum bill – originally introduced in a panic by Number 10 as a symbolic measure to unite the party and highlight Labour and Lib Dem opposition to giving the British people a say on Europe – using the Parliament Act.

George Osborne told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee this afternoon that ‘wise as the House of Lords often is, I thought it was unwise to kill off the opportunity for the British people to have their say’ and that ‘you can rest assured that we will be offering that referendum in or before 2017’. He also tried to be upbeat about David Cameron’s prospects for European reform, even though Lord Lawson told him that ‘my friends on the continent of Europe’ say that ‘there is no way that a substantial and significant reform whether you like it or not is going to be agreed’. The Chancellor replied: ‘I don’t remember Lord Lawson when you were in office predicting the failure of your own endeavours.’ But there are plenty of Tory MPs who take the Lawson line.

There are also MPs who are agitating for more than the PM messing about with another backbench bill and a promise of the Parliament Act. They think that the Coalition has now reached a sufficiently comfortable state of cohabitation that it doesn’t matter if the Conservatives introduce an EU referendum bill in government time rather than through the circuitous route of a private member’s bill. I’ve spoken to Mark Pritchard, the engineer of the EU budget rebellion (which later became government policy), and he says:

‘Things have moved on. The next EU Bill should be a government bill.The Bill would attract far more cross-party support than a year ago – and would helpfully call the Parliamentary bluff of Ed Miliband, and more importantly, Labour MPs and even some Lib Dem MPs in marginal seats who are worried about Ukip.

‘The DUP are also likely to support such a Bill. Miliband and Clegg can’t duck and dive forever. This is an opportunity for the Conservative party, not a crisis.’

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Show comments
  • junglejuniors

    George Osborne told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee this afternoon that ‘wise as the House of Lords often is, I thought it was unwise to kill off the opportunity for the British people to have their say’ and that ‘you can rest assured that we will be offering that referendum in or before 2017′.

    childcare jobs

  • tjamesjones

    UKIPPERs really have picked the big issue haven’t they. UK has a GDP of approx 1.5 trillion pounds. Net contributions to the EU of some 10 billion pounds. Net impact of EU bureaucracy let’s say another 10 billion pounds or 20 billion pounds. Or 30 billion pounds. It just doesn’t matter. What does matter is what Ed Mili and Balls will do if UKIP help them get into government.

    • Denis_Cooper

      Or let’s say that the true cost of being in the EU is much higher than that, let’s say it’s more like the £118 billion estimated by the Taxpayers’ Alliance in 2009:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/6198708/EU-costs-Britain-118bn-a-year.html

      or the £170 billion recently estimated by Professor Tim Congdon, which at about 11% of GDP can hardly be dismissed with “It just doesn’t matter”.

      And let’s realise that if Labour win the next election, as they are very likely to do, that will primarily be down to the failure of those who have been leading the Tory party, right back to before the last general election, and not the fault of UKIP or those who are so sick of all three of the old pro-EU parties that they decide to vote for UKIP.

      • tjamesjones

        I’m very happy to listen to an argument about what is in the UK’s interest, but that telegraph article is pretty weak isn’t it? The author spends a lot of time telling us how bad the EU is, which is fine he’s probably right. He comes up with a story about how he gets his 118 billion figure, and after all the blather he slips 80 billion, the vast majority of his figure, into one sentence that means nothing to me “The VAT system is so dysfunctional that it loses £80 billion of taxpayers’ money a year through carousel fraud.”

        I will most definitely hold UKIP responsible if they help Labour win government.

        • Denis_Cooper

          Well, I wouldn’t necessarily accept that the cost of the EU is as high as that, but on the other hand in 2004 the European Commission itself said that the regulatory burden could be costing up to 12% of GDP.

          The first point is that EU membership definitely comes with a net economic cost for the UK, not a net economic benefit, while the second point is that the net economic cost could be much higher than your own guess; but the third point is that EU membership undermines our national sovereignty and democracy and that is priceless.

          It’s pathetic to blame another party because your party is such rubbish that you can no longer find enough people who are prepared to vote for it to win a general election; you might as well say that any poor company which is going down the tubes can just lay the blame for its own failure at the door of its competitors.

          • tjamesjones

            @Denis_Cooper:disqus (and @fubarroso:disqus). This is not how I see the world. The Tories are not “my party”. I am not that interested in politicians. I don’t want Brussels meddling in my life. I don’t want Westminster meddling in my life. And what I really, really don’t want, but fear I am going to get, is Ed Balls meddling in my life. And I’m going to get it because UKIP is going to take enough votes off the tories to make the difference.

            • Denis_Cooper

              As things stand it’s very unlikely that the outcome of the next general election would be altered even if UKIP completely disappeared from the political scene. As I have repeated ad nauseam it is clear that UKIP is now drawing support away from Labour as well as from the Tories and to a comparable extent, so that even if UKIP were to decide not to put up any candidates the net benefit to the Tory party would be small, maybe worth 2% vis-à-vis Labour. The Tories have been fairly consistently running about at 6% behind Labour for eighteen months or so, when absent the boundary changes they wanted they still need to be about 6% ahead of Labour to have a chance of getting a Commons majority. And in any case why should UKIP stand aside to favour one party led by people with no commitment to our national sovereignty and democracy over another party also led by people with no commitment to our national sovereignty and democracy, both of which parties are duplicitous and totally untrustworthy? Cameron could conceivably have made the Tory party into a patriotic party, but instead he chose to continue with the same false policy of stringing supporters and the wider public along in the interests of his beloved EU.

              • tjamesjones

                Because, and for what it’s worth, there are 2 assumptions you are making that I don’t agree with: (1) that there is no material difference between a Tory and a Labour government, and (2) that UKIP impacts both parties equally.

                The former is illustrated in their current position on the marginal rate of tax for high income earners, or their current positions on education Gove vs that Tristram the Hunt. You can say rhetorically that both are ‘duplicitous and totally untrustworthy’, but for my money Labour is by far the worse.

                The second is just not true, e.g. from YouGov

                http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/03/05/analysis-ukip-voters/

                60% of UKIP voters at the time of the yougov research had previously voted for Tories in 2010. 7% had voted Labour. That’s not even in the same ballpark.

                The one argument I would accept is to say that in an ideal world, you could maintain that UKIP would be the best government for this country, because you feel so strongly about the EU. Although I think the EU is a relatively minor issue, I could accept that you might be right, but it would not change my position that UKIP is the wrong way to go because they are not going to form a government, if they have any electoral success they will prevent the Tories from making one. You also say that the Tories can’t win in any case, but it’s unarguable that any chance they have is reduced by UKIP votes.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  The thing is, much of the electorate disagrees with you, and sees the LibLabCon as socialist clones. Now, as you’re convinced that there is some peculiar danger presented by the Millipedal strain of the socialist clones, you may wish to consider voting for UKIP, so as not to split the UKIP vote.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  Well the old idea used to be that UKIP was essentially taking support away from the Tories and only from the Tories, but that was never completely true and that it is even less true now is indicated by the recent pattern of the opinion polls here:

                  http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/polls.html

                  If UKIP was only taking support away from the Tories then one might expect that as support for UKIP rose support for the Tories would fall but support for Labour would remain unchanged, and as support for UKIP fell support for the Tories would rise but once again support for Labour would remain unchanged.

                  But that is clearly not the case: when support for UKIP moves in one direction support for both the Tories and Labour move in the opposite direction and to comparable extents; crucially, that means that the gap between Labour and the Tories is not sensitive to the level of support for UKIP.

                  That kind of pattern is simply not consistent with UKIP pulling support away from only the Tory party.

        • fubarroso

          I will most definitely hold UKIP responsible if they help Labour win government

          Why? If the Tories were doing a decent job of government then UKIP wouldn’t be a problem to them would it? The fault lines entirely with with the Tories.

  • foxoles

    But UKIP’s so irrelevant … !

    Hehe

  • drydamol1

    BROKEN BRITISH POLITICS – REVERSING

    Technology moves on whilst the Tory Party turn back Human
    progression .

    It’s very difficult to appreciate actually what the Tory
    Aim is .Progression within society is normally expected as one gets older .How
    can the Tories justify this with another £100 billion worth of Benefit Cuts
    ,that is cutting the Welfare Bill in Half but send Syria £ 600 million .Obviously
    with the Growth in Population there an expectation that there will be more
    people who become Ill ,are Disabled and become Vulnerable .

    The Tories introduced Workfare , Atos Assessments ,Poll Tax and are now introducing National
    Conscription (second reading 28th Feb 2014) .Years ago Government
    abolished the Slave Trade , Hitler’s Eugenics Programme was reviled , We threw
    out the Poll Tax and Nation Service ended in 1960 .They pontificate about not
    wanting State Control and prefer Privatisation which leaves us in the hands of
    profiteers and we have no redress .

    It looks like the Tory Policy Think Tank is sinking and
    not thinking or returning to Victorian Values whereby we Doff our caps to those
    of the upper class .National Conscription is a Tory title to cover many avenues
    , 18-26-year-olds will be expected to participate in Military or Charitable
    service for a period of one year .Our Military after all the redundancies and
    Care Work to be replaced and undertaken by inexperienced people for free .

    http://brokenbritishpoltics.simplesite.com

  • Curnonsky

    What precisely is Cameron’s plan when the whole re-negotiation fantasy can no longer be sustained and it becomes apparent that a referendum will be reduced to a simple “in or out” question? For that moment must come before the election, and will become the UKIP rallying cry.

  • Richard N

    The Tory party – led by a shameless and utterly unprincipled serial liar and puppet of the EU, with a Parliamentary party which is just as pro-EU – but which has spent the last 40 years mounting fake ‘rebellions’ to convince eurosceptic voters that despite signing away our country to the EU gang all that time, the Tories are the eurosceptic party.

    And it’s worked – for 40 years! Incredible. Must be the longest-running confidence trick of all time.

    Until now.

  • redteddy

    Cameron, as history will show, cannot run a pee up in a brewery. The brewery is Britain, and those, who presently run it, have caused it more damage than all the other pee takers added together in history.

  • Smithersjones2013

    The meeting focused on turning technical achievements into an emotional
    message and strategy for the European elections. The latter includes
    listing where the Conservatives have already delivered: on the EU
    budget, the veto and cutting bailouts, which should be proof enough that
    the Conservatives can deliver more.

    I would imagine that praying for a miracle could be described as an ’emotional message’.

    Given the flimsiness of Crosby’s argument (which has been shredded several times over even before he used it) and the gentle handling of the rebels within the PCP, it sounds to me as if the Tory leadership have resigned themselves to whatever outcome they expect from the Euros and are now trying to make it as painless as possible for everybody in the hope that it will minimise recriminations after the Euros

  • Conway

    “The latter includes listing where the Conservatives have already
    delivered: on the EU budget, the veto and cutting bailouts, which should
    be proof enough that the Conservatives can deliver more.” That’s odd; I thought the EU budget had risen, the veto turned out to be a damp squib and we are still in hock for bailouts. If that is the definition of having delivered, I hate to think what failure would look like.

    • Rockin Ron

      You called it right – those three examples are failure of delivery not success.

  • Kitty MLB

    Blair’s acolyte Cameron’s puppet master delivers his
    unelected sagelike advice.
    Who is listening.

  • AnotherDave

    The “veto” turned out to be not quite the veto it appeared.

    “December’s ‘veto’ turns out to be nothing of the kind. Britain had asked for concessions in return for allowing the other member states to use EU institutions and structures for their fiscal compact. No such concessions were forthcoming, but we have given our permission anyway. ”

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100133507/the-veto-has-been-abandoned-the-only-option-now-is-an-inout-referendum/

    http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2012/01/cameron-softens-his-stance-on-europe-but-who-benefits/

    But the ‘vetogasm’, when the voters actually thought HMG was standing up for them against the EU, is the only time this parliament when the Conservatives have challenged Labour in the polls.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_United_Kingdom_general_election#2011

    Conservative supporters, and defectors now think the Conservatives have failed to stand up to the EU.

    http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/01/27/how-tories-can-win-next-election/

  • Mike Barnes

    “The latter includes listing where the Conservatives have already delivered: on the EU budget, the veto and cutting bailouts, which should be proof enough that the Conservatives can deliver more.”

    Can somebody please explain how these ‘achievements’ have changed anything? Are the even true anyway? The budget was increased last year, with Britian’s contribution increasing by another billion.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10397885/Governments-cave-into-EU-shutdown-threat-over-spending-increase.html

    • Wessex Man

      Thanks to Dave’s brilliant negotiations over the CAP payments scheme, the only country that saw a cut in their payments was us.

  • George_Arseborne

    He is just a joke. Tories investing £500k for failure. Cameron is not like Boris that has finess which won him the mayoral election. Crosby sorry Cosby is just a clown who saw the down fall of Micheal Howard then, now in use again after 15 years. What an out dated strategist?. Cameron will be ousted via the Ballot Box in 2015.

  • Mynydd

    So who is the leader of the Conservative Party, Mr Lynton Crosby or Mr David Cameron. Mr Crosby reads the riot act to Conservative MPs, while Mr Cameron just sat there and said nothing. It could be that Mr Cameron is now leader in name only, the power now rests with Mr Crosby

    • DWWolds

      And who is the leader of the Labour party. Milliminor or Len McClusky?

  • Lady Magdalene

    As a result of the EU Budget, the UK is paying more. The only EU member that is.
    The so-called cut in the Budget was achieved by paying sweeteners (aka bribes) up front.
    How is that a success?

    • Mynydd

      Please stop bring up facts, you know it only upsets the children.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      We are the only ones paying more? That would be outrageous given all the press coverage here (then not covering that fact at all).
      Why and more importantly, what for?

      • Lady Magdalene

        We are paying more following Blair’s renegotiation, when the 7 Eastern European countries (Poland etc) joined the EU, and a significant proportion of our Budget rebate was surrendered.

        In return the CAP was supposed to be reformed. Needless to say it wasn’t; France refused. So although the overall Budget had a tiny cut, the UK is paying more and money was diverted through “other means” in order to get a deal.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/9904860/EU-Budget-deal-struck-with-16billion-sweeteners.html

        • The Laughing Cavalier

          Blair was even worse than Ted Heath when it came to protecting British interests. he gave a way billions in an attempt to buy the Presidency of the EU for himself, the British people’s money thrown away for nothing.

  • poppy2009

    If you get the referendum that the public should have and this is the right
    way to go then I say go for it. With a bit of luck a second time around may
    proof to be more positive. As said Miliband, clegg and the Labour and
    Lib MP’s cannot duck and dive as they would like too. The voters must
    have their say.

    • Mynydd

      To date only the Labour party has held a referendum on Europe, with Mr Cameron it’s only talk. Important difficult decisions are not left to private members bill they are introduced by a government.

  • AnotherDave

    Mr Cameron hasn’t been a terrible manager because he ‘leads MPs on’.

    He’s been a terrible manager because he’s taken a divisive, factional approach at every opportunity.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2008199/The-cruel-hounding-Mark-Pritchard-shows-Tories-failed-clean-politics.html

    • perdix

      Divisive? Factional? Don’t agree. That’s kipper-speak.

      • AnotherDave

        No.

        Kipper-speak would be “Who cares? They’re all the same. Vote UKIP!”

        Which I agree with. 🙂

      • Mynydd

        No it’s what back bench Conservative MPs are saying. Divisive when they write Mr Cameron those love letters. Factional and not only over Europe.

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