Unsurprisingly, Douglas Alexander’s Today interview about Ed Miliband’s pledge to not give the British people a referendum without saying he’s not giving you a referendum wasn’t the most edifying performance. Alexander admitted that what Miliband is promising is an ‘unlikely’ referendum, saying:
‘He will say that our priority in government would be tackling the cost-of-living crisis and getting the economy back on track, not getting Britain out of Europe. He’ll set out some very practical and I think needed changes to make Europe work better for the United Kingdom. And he’ll also be open that we are not, as a prospective Labour government, proposing a further transfer of powers to Brussels.’
But Labour is proposing reform, just not with the threat that if it doesn’t get what it wants, Britain could leave. Of course, this is what David Cameron would rather he could do, too, because he doesn’t really want to leave the EU and has made that clear enough, and Angela Merkel’s recent visit made it clear enough that he won’t get some of the bigger reforms that some of his colleagues have been pushing for.
But Labour hasn’t made a neat job of this. You know weasels have been working on a policy when the spokesman in broadcast interviews cannot respond to closed questions with the yes/no answer required, but instead a jumble of words about setting out what Miliband will say later. All of which suggests that Europe has fallen into the box of Labour policy areas that need neutralising, which includes welfare and immigration. As I said last might, perhaps Miliband thinks he can win without addressing these areas. But it’s hardly a courageous approach.