Are we going to let David Cameron be Harold Wilson?

16th January, 2013 3:16 pm

Even though we aren’t yet privy to any exact details – which has become something of a theme under this government – we can be pretty confident in what David Cameron will say in his speech on Friday.

Demands for changes to various laws and treaties, all in the name of securing “a better deal” for Britain, followed by the promise of a referendum. By turning any future referendum into a discussion not of EU membership more broadly, but toward the merits and demerits of the outcomes of such a deal, not only does Cameron make it more likely that people would vote to stay in the EU, but he is also is likely to placate many of the more Eurosceptic members of his party for the time being.

Of course, we’ve been here before. Labour’s referendum in 1975 centred less around the issue of European membership more generally, but more around the “better deal” achieved by Wilson in his own negotiations. This “better deal” essentially boiled down to the creation of the European Regional Development Fund; you can make your own minds up on whether we can call that a “better deal”. In reality though, it didn’t matter. What was important was that people felt that such a deal had been achieved and rewarded Wilson for it. Cameron appears to be positioning himself in the same way, and this is set to dominate debate about the EU in the near-future.

People may also remember how, just a few months ago, it seemed a likelihood that Labour would seize the initiative on this subject and offer a referendum on the EU based on improved terms. Nigel Farage referred to this as “the Jon Cruddas approach”, but you could call it “what Cameron is going to announce on Friday”. While Douglas Alexander now has a European speech scheduled for tomorrow, what he says has already become almost irrelevant. So known are the rough outlines of what will be in Cameron’s speech that trying to say we would do essentially the same will not work. He could announce that we will oppose what Cameron wants to renegotiate, or commit to an in-out referendum regardless of any negotiation outcomes, but I fear neither would make up for the missed opportunity of last year.

Having baulked at the chance to genuinely set the agenda, we are now in a position where we might not even be seriously afforded a hearing as an opposition. It is a tragedy that Labour did not do as many then suggested, and as a result have granted Cameron the initiative. The idea that Cameron appears most likely to lay claim to Wilson’s legacy is incredibly depressing, but it is worse still that this has left Labour with so few options. Cameron is often said to have many similarities to Edward Heath, but on this he is more like Wilson. Let us hope that this is not the policy that spurs Cameron to a majority.

  • http://twitter.com/youngian67 Ian Young

    Cameron as Wilson on Europe? Strategically he’s more somewhere between John Major and Michael Foot.

    As for his main target for repatriation of powers-to deny British workers some fairly uncontroversial minimum common labour and social rights, puts Cameron politically nearer to Friedrich Hayek than Harold Wilson.

    And if the Labour Party can’t win the argument on that woeful agenda we should all pack up and go home.

    On the subject of Wilson, he may not of been a heartfelt European like Heath, but as a technocrat he realised the UK was no longer an imperial power with the economy of scale to go it alone against the might of huge economies like the US- an argument that is more relevant now than in the 1960s.

  • Daniel Speight

    A lack of courage on Ed Miliband’s part not to take the Cruddas approach I suspect.

Latest

  • Featured Miliband plans “Home Office Enforcement Unit” to tackle illegal exploitation of immigrants

    Miliband plans “Home Office Enforcement Unit” to tackle illegal exploitation of immigrants

    Ed Miliband will tomorrow lay out the five Labour principles that will underpin the party’s approach to immigration. In what the party are calling a “major speech” in the North West, Miliband will say that while he believes “immigration can benefit our country” he feels it necessary to say that “Labour got this wrong in the past”. His message will be: “We have listened. We have learned. And we have changed.” The five principles Miliband will set out are: Rebuilding […]

    Read more →
  • News Video The Promise of Britain – watch Ed Miliband’s speech announcing an end to unpaid internships

    The Promise of Britain – watch Ed Miliband’s speech announcing an end to unpaid internships

    Ed Miliband today said a Labour Government would bring about an end to unpaid internships, as he launched the party’s manifesto for young people in Lincoln. The Labour leader revisited his idea of the Promise of Britain: “Over the last five years I’ve been talking about what I call the Promise of Britain. The Promise of Britain, to me, says the next generation should do better than the last. I actually think it’s the way you judge the progress and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Scotland The latest Ashcroft poll of Scottish seats is more than a mere earthquake – it’s a cataclysm

    The latest Ashcroft poll of Scottish seats is more than a mere earthquake – it’s a cataclysm

    If previous Ashcroft constituency polling in Scotland could be described as an earthquake, the poll the Tory peer had dropped this afternoon will require an entirely different word. A cataclysm perhaps. If this is an earthquake it’s certainly not the kind that rattles the windows in the middle of the night, it’s the sort that razes whole cities to the ground. If Lord Ashcroft’s polling is correct, there’s a risk that Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could lose his seat […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Shouldn’t Michael Gove be a bit disappointed with himself?

    Shouldn’t Michael Gove be a bit disappointed with himself?

    Michael Gove used to stride around Whitehall like he owned the place. Of all of the Tory Cabinet ministers who took up their posts in 2010, Gove was clearly the one who was most determined to change things. Not in a way that I’d like, admittedly. In my view his treatment of the education as a tool of ideological warfare damaged pupil and teacher alike. But there was no doubt that this was someone on a mission to change Britain. Which […]

    Read more →
  • News Miliband now bookies’ favourite become PM

    Miliband now bookies’ favourite become PM

    Ed Miliband is now the favourite to become Prime Minister, according to bookmakers. Ladbrokes now make the Labour leader odds on to be the politician walking into Downing St after May’s election. They say the odds for Miliband to be PM on July 1st are 5/6, while Cameron comes in at evens. Nigel Farage is a long shot at 100/1, while Nick Clegg is even further out at 200-1. The recalculation comes after last night’s TV debate, which Miliband was […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit