Windsor MP Adam Afriyie has tabled an amendment calling for an EU referendum in October 2014.
Writing in the Mail yesterday, Afriyie sets out all the logical reasons for holding a referendum sooner – the British people want one; no-one under the age of 56 has had a say; businesses want certainty before they invest. These are all arguments we know well because UKIP makes them so often, and with just cause.
But further down in the article, Afriyie gets to the real reason he wants to see a referendum take place:
“But we must not rely too heavily on the belief that the promise of a referendum will persuade people to vote Conservative nor trust the Labour Party not to change its position.
“In reality, the British people are unsure whether the Conservative leadership would be able to stick to its promise of holding a referendum after the Election, especially if in coalition once again.
“It seems to me that if we don’t hold the referendum before 2015, large numbers of people will continue to vote UKIP whatever happens…”
Afriyie’s Windsor seat is home to the Conservative Renewal Conference, a real grassroots conference held by members of that association to discuss strategies for a return to meritocratic conservatism – that is, libertarian, small state, sovereign Britain. They are the anti-Cameroons, if you like.
The conference has been phenomenally successful. This September just gone saw the second conference in what looks set to be an annual event for the foreseeable future; the key speaker was Václav Klaus, economist and former President of the Czech Republic. It was he who valiantly held out against signing the Lisbon Treaty until long after every other country had signed and his hand was finally forced.
Also lined up for the conference were Theresa May and Michael Gove, both of whom pulled out at the last minute following pressure from Number 10.
It’s clear that Afriyie has decided to lead the charge against Cameron’s modernising, pro-European leadership. His sabre rattling is designed to be a clarion call for all those within the party who do not want to follow Cameron’s lead. To that extent, the outcome of the vote on this amendment, destined as it is to fail, is unimportant.
There has been talk of Tory splits over Europe for as long as I can remember. It has always seemed inevitable that the party must cleave itself in two over the issue. It seems equally likely that, having gotten hold of the Tory branding, Cameron and his modernising groupies are unlikely to let it go.
May I gently suggest to the remaining Conservatives who would like to see a libertarian, small state, sovereign Britain that there is another party in British politics at the moment which shares their vision.