|Traitor and all round loon|
There are those on this site who think that the Tories are sleepwalking in a trance towards the destruction of their electoral prospects, possibly forever in their current guise. I spend a lot of time reading round the points we raise on here, which means I am forever about 465 comments behind in a permanent state of catch-up. I thought I would devote some of my time to reminding myself how we came to this critical moment, and perhaps some of you would appreciate a refresher: there will be some cutting and pasting so it’s a bit cheap to claim much of a writing credit, but: hey ho. It’s a fairly brisk canter through some of the salient features as you can go on and on in the detail of it all, but any cursory study of the period will expose the hostility and dishonesty of successive governments on a grand scale towards their own citizens, and the persistent thread of bloody-minded opposition to being ruled from Brussels.
We’ll take it from Major’s 1993 Maastricht moment, when the Tory “bastards” rebelled against the treaty that set up the EU as we know it. It was thanks to pressure from the three bastard cabinet ministers – Michael Portillo, Michael Howard and Peter Lilley – and others that Major was obliged to obtain an opt-out from the euro. This was when the country was expected to feel “at ease with itself”. Fat chance. Major introduced the European Communities Amendment Bill immediately after the 1992 election. In a chilling reflection of the current Brexit bill the hundreds of amendments put down ensured that the Committee stage lasted from 1 December 1992 to 21 April 1993. Major followed a successful vote in the House with a confidence motion, and in spite of the ease with which John Smith roasted him he survived to have the treaty ratified.
The next large EU power-grab was the infamous Treaty of Lisbon of 2007 which was a quantum leap forward of what we on here would regard as the capacity of the EU as a new legal entity to meddle in member states’ affairs. Qualified Majority Voting was brought in for a range of issues which meant that the UK spent all its time trying to forge alliances to oppose the draconian stuff being formulated. We never had the influence so beloved of EU supporters in this country. It was anticipated that a plebiscite or referendum would be held in the UK as the treaty raised grave constitutional issues. The French rejected these constitutional aspects but eurocrats simply switched a few aspects round and pressed on (“The French will just have to keep on voting” – Juncker). Blair and Brown eagerly adopted the fiction that the amended treaty provisions did not create an EU constitution as such, even though the relevant Commons Committee found “near equivalence”, and polls showed 82% in favour of a referendum. When it came to the 12-day Parliamentary debate McCavity predictably had to be somewhere else and it was left to David Milliband to propose the motion. William Hague proposed an amendment calling for a referendum but this was easily defeated. A certain Jeremy Corbyn sided with the Tories on the referendum: “Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Morning Star on the day of the vote, “there is a much higher level of public understanding of the issue and a much higher preparedness to engage in debate than political commentators have given credit for”. Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart showed the kind of consistency you would expect, and also voted in favour of a referendum.
Subsequently a case was brought against the UK government by Stuart Wheeler, who became a large UKIP donor. Mr Wheeler claimed the government was legally bound by an election promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The government asserted that the promise was no longer valid as it was the Constitutional Treaty for which a referendum was promised, and that the Lisbon Treaty was fundamentally different in content and in nature (being an amending treaty rather than a constitution). The court could not find anything unlawful in the government’s ratification of the treaty and the case was rejected. The case was appealed but was once more rejected. Pure sophistry and as egregious an act of political goal-post shifting as could ever be seen.
McMental went on to his infamous and spineless solo back-door ratification escapade, just to underline the treachery and deception involved.
Tory euro-scepticism never went away and if anything grew stronger. The accusation that the Tories were “hopelessly divided on Europe” could no longer be wielded as a criticism. Brown’s sheer incapacity led to his ignominious ejection from Number 10, with Cameron being obliged to incorporate a bunch of Lib-Dem misfits in a coalition: a reflection of the public’s growing recognition that we were not blessed with a generation of talented politicians, which continues to this day. As we know, pressure from UKIP and his own sceptics forced Cameron’s hand, so he decided that a referendum there would be: “It is time for the British people to have their say,” he said. “It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.” Of course he could not get this past the Lib-Dems, with crazed eurofanatic Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, so he opted for an election which he must have doubted he could win. Well, of course he did, and there was the referendum “cast-iron” promise front and centre of the manifesto. To give himself some scope to influence the outcome Cameron embarked upon his notorious “Bricks without straw” tour in an attempt to extract even a small concession from our “deep and lasting” friends in the EU – being kept up waiting till 4.30 am on one occasion. It was a non-event: he must have known it, we knew it, but who didn’t? I give you Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, who said it represented a “major step forward.”
Bundled out of the the Council chambers, Cameron sought to portray his humiliating rebuff as a deep-reaching reform of the EU. He couldn’t get out of the referendum so he was forced to carry this deception round in his campaign like a corpse in a car boot. Eventually even he gave up on the term “reformed EU.”
This brings us up to the present, and it can never be repeated often enough that Cameron wrote in the tax-payer Remain campaign propaganda pamphlet that “This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” His abandoning ship at the first whiff of grape shot after the result was declared is up there with McMental’s treachery on the Lisbon treaty. How remainers can continually claim that we were ignorant of the facts, it was not binding, parliament has the last word, bus etc in the face of Cameron’s clear promise, based on a simple yes/no formula, is a further example of the establishments’ capacity for lies, deception, treachery and shamelessness. If the Tories think that they will somehow get away with thwarting Brexit while clinging on to expectations of further power then it will be one of the great political delusions of our history. The fall-out will be immense, politically and socially, and it would not surprise me in the least if the country comes close to being ungovernable. Nothing has changed in principle since Cameron’s clear undertaking: we still have a Tory government, for god’s sake. They really have no excuse. The conduct of our politicians is both dangerous and provocative. Is that really what they want? I say it’s different this time. I don’t think there’s any question of the nation rolling over and accepting a betrayal. Like King Lear, I don’t know what sort of things might happen, but I know they will be the terrors of the earth.
More from Bassman here.