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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The Tories and the EU

When ARE the Tories going to realise that the hardcore anti-European fringe are not their way back to power?

The anti-EU parties (including here UKIP, Veritas, the BNP and the Greens, not all of which are by any means solely made up of disaffected Tories) between them got 1,109,987 votes. But I’d say it’s a safe bet that most people voting for the Greens weren’t doing so for their stance on the EU, so knock off their total, you’re left with just 852,229. Though this is more than the difference (in terms of popular vote) between the Tories and Labour, it’s nowhere near enough for a majority – just 68,000 votes. On top of that the anti-EU vote tends to be readily mobilised, so it’s unlikely there are many more of them knocking around.

I mean, I can fully understand why the withdrawalists reckon leaving the EU is the answer to all their problems (and it’s not just because some of them are barking), but the Tories really need to reclaim the positive side of the EU. I mean, after all, the EU got a lot of its impetus from Churchill, it was Macmillan who tried to get us in to start with, Heath who finally got us there, and Thatcher and Major who signed us up to a bunch of the subsequent treaties. Britain’s place in Europe is thanks to the Tories – it’s about time they reclaimed it, even if they have to do so with a slightly sceptical take.

A reserved pro-EU stance – acknowledging its major faults but with a positive message of evolution and change (which will be much easier to bring about with the new member states on board, tipping the balance of power away from France) – may not only be a handy way for the Tories to bring together their various sects, but is also what the pro-EU camp in this country sorely needs.

This could in turn bring back to the Tory fold some of the semi-sceptics – those who don’t like the way the EU is currently being run, but who don’t want to pull out altogether – while simultaneously allowing those who don’t really care much about the EU but who are put off by the often massively overblown rhetoric of the anti-EU camps to vote Tory without worrying that they’re going to be tainted by association. A lot of the reason for the repeated splintering of UKIP is that sensible eurosceptics simply didn’t want to be associated with the more rabid variety. The Tories need to appeal to the sensible ones while shutting out the mad ones, and work together with those pro-Europeans (like me) who want to make the EU better.

It is frequently fogotten, amidst all the invective, that there is actually a lot of common ground between the sensible eurosceptics and sensible europhiles – both groups can see the problems with the current EU. The Conservative party could make itself the place where they can come together to work out solutions.

(Inspired by and originally a dashed-off comment to this post on The Sharpener by our New York correspondent, Third Avenue.)

4 Comments

  1. I think that the idea all UKIP voters are disaffected Tories is misplaced The Pseudo Magazine is right to point that out, but I also belive the argument that you can only count those people who voted for the obvious anti-EU parties at the election, is flawed, you have for instance decided to remove the greens, because quite correctly you assess that they did not vote Green because of their anti EU stance. You could have also removed many BNP voters because some? Would have voted for BNP because of their policies on race. Likewise you could have added many people who voted Conservative believing that Howard�s stance on returning some powers to Parliament was a step in the right direction, and it would be better to get rid of an avowed Pro-EU labour party even if it meant voting for halfway house Howard. Some would have voted for LibDem`s because they thought that was the best way to rid us of Blair.

    The Conservative party needs to decide what it stands for, not just on the EU, although that is the fault line running through the party, it then must begin to build a solid following in the country, personally I do not think that it will achieve that by continuing to be Labour light, or continuing to sit on the fence over the EU. If the parliamentary party believes that we should be in the EU as it is, and not as it hopes it will become, then it needs to sell that idea to its members, It also needs to have concrete proposals on the course it would take should negotiations with the EU fail, If that is the direction is decides to take, Howard�s policies just did not hold water and were only aimed at undercutting the UKIP vote. The party did after all have an internal referendum under Hague and the Pro-EU brigade lost out heavily, this was later reinforced when the members were offered a choice between Clarke and IDS and chose the anti-EU candidate. The present talk of reviewing the rules on choosing the leader looks to me like a coup attempt by the parliamentary EU fence sitters, if they are successful then the party will probably stay as it is trying to find some ground in the middle, but trying to sound Anti-EU, they will then be destined for another defeat at the hands of Brown in 4/5 years time.

  2. Some good points. But I think you're wrong on the Tory leadership problems. In the post-Hague leadership election, Ken Clarke won more of the MPs votes than IDS, with the rest going to the (now) mildly EU-sceptic Portillo. Portillo then dropped out, so we can't really tell how the MP vote would have split had they voted again.

    But that's beside the point – the reason the Tory MPs are trying to cut out the members is nothing to do with the EU. It's everything to do with them knowing that they can't trust the members to vote for someone who is actually electable by non-Tories. Clarke had the backing of a good number of EU-sceptic MPs not because of his views on Europe, but because IDS was so blatantly neither charismatic nor intelligent enough to make a successful party leader. Tory members vote for what they like and agree with – Tory MPs have to consider in terms of realpolitik what is most likely to get them back to power so that they can implement what the Tory members want.

  3. Do we misunderstand each other? I was not referring to the MPs votes, but the members, it was clear that most MPs preferred Clarke. What many commentators overlook when knock IDS, is that when he was selected as leader, the party were 20 or 22 points behind Labour in the polls and had just suffered a second crushing defeat at the election, by the time the Parliamentary party ousted him he had brought the party to level pegging in some polls, just behind in others and just in front in one and he had held the party together. That is no mean achievement for somebody who is a looser; in comparison his replacement selected by the MPs as the face most likely to lead them to victory, in fact took the party backwards, against an open goal presented by Tony Blair over the War, ID Cards, etc etc. At the time of the election they were in a worse position v Labour than when Howard took over, not even a Consevative US President would meet him, none of his policies held together, and he certainly shot the party in the foot over the War.

    The Tories did not win seats at the election, Tony Blair lost them, had he not turned off so many voters the Tories would have been lucky to hang on to the seats they already had. They only increased their share of votes by about 1% this against a Labour party that was fighting against its own history of unpopular policies. I would suggest that because most of the lost Labour votes went LibDem and the conservative vote stood still they desperately need to get their act together otherwise they are on a downward spiral into oblivion as a party.

    I do not accept this idea that a Tory leader needs to attract Labour or LibDem voters, well of course they do, but they will not do that by offering the same policies as the other parties and running around in fear every time the BBC arrives. They have to reform around solid Consevative principals of freedom for the individual, less government, lower taxes and much less interference from the state and defend those principals against an unhelpful media. The worst decision for the Tories at this stage would be to go along with the idea that because they won a few seats, all it needs is just one more push with another middle of the road leader, and they will gain power as a nice alternative to Labour. Margaret Thatcher is absolutely hated by Labour LibDem`s and the media, yet she won three massive majorities by being a conservative, not by being a pale imitation of Labour or pandering to the media, and had she not been ousted would have gone on to a fourth.

    Of course the other point is that Labour is in power now because the Conservatives do not have a following in either Wales or Scotland perhaps they need to consider what they might have to do to regain respect for the party there.

  4. Nosemonkey

    I was not aware that the Greens were anti-EU, that was a bit of a suprise. Also there are those on the left that are anti Eu like Socialist labour because believe it is too capitalist, similar to french arguements these people will never vote Tory