Friday, March 11, 2016

Tory Troubles.

With 100 days or so left until the EU referendum, it is clear that David Cameron is getting a good air war. The "leave" campaign is a shambles, and through a mixture of incompetence (Boris Johnson) and his own ruthlessness (Michael Gove), the Prime Minister is seeing off his political enemies. The betting is all one way, and perhaps the PM will maintain his position as one of the luckier and more astute political figures of the past decade.

However, post referendum, the clouds are already beginning to darken for both the Prime Minister and his party. Mr. Cameron has already said he will stand down before the election due in 2020. When and how he does so will dictate not only the future fortunes of the Conservative Party, but even, quite possibly, its survival.

The problem is that the Tories remain split top-to-bottom on the subject of the EU. More than half of Conservative MPs and probably a far higher percentage of the party membership are strongly in the "leave" camp. Only the senior echelon of the party, in the Cabinet and the payroll vote, does "remain" hold a solid lead. In a sense that is quite right, because the closer your are to the process of interaction between the EU and the UK government, the more you understand of the actual nature of the relationship (as opposed to the tabloid fantasies), and the more you are likely to support our continued membership. However, for a certain kind of Conservative activist, opposition to EU membership has become a Shibboleth that is deeply and viscerally emotional. The fact that the party leaders are so much more pro-"remain" is an act of basest treachery. There is growing and considerable bitterness at the ruthlessness that Mr. Cameron has demonstrated, and in certain quarters a belief that the entire referendum process has been denied fairness as the result of the support that Mr. Cameron has shown to "remain".

This "stab in the back" sense of victimhood that is out there may cause real problems for the Conservatives in the future, for if it continues then the referendum will not be the end of the crisis in the Tories, but the beginning of its break up. 

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