C’mon Ed, back an in/out EU referendum for the day of the next election and destroy the Tories

by Anthony Bonneville

Europe remains the Tories’ Achilles heel. Polling conducted by YouGov for Labour Uncut reveals that 1 in 5 2010 Tory voters have defected, with 60% switching to UKIP.

These figures will worry an already jittery Conservative party. No matter what David Cameron seems to do, no matter how much he genuflects before the altar of Euroscepticism, it’s never enough. Core support keeps leaching out to the right.

As I’ve set out in my chapter in Labour Uncut’s recent book, “Labour’s manifesto uncut: how to win in 2015 and why,” this peculiar spectacle presents an enormous opportunity for Labour.

On Tuesday evening, the night before David Cameron gives his leader’s speech, Ed Miliband should set aside his widely aired reservations and announce that Labour now backs a straight in/out EU referendum for May 7th 2015.

Such an intervention would transform the political landscape. All that has happened so far this parliament would be rendered instantly irrelevant.

On the pro-European side, a broad coalition would be assembled bringing together unions, business organisations and civil society groups, a true example of One Nation politics. Labour and Lib Dems would stand united on the most important issue of the next general election.

It would force quiet pro-Europeans (distant cousins of the quiet bat people) to come out and say it loud: “We need to stay in Europe!”

For Labour, which has had a difficult recent relationship with business, this would be a rare chance to redraw the dividing lines of political debate.

Labour would be the party standing with business. The Tories would be left making the difficult case that business people did not know what was good for their own firms. For those who recall the damage done to Labour’s 2010 election campaign by the letter from businessmen criticising the party’s national insurance policy, the irony would be rich.

On the anti-side would be most of the Tory party, but critically not the prime minister. The united voice of business, not to mention the views of the civil service and other world leaders, mean David Cameron would be loathe to commit to exit.

The result would be a Tory election car crash of unprecedented proportions. Think about it: in the heat of a general election contest, David Cameron would be campaigning against his own party on the defining issue of the day.

The Tory backbenches are already fractious. Over 100 backbenchers have voted against three line whips on a range of issues including privatisation of the forests Lords reform and, of course, Europe.

With clear sight of a referendum on May 7th 2015, all discipline within the Tory party would break down as the anti-European ideologues threw themselves into campaigning for an exit.

The next election will be fought on essentially conservative (with a small ‘c) terrain. The economy is likely to be recovering and the contest will be around who can best nurture the seedlings to bloom.

In this context, the idea of taking a huge gamble on leaving the EU with unforeseen consequences begins to seem suicidal.

Referendums are essentially conservative affairs. Those making the case for change generally face the more difficult challenge. Their opponents, meanwhile, will be busy conveying the risks of any move from the status quo.

As popular as Nigel Farage might be as an anti-politics caricature, can he really command the kind of trust needed from the wider electorate to win the case for exit?

The experience of the Yes to AV campaign is indicative of the shift that occurs when the notional becomes a real choice. Their large poll leads evaporated, turning into a crushing loss.

And the EU exit camp barely even have a lead in the polling today. If the pattern seen during the AV referendum is repeated, the scale of defeat for the anti-camp would settle the European question for a generation.

For all the worthy talk from Labour about the need not to promote uncertainty by talking about a potential future referendum, the political reality is that a referendum at some point is inevitable. David Cameron is looking to 2017, partially as a measure to buy time ahead of the next election from his rebellious backbenchers.

Labour’s actual choice on this issue is whether to follow and start campaigning when the referendum is called or to lead by committing to a referendum with an earlier date.

There are obviously risks inherent in such an approach. However, given the state of the polls and Labour’s position, maybe the time has come for a major play that resets the political clock.

It is almost certain there are the votes on the floor of the House of Commons to pass the necessary legislation – a majority of the Tory party, ministers included, would likely vote in favour.

Now is the time for political courage from Ed Miliband. Labour needs to lead on Europe.

A commitment to a referendum on the day of the next election would offer the party, and the country, that transformative leadership.

Anthony Bonneville works in investment banking. This is an abridged and updated version of Anthony’s chapter in “Labour’s manifesto uncut: how to win in 2015 and why

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8 Responses to “C’mon Ed, back an in/out EU referendum for the day of the next election and destroy the Tories”

  1. swatantra says:

    My view is never trust the electorate when it comes to really serious issues like Europe or Capital Punishment or Human Rights. So I am opposed to a Referendum and an GE on the same day, because EdM is likely to shoot himself in his own foot. What is acceptable is another high risk strategy of the Tories Manifesto declaring All Out and Labour Manifesto declaring Stay In on GE Day. But that is highly unlikely because All Parties are split down the middle on Europe, apart from UKIP and the Lib Dems.

  2. Ex-labour says:


    Ah spoken like a true socialist. Don’t let the public actually have a say in how they are governed and what they want as they may make a decision which socialist intelligencia and Hampstead chatterati don’t like. And you wonder why people disengage from politics ?

    As for the main article, the public well remember who opened the doors wide open on immigration, they remember who wouldn’t let us deport terrorists, murders, rapists and other assorted foreign criminals, they remember all the money we are handing over week after week, they remember ludicrous legislation that now forms 80 percent of new laws etc. there are more quiet anti EU people out there and they would love a chance to vote us out, especially if Labour with their track record, actually wanted us in.

    Or perhaps it’s a decision best left to Swatantra and friends to decide ?

  3. wg says:

    Wot Ex-labour said.


    As you are a member of the electorate why should we trust you.

    The anti-democratic nature of the EU was clear to see when they rammed the Lisbon Treaty down our throats without us voting on it (remember Lisbon was the replacement for the European Constitution that everybody was promised a vote on)

    And it was a Labour government that did it.

    Under your theory of democracy the EU can do what it damn well likes and the European peoples would never have a say – more or less what is happening now with our civic space NGOs acting as proxies for the people; EU bought and paid for sock puppets.

  4. John reid says:

    Actually with capital punishment,there are those like the Mail, that like to make out they agree with the hang these animals now, style stories, but if there was actually a referendum who’d be against it, becuase they know that the second someone is posthomonously acquitted of murder,after they had been hung,there would be a complete mistrust of the judiciary, look at how ID cards DNA and 42 day detention were popular withth e pulbic, when the Sun backed the, in 2005′ even Michael Howard told Tories abstain on it in Jully 2005′ it wasn’t trill cock ups,like the disc with everyone’s details on it getting lost in the post, or the police being told that Damian green in getting stolen information that Labour had kept quiet about the true nature of immigration, was a matter of national security, that when he was arrested and had his DNA kept, after the police realising there was no case,

    That the public then started to question DNA databases and the recession made us realise we couldn’t afford to pay out to people who had their livelihoods ruined after been held for more than 28 days,

    Europe is another matter regarding the public allegedly being Euroscpetic,because the Daily Express has told them to be,becuase that paper is xenophobic, even with the collapse of the Euro,the bent banana stories haven’t resulted inthe. Public feeling were not getting value for money,

    But I would agree a referendum on the day of the election would be stupid, as how can Denis skinner, Healy and John Cryer campaign to leave,when our leader would say stay, when such an important issue would over shadow ,the rest of what an election should be about,

  5. Rallan says:

    @swatantra: “My view is never trust the electorate when it comes to really serious issues ”

    To hell with you.

  6. Rallan says:

    @John reid

    Regards the death penalty, you are absolutely right that the various miscarriages of justice and general police corruption would make most people very reluctant to support the re-introduction of the death penalty. Some police behaviour has been appalling and I have lost my faith in them.

    However, I reckon there would be support for the Death Penalty in extraordinary cases where the evidence is not just beyond reasonable doubt but also beyond scientific doubt.

    I totally get the Justice arguments against the Death Penalty, but modern technology has advanced so far that in some cases there is no doubt. And insanity is no defence; horror is horror, guilt is guilt, who cares why they did what they did? Did there victims suffer any less? As for rehabilitation, real monsters can’t ever be safely released (they’ll kill someone or someone will kill them) so even if possible, why try?

    Honestly, why should people Rose West be costing the taxpayer a fortune to keep imprisoned? Or Peter Sutcliffe? Or Ian Brady? When it comes to such monsters the answer should be cold and direct. They have nothing to offer society and have given up the right to life. Take them out to middle of the North Sea, shoot them, bury them at sea and then sail back. Cheap, fast and Just. No audience, no celebration. Just taking out the trash.

    Think of the good that could be done with the money that caging each one of these evil bastards costs per year. With that money we could actually save lives instead.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the risk is too great. I’m willing to be convinced, but I don’t think the argument has been properly made on either side. Keeping the subject taboo is not helpful.

  7. Chris says:

    Maybe I’m missing something but I can only see two outcomes of Ed suddenly announcing his support for a referendum in 201:

    1) He will, quite rightly, be called out for such an obviously opportunistic stunt. The electorate (despite what the disturbingly anti-democratic Swatantra may say) are not educationally subnormal and will not ignore the fact (which the Tories, Lib Dems and UKIP will gratefully remind everyone of) that Ed has spent the last year and a bit saying that a referendum is a dangerous distraction. So this call will be seen for exactly what it is – political game-playing with a strategically huge decision.

    2) After Cameron has reinserted his jaw and manged to stop laughing, he’ll just say, er, ‘No’. Why on earth would Cameron agree to this?

    This really has to be the dumbest idea I have read on any subject, anywhere, for months.

  8. swatantra says:

    In fact Rallan makes some extremely good arguments as to why Parliament should restore the Death Penalty; basically if you premeditatively take someones life, you forfeit your own. That makes sense in most peoples eyes,thats Justice. And it might even deter killers. Unless there is a culture of ‘couldn’t care less’ as in significant groups in the underworld and gangs, where getting caught is a calculated risk. The only problem is the very very very few cases where there is a miscarriage of Justice. Can we in all conscience live with miscarriages of Justice? I don’t know the answer to that, but rotting away in a prison cell till the end of your days is inhumane torture which no human being should suffer.

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