It’s been perfectly clear to me (and most Eurosceptics) that Cameron doesn’t have, and has never had, any intention whatsoever of extricating us from the EU. He is a committed Europhile and all he wants is for the issue to go away so he can play his Boy’s Own power games. But irrespective of our need to get out, and aside from the real democratic deficit caused by a government that ignores the will of the UK people, his instigation of a party whip against the referendum vote is a monumentally bad tactic for him and the party.
Were he to allow a completely free vote it would in any case be lost. The Lib-dums would all vote against a referendum, Liebour would mostly vote against, many Tory Europhiles would vote against, so the referendum bid would fail irrespective of his intervention. However Cameron would be able to claim it was a free democratic decision, not my fault mate! He would be free to continue as now with his mildly Eurosceptic charade and continue paying lip service to the Eurosceptics. But by instigating a whip he has firmly marked his card, and that of the party elite, as being out and out Europhile. They are out of the closet. Never again will he, or the party, be believed when he claims to be sceptical.
Furthermore he will have absolutely no moral high ground from which to attempt to close the issue. Because there was no ‘democratic’ vote the Eurosceptic pressure will not be satisfied and the issue will not go away. Just the opposite it will be seen as rigged and the response will be anger.
With a whipped vote he will also give away a huge slice of conservative support. Not just alienating his own backbenchers but huge swathes of local party supporters and voters will have had enough! He thus severely weakens the Tory party and opens the field at the next election for Eurosceptic parties and even independents to pick up that disaffection. I wish I had confidence UKIP could use the opportunity effectively. I can almost see the posters – Cameron with an arrogant smile and the slogan along the lines ‘This is the man who refused democracy’.
Meanwhile Labour is being just as stupid and short-sighted. It’s been reported that the party line is vote to oppose a referendum. Why? The obvious tactic for them would be to abstain. That would allow them to sit back and watch the Tories and the coalition rip themselves apart. It would also keep their options open and allow them some Eurosceptic credibility when the EU becomes a big election issue, which it will. They would be left in a position where they could fight UKIP for the disaffected Tory Eurosceptic vote. Yet like Cameron they want to nail their Europhile colours firmly to the mast. It makes no sense.
I know about the arrogance and greed and venality of politicians but I really can’t believe the level of sheer stupidity they sometimes display. But such self inflicted wounds for the main parties create a silver lining for us. It means that although Monday's vote is irrelevent, and we'll not get the referendum, the EU issue will remain wide open, Eurosceptics will be even angrier, and the next general election could even get interesting.