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David Cameron Faces Backbench Rebellion Over European Union Referendum

Posted on the 21 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
David Cameron faces backbench rebellion over European Union referendum

David Cameron faces a revolt on a Commons vote on the EU next Monday. Photo credit: Paumier

The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Parties have whipped their MPs to vote against holding a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the European Union according to the BBC. The non-binding motion is set to be debated in the Commons this Monday, brought forward from the 27th of October because David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague want to be in attendance; they will be visiting Australia on the original date for a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

The EU referendum motion on the Commons order paper has at the time of writing accrued 76 signatures from MPs and was originally proposed by Tory MP David Nuttall. Around 60 of the signatures are from Tory MPs — generally those on the right of the party — and the rest come from those on the Left of the Labour Party and some Northern Irish Democratic Unionists. Given the significant proportion of Tory backbenchers who are calling for the motion, Cameron has issued a three line whip; but many in the Conservative Party don’t understand why he has decided to make the vote a show of strength, Andrew Neil reported for the BBC.

The Tory MPs who have signed the bill are seemingly delighted at the publicity the motion is getting. Backbencher Mark Pritchard told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he would be willing to defy the whip. Insisted Pritchard: “This is about country first, party second and career last … This is not about necessarily the terms of a particular bill … or a future referendum, it’s fundamentally about freedom, it’s about democracy and it’s about the legitimacy of the European project.”

But should Cameron be worried about the prospect of a revolt in his ranks, or is it mostly grandstanding by the Right Wing of the party?

Cameron is “lucky” that Gaddafi has just died. The prime minister will tell MPs on Monday how he has been “vindicated” over the issue of Libya to remind his party that “at a time when he’s about to face a bruising showdown with his mutinous Euro-rebels, that he’s a lucky Prime Minister”, predicted John Craig on a Sky News blog.

Madness at a time like this. John Rentoul in The Independent follows Labour leader Ed Miliband’s opinion that a motion like this “can only add to the sense of instability in the markets.” Referencing MP Andrew Rosindell’s question to Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, he suggested that “the voters are not ‘crying out’ for a referendum. They are grumpy about Europe, as ever, but fearful for the economic future.”

A chance for Cameron to direct his party. Cameron is not bound by his party’s manifesto to deliver a referendum on Europe. Benedict Brogan on The Daily Telegraph blog said that this is his chance to give his MPs a “clear lead” on the issue of Europe.

A vote for a referendum is a vote for democracy. Lord Tebbit wrote a bullish column in The Daily Telegraph outlining why MPs should vote for “democracy” in allowing the British people a referendum. “There must be many Tories who have stuck to the party through thick and thin”, he suggested, “who will be wondering if it is worthwhile any more.”

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