Well, if Liberal Democrat activists were feeling a bit lethargic and demotivated, David Cameron gave them lots to fight for today. We have got to do everything we possibly can to stop him getting an overall majority.
If you’re not in UKIP or the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party, Cameron had very little to say to offer today.
Here’s his plan. He’s going to go to the EU if he gets a majority next time and throw his weight about a bit. He’ll tell them that unless we get to opt out of things like the Social Chapter and the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Arrest Warrant and a whole host of things that the EU is actually useful for, he’ll throw his toys out of the pram and hope that they hit the white cliffs of Dover. So, your hard won right to a decent working week, to paid leave, all those inconvenient employment rights that Tories hate so much could all be lost. So would the facility to get criminals back speedily – like the guy who ran off with that young girl last year.Let’s not kid ourselves, that’s what Cameron ideally wants.
The chances are that our European partners will tell him to go forth and multiply when he tries it on. And then the Daily Mail will be even more full of xenophobic drivel than usual. But, as Ming Campbell so cleverly put it today, if you have a choice of two approaches, trying to get everyone to work through issues together, or making it all about you, which do you think is going to be more effective? Presumably in that instance we get a choice between the status quo and leaving the EU. That’s probably better than the alternative referendum.
But, just say the rest of the EU gives Cameron what he wants. What do we get then? The Status Quo isn’t an option. We have a choice between losing things many of us hold dear or leaving the EU altogether. The choice between bugger all and catastrophe.
I’m really all referndummed out already. We’ll have had best part of 4 years of the Scottish referendum by 2014 and then we’ll have another 3 and a bit of the EU caper. Yes, I know, we could vote yes to avoid it, but, really, sledgehammers and nuts come to mind. An independent Scotland’s terms of joining the EU are far from certain and very likely to be much worse than we currently enjoy.
Willie Rennie compared the SNP and Conservatives today, talking about how they both put their obsessions above the national interest:
The Conservatives and the SNP are now both advocates of grinding uncertainty.
Our priority should be to build a stronger economy in a fairer society but the Conservative obsess about Europe and the SNP about independence.
Their obsessions are creating a grinding uncertainty which will hamper our efforts to restore the economy and deliver fairness.
By the way, I think we Lib Dems should take the phrase “stronger economy in a fairer society” out of any bingo style drinking games right now. Our livers just won’t be able to hack the pace. Just remember that we’ll be sick of it long before the electorate has even cottoned on to it. There’s a long way to go and we’ll hear it a lot.
We’ll hear a lot about how we aren’t letting the people have their say on Europe. This is complete nonsense and the sort of people who will throw that one at us are the sort of people who are opposed to giving people a say in electing the House of Lords. The SNP didn’t get their majority up here because people were clamouring to get a referendum on independence. They got it because there was no decent opposition to them at the 2011 election. We were in a mess over the Coalition and are in a better place now and Labour were next to useless. Actually, no, they were useless.
I think Nick Clegg has said the right thing today – that, of course, if there’s a reason to have a referendum, like a major move of powers from the UK to Brussels, then we’ll have one, but otherwise our priority should be about growing the economy. I think he may have mentioned a stronger economy in a fairer society too.
But there is a third choice, thankfully – making sure the Tories don’t get a majority. That means getting back out on to doorsteps and campaigning for every Liberal Democrat vote we can possibly get in the Counties, local elections, Euros and finally in 2015. Let’s get to it.