Like me you probably thought you were seeing things a couple of days ago when David Cameron suddenly seemed to develop a backbone as he declared that anti-European ministers would have to, er . . . follow government policy or resign. Indeed we were seeing things, and normal service was resumed within a couple of hours as Dave caved in to the anti-European fanatics.
I did warn that if the Tories won the General Election in 2015, Britain would leave Europe. It is not what Cameron wants. He and George Osborne understand it would be a disaster, even if the rest of their party do not, but having the courage to say so is, of course, quite another matter.
It’s clear that Cameron’s plan is to follow Harold Wilson’s recipe from 1975. Lace your speeches with plenty of anti-European rhetoric and agree to a referendum to placate the extremists in your party. Carry on a ‘renegotiation’ with your European partners. Gain a couple of cosmetic changes that you sell as major concessions. Win the referendum to stay in Europe by a comfortable majority.
I covered the 1975 referendum, and here is why Cameron will fail:-
1. Harold Wilson was one of the sharpest political operators Britain has ever seen. Cameron is simply not in his class.
2. The newspapers in Wilson’s time covered Europe reasonably fairly. Now the papers with the biggest circulations spew out an unremitting stream of anti-European bile.
Brexit looms. Will the last businessman to leave the country please turn out the lights.