25 May 2015

Smart Political Move

During the (quite disastrous for Labour) UK elections, Ed Millibrand was insistent on two big issues: He would not go into a coalition with the Scottish National Party (SNP), and he would oppose a referendum on Britain's EU membership.

Both positions were big political losers, with Labour being basically turfed out in Scotland, and losing votes from a significant Euroskeptic constituency.

Ed is gone, and the acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman, has announced that the party will support the referendum, but campaign for a "No" vote:
Acting leader Harriet Harman has said Labour will now support plans for an EU referendum by the end of 2017.

Ms Harman told the Sunday Times the change in position came after they "reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps" during the election.

The PM has pledged to renegotiate a "better deal" for the UK and hold an "in/out" referendum by the end of 2017.

Ms Harman told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show the party would still campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.

She said: "Whether we are in the European Union or not is a huge, important, constitutional, political, economic decision."

The Conservatives were bringing forward a bill to allow the referendum to happen, said Ms Harman, and Labour "wouldn't succeed" in stopping it.
While she coaches this decision in terms of a lack of agency, this is actually a very politically savvy move.

The mainstream Tories (Conservatives) want to stay in the EU, because big business, particularly The City (London's equivalent of Wall Street), because it makes doing business (and hiding income from Inland Revenue HM Revenue and Customs) much easier, and, particularly for the British FIRE sector.

As such I am sure that the reelected Prime Minister, David Cameron, is really not particularly eager to put Britain's continued membership in the European Union up to a vote.

However, political realities forced Cameron to promise a referendum, because the loony right of his party was pressuring him, and because the even more right wing UKIP has been taking an increasing portion of what would have been Tory votes, which in the UK's first past the post system, could prove problematic.

With Labour saying that they will not oppose a referendum, it removes one of the few excuses for Cameron to delay a vote on status, and regardless of what happens, this will not be good for him politically, because, even while he has promised a referendum, which necessarily will upset UK big business, he must also campaign against it, which would serve to strengthen UKIP.

I am not sure if Ms. Harmon intended for there to put the Conservative mainstream in this position, but they appear to be thoroughly skewered on the tines of Morton's fork.


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