This week Parliament voted through the £26,000 cap on benefits. It was the right thing to do and, as David Cameron has said many times, ‘the people are behind us, the country wants it too’. And he is right, they do. Especially those who are up and commuting to work by 7.30am to earn an equivalent gross salary of 35k. The policy is the brainchild of IDS and is the result of much hard work.
However, as policy goes, it is nowhere near as popular as David Cameron’s decision in December to veto the new ‘not a treaty’ at the EU and to remain outside the economic fiscal pact of 25 Eurozone countries. Cameron’s actions enjoyed popularity because to have joined this pact would have meant submitting to an uncompetitve Tobin Tax on the London Stock Exchange in order to provide yet another revenue stream for the EU.
The fact that David Cameron had faced a rebellion of eighty-one backbench MPs prior to his significant veto cetainaly shaped his thinking and hardened his resolve. As he returned from Brussels the country rejoiced and public opinion rebounded. For the first time in 2011, Conservatives surpassed the Opposition with a positive approval rating of 41%, a seven point jump.
His backbenchers were proud and his popularity ratings were supplemented by Sun and Mail headlines reading ‘Britain stands alone after PM David Cameron’s historic veto’ and ‘The Day PM put Britain first: Defiant Cameron stands up to Euro bullies’. Not anymore. The good capital Cameron put into the bank following his triumphant return has been squandered away by his perceived failure to talk tough and to prevent the twenty-five countries from using the European Insitutions, which they legally have no right to do.
The twenty-five will hold talks on competitiveness from which we will be outright excluded. The list of ‘not a treaty’ articles highlighting the fact that the twenty-five pact countries have created a two-speed, two-tier Europe and all but sidelined the UK, present the case for an urgent need for a referendum. The same referendum our Coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats promised in their election manifesto when they thought there was no possibility they would actually have to deliver on the promises made. It is very hard now to understand why we are even in Europe.
The Prime Minister’s new stance and weakening resolve on the use of the EU institutions has had a negative effect on press coverage. The headlines now read ‘Why that veto looks less like a victory’, ‘Cameron mauled in Commons over EU veto backdown’ and similar. The mauling would have been worse were it not for the judicious timing of Fred Goodwin’s defenestration.
To make matters worse, George Osborne is making all the wrong noises about the IMF’s need for further funding from the UK to once again prop up those Eurozone countries facing towering deficits. But where is this money supposed to come from? The UK has its own massive debt problem to deal with, forcing us to impose hugely unpopular cut backs. We simply don’t have the money to loan to the IMF unless we print it and, as we know, quantative easing brings with it the risk of more inflation in our already fragile economy.
Is David Cameron really going to ask his backbenchers to vote through a substantial loan to the IMF to further support the ailing economies of the Southern European fiscal pact countries? In doing so, he will be asking us to load a further risk onto our own economy.
Unfortunately for us all the Deputy Prime Minister is the passionate Europhile Nick Clegg, who was so angry when Cameron returned from Europe in a blaze of glory following the successful veto that he couldn’t trust himself to turn up at Parliament and take his seat on the bench beside the Prime Minister to endure the statement. A statement delivered by the PM amongst the gleeful shouts of ‘where’s Nick?’ from the benches opposite.
Cameron lost the good capital of the veto by acquiescing to the demands of the Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg. The benefit cap vote was a victory, another occasion when the Coalition has acted in a truly Conservative way. If Cameron pushes to a vote for further funding for the IMF it will be like it never happened. Every time he pleases Nick Clegg, he upsets the country.
If Cameron wants to vote through popular policies supported by his country, then he should come to the dispatch box and announce his intention to hold a referendum. If he wants a Conservative majority he needs to start acting like a Conservative Prime Minister. If the British public supported a pro-European, Liberal Democrat party, they would have voted for one at the General Election.