An interesting question is posed for Conservative MPs this week, as the Financial Times reports:
‘Steve Baker, founder of the Conservatives For Britain campaign group, has called on constituency associations to “remind MPs” in “an appropriate and gentle fashion” of the eurosceptic remarks that many made when they were selected as election candidates…Mr Baker suggested Tory activists should remind their MP of the widespread euroscepticism in the party when they head home later this week for Westminster’s Christmas break. “Many colleagues will have said eurosceptic things at their selection meetings and people should follow through on what they said,” he argued.’
Many readers will recall just such eurosceptic things being said during selection processes and hustings over the last couple of years – “If the referendum took place tomorrow, I would vote Out” was a common formulation for a lot of Conservative candidates and parliamentarians. Many of them will have followed those words with an expectation that the Prime Minister would secure a sufficiently radical renegotiation to allow them to vote to stay in the EU.
Baker’s question is timely. The Prime Minister has drastically watered down his demands, and the pro-EU CER believes that the great majority of member states are minded to reject even his new, limited wishlist. Should some sort of deal be reached then it will in no way represent a sufficiently changed relationship with the EU to satisfy public demand (or even live up to the Conservative manifesto).
In effect, the referendum will be a choice between staying in an unreformed EU or leaving. Many Conservative activists are understandably interested in finding out whether their MPs do intend to vote to Leave under such circumstances, as they were led to believe. It’s reasonable that they should do so: an MP is accountable to their constituents, including those who put in the hard work to get them elected.