It’s hard to describe the EU referendum issue as an object of the Tory Right. It’s too mainstream for that, there are even Labour MPs who support the proposal. Yet is is the Tory Right who are leading the charge and it’s not irrelevant that we arrive here with that group already feeling sidelined by the LibDem junior coalition partner.
But despite the fuss, I still think the EU rebels are holding back. They’re still thinking in an old politics frame of mind rather than recognising how the coalition has changed politics. The don’t yet understand the opportunity that has been handed to them in the new paradigm.
Tonight, 60 Conservative backbenchers could announce the formation of a new party. They could call it the Sovereign Conservative Party if they liked, perhaps with David Davis as their leader. It’s an interesting quirk of political law that what a party calls itself in the Commons is not regulated, only what it calls itself in an election or for fundraising purposes. So there would be no bar on using Conservative in the name.
If they did so, David Cameron’s options would be to allow parliament to dissolve with the party in disarray or to start coalition talks.
By my calculations, 60 MPs would net this new party about 5 Cabinet posts and about 15 assorted junior ministerial positions and if the EU referendum issue were the only policy demand, what choice would the Prime Minister have? I imagine the agreement would have to include a deal on readmission to the party and on suitability for candidacy too,
probably before next May’s local elections. But can you see any Conservative Association in the country being upset with that? And the LibDems can’t afford to leave the coalition until they have some positives to show for it, so they’re kind of stuck whatever the deal.
On this basis, the dissatisfied element of the Conservative Parliamentary Party can have everything it wants without impediment to their careers or election chances.
Or alternatively, David Davis can lead 60 backbenchers to resign from parliament and fight by-elections on the referendum issue. A somewhat more risky strategy.
But maybe the Tory Right is happy to cave in on Europe? Maybe they just want to make a bit of noise?
For clarification Alex would relish the opportunity to vote to stay in the EU