This week I had the novel experience of agreeing with Ed Miliband. This event does not happen very often but while reading his interview in the Sunday Telegraph and his speech to the CBI, I found myself nodding several times (instead of nodding off – my usual reaction to his speeches). He put it very well, referring to sleepwalking towards the EU exit and about the danger of Britain becoming a nation of low wages, low skills, ‘an off-shore low value economy’. I am sure these words were music to CBI ears.
There was no mention of an in-out referendum, of course, but it now seems that the Eurosceptics in the Conservative party are losing interest in that. There have been articles in the media, on Conservative Home, and a speech yesterday by David Davis, with all sorts of ingenious suggestions on carefully worded referendums (referring to renegotiation and repatriation etc) with the intention of luring the British people by stealth into voting to leave the EU without their realising it. Such shameless tactics do not explain why the Tory Eurosceptics are so terrified of asking a simple in-out question when they are convinced the people are on their side.
Another novel experience is feeling sorry for David Cameron as he heads into tough talks with the EU leaders on the budget while his own army are pointing their guns at his back. But seriously, it is getting to the stage where the Conservative party as a unit are becoming a major threat to Britain’s national security and well-being.
With Euro issues on the front pages again, my campaign has continued across London. I attended the AGM of the Beckenham Liberal Democrats where there was an impressive presentation by Merlene Emerson, the Chair of the Chinese Liberal Democrats, on an all-party visit to China and Tibet. I have attended a quiz night in Sutton which had a high turnout and good fish and chips. And I went to the AGM of Hammersmith and Fulham Lib Dems where we were addressed by Norman Baker MP, our Transport Minister, on fighting the Tories and he answered questions on general transport issues.
At all these events, I discussed European issues with many of the members to hear their thoughts and views. And the comments and questions by email have kept coming.
What is interesting is that, even in Lib Dem circles, much about Europe is misunderstood. More than one person has asked me about Abu Qatada – which of course is a reference to the European Court of Human Rights, a separate body to the European Union.
There is also far less enthusiasm for the EU than the media would have us believe amongst Lib Dems. Although there is general agreement that we should retain our membership, there was much disquiet about the budget, the amount we pay to the EU, and the level of immigration caused by open borders. However, there was also concern about the dangers of David Cameron leading us into the slow lane and, to repeat Ed Miliband’s point, that the PM is thinking more about the concerns of a few dozen MPs rather than pursuing the country’s interests.
My fellow Euro candidates have also been busy – we are frequently bumping into each other in our tours around the capital. Just over a week to go before voting closes. I have an inkling of how the result is shaping but will just say for now that the turnout will be bigger than that of the Police Commissioner elections! The campaign continues!