Honeyball’s Weekly Round-up

Labour Party

Cameron’s defeat following the election of Jean- Claude Juncker was an embarrassing disaster that may have been avoided had he negotiated better. His main failure was that he failed to recognise the power of negotiation and instead thought he could throw his weight about and in doing so adopted a ‘bull in the china shop’ style which failed. Dismally.

I wrote this piece for Labour List outlining my thoughts.

Andrew Rawnsley, writing for the Observer, offered similar thoughts on why Cameron’s defeat was so ‘dire’. ‘The genesis of his mistake can be traced back to 2005’, wrote Rawnsley. During Cameron’s leadership campaign he appealed to the right of his party and said he would take the Conservatives out of the European Peoples Party (EPP).

Sage voices cautioned at the time that leaving the main centre-right group in the European Parliament would cause problems down the line but nevertheless he stubbornly stuck to his word and left the EPP. This not only excluded him from the groups decision making but it cut him off from the informal alliances which are made and often where deals can be struck, Rawnsley argues. “It set a pattern that has since been repeated of Mr Cameron throwing chunks of meat off the back of his sledge to try to sate the pursuing pack of Europhobic Tory beasts”, writes Rawnsley.

He also points out that: “Had the Conservatives been in the EPP, it is quite likely they could have stopped the Juncker juggernaut before its engine was even running.”

Cameron’s other problem, which Rawnsley rightfully observes, is that far from executing excellent negotiating skills, he has been ‘hopelessly crude’.
A critique of his negotiating skills was offered by the Polish foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski. In a leaked conversation Sikorski suggested Cameron had messed up…although he used slightly more colourful language.

And during an interview for the Andrew Marr Show the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, described Cameron’s handling of the situation as ‘cack handed.’

In addition, business groups have voiced their concern over Britain’s position in Europe following Cameron’s debacle. John Cridland, leader of the CBI- Britain’s largest business group, said in an interview with the Observer, that the country’s economic success depends on it remaining a full member of the EU.

Cridland told the Observer that full membership of the EU boosted British jobs, growth and investment. “The EU is our biggest export market and remains fundamental to our economic future,” he said. “Our membership supports jobs, drives growth and boosts our international competitiveness.”

He dismissed some form of associate membership status, which some Conservatives favour. He said “Alternatives to full membership of the EU simply wouldn’t work, leaving us beholden to its rules without being able to influence them. We will continue to press the case for the UK remaining in a reformed European.”

Meanwhile, the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, warned that ‘The NHS, police, education system and social care are at risk of an “existential crisis” within the next five years if the Conservatives win the next election.’
During a speech organised by the Fabian Society Cooper said that public services are about ‘empowerment and opportunities and should not just provide a safety net as the Tories believe.’

Setting out potential policy ideas ahead of the 2015 election, Cooper announced, among other things, that Labour would hold a review to understand better the reasons for failed rape convictions and seek answers as to why the number of prosecutions is falling.


Cameron loses comprehensively to Merkel

Labour Party

Mrs Merkel has, it would seem, well and truly smashed the dream so carefully cherished by the Conservative part of the Con-Dem coalition that their beleaguered government would gain a resounding victory over the EU.

Until Cameron’s ill-fated meeting with Chancellor Merkel, there appeared to be many who believed the Tory propaganda. The British people were on the verge of thinking powers could be repatriated back from Brussels to London. All it needed was a treaty change requiring unanimity. Britain would then threaten to veto whatever was proposed and miraculously the other 26 member states, and most significantly Germany, would agree to the UK’s demands.

David Cameron, naïve and ignorant of the EU, obviously expected the Anglo-German talks last week to lead to Germany accepting the British government’s position. Instead Angela Merkel has sent him away with a flea in his ear. The German Chancellor has, in fact, rejected Cameron’s plans to repatriate powers over social and employment policy.

The “Sunday Times” yesterday reported that Merkel had said Britain would only be allowed a special protocol so that it and other non-Eurozone countries would be exempt from any fresh changes. Should Britain refuse this offer and stick to its repatriation demands, the Eurozone would set up a separate treaty leading to the creation of a two-tier Europe, essentially the major Euro players and the rest. The most significant member of the rest would obviously be the UK.

Cameron and the Tories in the Cabinet really don’t want this version of German real politik. It would mean that the Eurozone – Germany, France et al – would make decisions on financial services without the UK being involved. Not only would this be extremely detrimental for the British economy, it would also be very bad news for Cameron and all those Conservatives in the City.     

So where now for the Tory pledge to take powers back from Brussels? Unfortunately the days when Mrs Thatcher could wave her handbag and win concessions are well and truly over. We are all in it together and the only sensible view is to be in there and work to make the EU as good as it can be, as democratic as possible with public involvement at all levels of decision making.

David Cameron has now has to face up to the Euro demon in his own party. Arch-Tory Tim Montgomerie put it well on the Andrew Marr show yesterday morning. Cameron’s choice is between his pro-EU Lib-Dem coalition partners or the Eurosceptic majority in the Tory Party.

So will it be Government or will it be Party? It’s been a long time since a Prime Minister has faced such an impossible choice, a choice largely of his own making.