Dan Hannan blogging for The Telegraph, trotted out the comforting Tory euro-myth...
If the Tories refuse to give such a commitment [To hold a referendum], they will lose the general election... If they get this issue right, they will win...It's bollocks of course, as I argued a while ago. The electorate do not vote on the European issue in General elections. It is almost never (about 2%) given as a top 3 or 5 priority in polling. You may argue that "Europe" dominates the issues, 'the economy' and 'immigration' which always come on top, but the electorate simply don't see it this way. When asked, they express a broad hostility to the EU project, a desire for a referendum (the electorate is anywhere and always in favour of referenda), but no real enthusiasm for pulling out.
The EuroNutters simply can't grasp this. Yes, depending on how you ask the question, a plurality or even Majority of UK voters say they would like to leave the EU but THEY DON'T HOLD THIS POSITION VERY STRONGLY.
The other point I've been arguing for a while, so I am not matching my rhetoric to Tory policy as will be alleged. Indeed, Cameron has moved towards my position. NOW IS NOT THE TIME FOR A REFERENDUM. Simply put we don't know what we're leaving, and we might get what we want, a federal Eurozone core, and a looser periphery, led by the largest of the 'outs' The UK. Now in making this claim, I will be accused of being a closet Europhile and therefore a traitor, by people who think leaving the EU should be the Government's main priority. These people are idiots who imagine leaving is without cost (especially opportunity costs) and risk. It's all very well standing on the White cliffs of dover, imaginary Supermarine Spitfires roaring overhead, saying "Very Well, Alone!"
Unpopular on the Euorphile Lib-Dem Benches as it will be on the more frothing end of the Eurosceptic right, a renegotiation of our relationship THEN a referendum on the result, some time after the next election (hopefully when the economy is on the mend) is better than an in/out referendum now. However because this isn't a promise to hold a referendum to withdraw next Thursday, and dismantle the entire EU political machine in the UK by Thursday week, the Blazered golf-club bores of UKIP will not be satisfied. This policy will satisfy almost no-one who cares about the issue.
It's a good job almost no-one cares. Cameron is right. Renegotiate, and secure a commitment to hold a referendum on the result, when the time is right. It's problematic for a blogger, agreeing with an unpopular government who's moving along the right lines, despite the backbench headbangers and the press who are pressuring a Government into doing something stupid.
For those who think the Government's 'lost its way', this is another 'Big Issue' they've got right, assuming they can get this past the Liberal Democrats. On the cuts, taxes, benefits, schools and hospitals the Government's policies are an anathema to powerful vested interests, but not radical enough to appease the new intake of Tory MPs. The presentation, and attention to detail are lacking, but the big picture is looking good. It's just a shame no-one agrees.