Two articles in the Wail today, one about half of the Tory MP's wanting to leave the EU and another about, errrm, half of the Tory MP's wanting to leave the EU.
Trooper Thompson nails it in spades over at his place and I find it difficult not to echo the same sentiments.
I am no Tory, however so important do I believe the issue of our continued membership in the EU to be that if at the next election the party made it clear that a vote for the Tories was a vote to get out, or at least have a referendum on the issue, that I would vote for them without hesitation. Even if the rest of the policy book was about putting kittens in microwaves and coating the cliffs of Dover in custard, I'd still vote for them. So much of our sovereignty has been handed over that nothing else matters, if we don't take that power back the issue of debt, cuts, taxation, law and order, smoking, databases, all of it, is just jigging around on the sideline like a 4 year old at a wedding reception disco.
So here's a message to all the Conservative MP's; if the reportage in the Mail is accurate (and I appreciate that it may not be), then grow a fucking pair and force the issue.
We've heard time and time again, especially during the expenses scandal, that MP's enter the job with the sincerely held intention to make a difference. Well now is the time to step up and bloody prove it.
The old doubts will come in. Is it better to be in power than to risk everything by sticking your head above the parapet? The answer is a simple no. Where is your self respect? You have an amazing opportunity to make a difference, take it. You bloody managed it in the face of the party machinery over live animals performing in circuses, you can do it on a really important issue.
Without doubt the LibDems would start cutting up rough about it, but you know what? You have to be true to your beliefs, your membership's beliefs and more importantly, your constituent's beliefs. My experience tells me that the vast majority of people are now thoroughly sick and fed up to the back teeth with the EU.
I'm not making a demand that we withdraw from the EU, but I think we at least deserve the opportunity to have our say. If an in/out referendum goes the way of 'in', then fair enough. What is not fair is that Cameron talks of cast-iron guarantees as a tool to keep the party membership happy, and then totally betrays that. Not good enough. It also means that I will never again believe a word he tells me. Why should you?
This duplicity means that your party is in real, real trouble. I know, for I have seen it with my own eyes. On Tuesday I attended a meeting held by Nigel Farage at Charing Parish Hall. As a recent joinee to UKIP, I was interested as to what I would see and hear. What surprised me was not what Farage did and said, but the people in the hall. It was standing room only, all the doors and windows were propped open as it was such a warm evening, loads of people were fanning themselves to keep cool. Not one person left before the end. The questions these people asked were salient, their responses to the answers telling.
To contextualise this, Charing is a charming little village between Ashford and Canterbury, it is right out of Darling Buds of May. The whole area is as Tory as Tory can be. There was one person in that packed hall that I would be confident in saying was younger than me, the gap between we two and the rest of the crowd was immense. These were retired people, or people well down the road to retirement. At the outset, Farage asked how many in the hall were UKIP members, fewer than a quarter of the hands went up. At the end of the evening, despite the heat, they were queueing in their droves to sign up as members.
These people ARE the Conservative party, they are the old women with elaborate hair dos, twin-set and pearls that you see at conference every year (or used to before the renta-diversity young crowd were used for doughnutting on the stage). When Farage mentioned Call Me Dave's cast iron guarantee the response from the floor was almost tangible. These people are very, very unhappy about the lie and the situation we now find ourselves in.
These are not the sort of people to bang drums and wave trade union banners, they will not storm Fortnum's or smash up the Savoy. These are the generation that were evacuated during the war, these are the people who have remained stoic in the face of Republican terrorism. There's no histrionics or shouting and chanting of slogans. They just stick their chin out with a steely determination and say, 'we'll see about that'. These are the people that the Conservative party have relied on for generations, and if what I saw on Tuesday night is representative, they're leaving the party in droves.
And you know what? These people have bridge clubs, bowls, coffee mornings, charitable events, and they'll all be telling their friends about how they joined UKIP, about how much sense that charming Mr. Farage spoke, and the word will spread.
If the Tory MP's don't snap Dave out of it, then the pro-euro wing of the Conservative party will have won, and a Pyrrhic victory it will be.
The question you need to ask yourself, as a Tory MP, is not 'can I afford to force the issue with Cameron', but 'can I afford NOT to force the issue with Cameron?'
What I saw on Tuesday was an earthquake, I reckon it is going to generate quite the tsunami. It was the first of such meetings that Farage is running in similar venues around the country, he's hit the demographic perfectly and it could spell very bad news for the Tories very quickly.