What’s the worst that could happen?

So, Dave decided to take the leap.

He’s not getting remarried or anything, although he certainly seems to have divorced himself from his stance from late last year, that giving the British public an in/out vote on Europe was a “false choice”…whatever that is supposed to mean.

After all that, the gauntlet has been thrown. Seemingly emboldened by Holyrood’s acceptance of terms for the Scottish independence referendum set for 2014 (either that, or he is simply taking the only – albeit short-term – face-saving measure left to him by an increasingly belligerent UKIP and ever-audacious backbench Arch-Tories and assorted Eurosceptics) Cameron has decided that now is the time to declare the referendum. Oh wait, no … that’s 2017. IF re-elected. IF he remains Prime Minister. IF otherwise unforeseeable events don’t cause him to Clegg it and issue a retraction with a brief apology over untenable promises…again.

But surely a final referendum is a good thing? Yes…in theory. I’m not saying I think an EU referendum would see as poor a turnout as for A/V (although with voter apathy in the UK still leading the flock of the European disaffected [statistic], who knows). It is, however, in plebiscites such as this that the fringes mobilise. UKIP, a single-interest-group-cum-political-party, was founded with the sole purpose of seeing the UK government put such a referendum to the British people (and it ending in their favour, I am assuming).

Naturally, therefore, UKIP can already chalk this up as an initial win. Eurosceptic-in-Chief Nigel Farage said of Cameron’s decision: “The very fact that we are talking about the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union is Ukip’s biggest victory to date. Even five years ago the thought of this issue being even discussed was an anathema”.

“But what is the worst that could happen?” I was asked the other day. Well, what happens if Scotland opts for independence? The squabbling that would inevitably ensue over who gets what (oil, debt, assets, the family pet, etc.) would last well into 2015 and surely affect the outcome of a general election. Given that all three major parties (I’m giving the Lib Dems the benefit of the doubt here, even if their approval rating places them on a par with UKIP) in Westminster are supporting union, I would find it very hard to believe any of them scoring political points from Scottish secession.

Who would? Reactionary, nationalist, protectionist, conveniently I-told-you-so UKIP. (Or would that be EWIP by that point?) Then what will Dave do?

  1. Chicken out on his pledge for a second referendum? Half of the Conservative grass roots vote UKIP.
  2. Insist on the referendum and bring the issue front and centre? Conservatives look weak next to UKIP, who will still benefit.
  3. Conveniently let the issue fall by the wayside and not bring it up? Every other party will, especially UKIP.

So, however Cam spins it, a lost Scottish vote will cripple him and his party right before the election, and the only benefactors (south of the Wall, at least) will be the far right.

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