Deus ex machina: Cameron’s Long Game?

This article speculates on the possibility that David Cameron is playing a long game that could win him the next election.

Whilst recent u-turns would seem to indicate that, when it comes to domestic policy, the Conservatives lack foresight, I cannot help but wonder if David Cameron is playing a long game when it comes to Europe. As eurosceptic pressure from MPs, UKIP and from around the country becomes increasingly pronounced, is the Prime Minister waiting for a particular juncture in the current euro-crisis where he can suddenly announce himself as the saviour of Britain’s sovereignty?

The notion that, imminently, the eurozone is going to have to enact full fiscal integration seems increasingly likely; so far as the UK is concerned, this should trigger a referendum on our relationship with the EU. [1] So are the domestic policy u-turns we’ve seen, which have been characterised as the result of ‘listening to the people’, merely seeding Cameron with the opportunity to perform a volte face on the European question under the auspices of heeding popular consent?

Cameron’s veto of the amendment to the Lisbon treaty at the end of 2011, although a sham in itself, was regarded by some as an accomplished cosmetic exercise; he could flex his eurosceptic credentials whilst also appease europhiles, since his veto had no substance. But was this a cynical dry run in anticipation of something more substantial and politically lucrative?

Cameron has everything to gain by adopting an ‘in-out’ EU referendum or eurosceptic strategy. He can consolidate the palpable sense of eurosceptic support from among the electorate and he could unify his party on the issue. [2] Indeed, if the Lib Dems kicked up a fuss, the strength of a referendum may well be enough for him to call a snap election that he would have the possibility of winning outright on the strength of anti-EU feelings alone. This would, of course, scotch Labour’s referendum soundings and steal the initiative from UKIP whose pressure has splintered the Tory vote.

This is the prime minister’s opportunity to perform a deus ex machina and position himself as a strong leader for his party and for the country, or else let all fall down.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012


  • 1. Given previous promises, the use of ‘should’ is here used very loosely
  • 2. Certainly there is a great deal of europhilia in the party, but with MPs no doubt fearing they will be one-term tenants of their constituencies, now might be a time to listen to the eurosceptic electorate who will keep them in power

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