Enjoy today, because the EU time-bomb is ticking
Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30
David Cameron better enjoy today. The EU debates to come will leave him scarred.
Mr Cameron is now back in No 10, with a majority, but not without some storm clouds already gathering on the horizon. He may soon be looking back nostalgically to the days of coalition when he had only to agree a deal within The Quad, (himself, Mr Osborne, Mr Clegg and Mr Alexander) to know that it would stick in the cabinet and the Commons, even if not in the Lords.
Now, like Mr Major, he may find greater difficulty in dealing with his own awkward squad and find himself having to rely on other parties, or dissidents amongst them, to help him out. He would be wise to choose his Whips Office with very great care. Nor is he particularly fortunate in having Mr Bercow as Speaker in what might be difficult days, especially if he goes ahead with changing the rules of procedure to make good his pledge of 'English votes on English laws'.
Certainly the UK prime minister will have problems within the Conservative parliamentary party over Britain's relations with the European Union.
Not all of his colleagues are happy about his pledge to renegotiate the European Union Treaties and conduct a referendum on British membership in 2017.
Having unwisely declared before the election that he would not seek a third term as prime minister, Mr Cameron's best option would seem to be to scrape a concession or two from the authorities in Brussels, return waving a piece of paper in his hand to declare a successful outcome of his negotiations then lead a triumphant 'Yes' campaign before standing down in late 2017 or early 2018.
He will be confident of victory.
All of the big and powerful battalions will be on the side of the prime minister: the bankers, the European Commission, big business, especially the foreign multinationals, the Labour Party, the SNP, the BBC, the LibDems, and all those who wanted the UK to submit to monetary union and the Euro.
The believers in independence for the United Kingdom will have to raise the money and create an organisation to fight their cause. It might have been that Ukip would have provided the skeleton of such a body, but that is now hard to believe.
However, it will not be straightforward for the prime minister.
There are enough patriotic Tory MPs willing to risk their careers, as there were when John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty, to force him to rely on support from one or another of the socialist parties.
It was an experience which left John Major badly scarred. Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan suffered in the same way with the lack of a decent majority.
He later told me that by the autumn of 1978, when he might well have just squeaked back into office with a narrow majority, he was so sick of governing without an adequate one that he decided to risk running through the winter in hope of better things in the spring.
Alas, the Callaghan government fell on a motion of no confidence in the spring when Mrs Ewing of the SNP joined the opposition leader in putting Jim out and Margaret Thatcher in.
Strange and unpredictable are the twists and turns of politics! After all, who would have thought, even on polling day, that three of the party leaders going into this election would be gone by the following noon. (© Daily Telegraph, London)