The right is split – good news for the left

David Cameron, the Member for Brussels Central, has run out of ways to lie to his eurosceptic backbenchers - rejoice!

David Cameron, the Member for Brussels Central, has run out of ways to lie to his eurosceptic backbenchers – rejoice!

In an exclusive run by the Independent today, it’s found that up to 100 Conservative MPs will revolt and defy Cameron in the next election saying the UK must leave the European Union, even if he achieves concessions for Britain.

Recognising David Cameron as more of a John Major figure, trying to fend off euroscepticism within his party rather than embracing it, the rise of Ukip and the recent resignation of Douglas Carswell has given backbench Tories more confidence to ask difficult questions of their party leader.

In short, and as it has been long suspected, the right is split irreconcilably. When Tony Blair took on the left of the Labour party by ridding Clause 4, he did it in full knowledge that the centre, and parts of the right, could find a new home and populate the Labour support, while the left had virtually nowhere else to turn, save for the minefield that is British Trotskyism.

Now with the split in the right, Cameron doesn’t necessarily have his right flank covered given the rise of Ukip, and the dream of taking parts of the centre ground, with a little help from the LibDem government partners, seems like a pipe dream.

Of course the Tories have already ruled out an electoral pact with Ukip; but then Ukip should rule this out themselves anyway. In the last election many people standing for Ukip refused to run against Tories that had well known Eurosceptic convictions – drawing directly on a desire not to split the right on this issue of Europe.

But can Ukip afford to do such a thing this time? After all, and as they have cause to say over and over, they are not just a single issue party now: they are a party of flat taxes, of relaxed drug laws, and a new found love of libertarianism. These are things that the party don’t see eye to eye on with the Tories.

The difference is now that the Tories were once able contain these factions together. From Europhiles such as Kenneth Clarke to eurosceptics like Mr Carswell, but the tables have turned. With people like Zac Goldsmith saying they could be tempted by Ukip as well the change is for the foreseeable future.

That’s not to say Tory Europhiles have always had it easy: it was said that to some members Tristan Garel-Jones was known as ‘the Member for Madrid Central’. Now that the arrogance of David Cameron has taken him to believe he can change the EU from within, will he be called ‘the Member for Brussels Central’?

One wonders what else Mr Cameron can do? He will certainly be thinking hard about what to do to curb backbench disquiet. But he already promises a referendum; there was already a private members bill to leave the EU? In 2009 he left the European People’s Party – where kowtowing to Merkel would have been a lot easier – as a sop to the Eurosceptics. There’s nothing else.

Cameron doesn’t want to leave the EU, he’s run out of ways to keep his Eurosceptic backbenchers happy, and Ukip come with enough support now that British Conservatives can leave their party with their supporters and have a few more waiting for them: the risks for the rightwingers outside of the Conservative machine are becoming fewer.

The effects will probably be felt more after the election, but the right is split: good news for the left.

Carl Packman is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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