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Published on October 24th, 2011 | by Ben Phillips
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="William Hague's warnings may count for little."]Photo credit: FCO [/caption] William Hague's warnings may count for little. Although there is no prospect that the government will lose tonight's Commons vote on an EU referendum, a motion tabled by David Nuttall MP, the damage inflicted on David Cameron may nonetheless be immense. The bare statistics are bad enough. If Tory MPs divide this evening along the anticipated lines, it will not just constitute the biggest rebellion of Cameron's premiership to date but the biggest rebellion on Europe that any Conservative government has faced, far outstripping that faced by John Major over the Maastricht treaty in May 1993. This time, the Guardian reports, there may be no fewer than ninety rebels, a degree of dissent proportionate to Major's forty-one rebels in terms of the two governments' respective majorities which may prove every bit as crippling. Speaking on Today this morning, Hague offset his own well-documented Euroscepticism in order to insist that Nutall's motion represented a serious blunder. It was, he remarked, 'the wrong question at the wrong time...It was not in the manifesto of either of the governing parties, it cuts right across the rules for holding referendums that we have just agreed by a large majority, [and] it would create additional economic uncertainty.' Yet challenged on the Conservative leadership's seemingly draconian decision to impose a three-line whip, compelling their backbenchers to support the party line, instead of permitting a free vote, Hague merely claimed that such was standard practice for all governments. In reality, this move, which has drawn serious accusations of mismanagement, stems from the hybrid nature of Cameron's attitude to Europe. Thatcher's political children, Cameron and his associates are also John Major's old political understudies. While the issue of Britain's EU membership merely lurked in the background, Cameron was accordingly content to mollify his party's Eurosceptics with Thatcherite paeans to national sovereignty and noncommittal promises of legislative powers soon to be repatriated from Brussels. Yet now the issue has come to the fore, so has Cameron's determination not to repeat Major's mistakes: if the Commons is to vote on EU membership, Eurosceptic dissent will be crushed beforehand.

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The EU referendum vote and the challenge to Cameron (Part 1 of 2)

Photo credit: FCO

William Hague's warnings may count for little.

William Hague’s warnings may count for little. Although there is no prospect that the government will lose tonight’s Commons vote on an EU referendum, a motion tabled by David Nuttall MP, the damage inflicted on David Cameron may nonetheless be immense. The bare statistics are bad enough. If Tory MPs divide this evening along the anticipated lines, it will not just constitute the biggest rebellion of Cameron’s premiership to date but the biggest rebellion on Europe that any Conservative government has faced, far outstripping that faced by John Major over the Maastricht treaty in May 1993. This time, the Guardian reports, there may be no fewer than ninety rebels, a degree of dissent proportionate to Major’s forty-one rebels in terms of the two governments’ respective majorities which may prove every bit as crippling.

Speaking on Today this morning, Hague offset his own well-documented Euroscepticism in order to insist that Nutall’s motion represented a serious blunder. It was, he remarked, ‘the wrong question at the wrong time…It was not in the manifesto of either of the governing parties, it cuts right across the rules for holding referendums that we have just agreed by a large majority, [and] it would create additional economic uncertainty.’ Yet challenged on the Conservative leadership’s seemingly draconian decision to impose a three-line whip, compelling their backbenchers to support the party line, instead of permitting a free vote, Hague merely claimed that such was standard practice for all governments. In reality, this move, which has drawn serious accusations of mismanagement, stems from the hybrid nature of Cameron’s attitude to Europe. Thatcher’s political children, Cameron and his associates are also John Major’s old political understudies. While the issue of Britain’s EU membership merely lurked in the background, Cameron was accordingly content to mollify his party’s Eurosceptics with Thatcherite paeans to national sovereignty and noncommittal promises of legislative powers soon to be repatriated from Brussels. Yet now the issue has come to the fore, so has Cameron’s determination not to repeat Major’s mistakes: if the Commons is to vote on EU membership, Eurosceptic dissent will be crushed beforehand.

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