Naked Politics Blogger
As soon as the renegotiation details of Britain’s new deal with the European Union emerged from Brussels, it led to a split across both politics and society in the United Kingdom. While the leaders of the government and the opposition both support Britain remaining in a new EU, large factions from all political parties have started to pick sides.
We have already seen a disjointed Labour party after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader, and this was to be expected as he brings such a change from Tony Blair’s Third way which has been the staple diet of Labour for 20 years, but the infighting we have seen from the conservatives has been slightly more. In the days after Boris Johnson announced his decision to support Vote Leave, it galvanised both factions of the Conservative party, with the leader and several possible successors on one side and Boris and the euro sceptics on the other side. While this may be the upper level of the party, the grassroots are just as split on the issue as the coming months will see.
What has now brought this all to the boil is the way in which the sides are fighting against each other, and indeed some of the insinuations being made are exceptionally unprofessional. No matter what side of the In/Out argument you sit on, the overall campaign can almost be seen as a side show to the splits occurring within the parties. For years Europe has been a key issue, but has always exposed further issues and splits. There are many within the current parties who feel we are too soft or too hard with ISIS or who still believe that we have been too soft on investment bankers after the 2008 crash, after all not all conservatives have bankers as best friends. Every party has it factions be it left, right or centre and normally they would unite on major issues, especially the upper leadership. David Cameron went to university with many of his cabinet such as George Osborne, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, yet this time the unification has not happened. With lifelong friends going up against each other and with a leadership cycle coming up, it has the innate possibility to split the Conservative party.
If we vote to stay in the EU, David Cameron will have backed a winning horse and we have a very good chance of George Osborne becoming the next Prime Minister, because lets be honest, Labour need a 1997 type swing to sweep back into power without being propped up by the SNP. But if we vote to leave the EU we could see Boris Johnson stage an expected leadership challenge long before David Cameron’s 2019 leadership campaign, causing a rift which could mean not a single piece of legislation gets through Parliament for the next 4 years. Local associations could recall their MP’s because they did not vote and campaign on Europe as they had sold themselves in selection. With continued talk of demolishing a large proportion of constituency associations to streamline costs and fundraising efforts and also boundary moves causing serving MP’s to fight for selection in 2020 the winning team in this referendum will hold the future of the Conservative Party in their hands, and it certainly looks fragile.