2015 has the potential of being rather interesting for eurosceptics with the impending general election in May (has it really been nearly five years since the last one...?). For us this may (or may not) prove to be a watershed in terms of the UK's membership of the EU and a promised referendum by Cameron should he win an overall majority.
Yet for the first time in decades, where the outcome of an election could have been confidently predicted, the 2015 general election is proving, so far, too hard to call. The Tories haven't yet achieved the 6% lead required just to have a majority, but Labour has its own problems being saddled with a leader who is clearly not a credible Prime Minister in waiting. Then we factor in the possible collapse of the Lib Dems and the rise of the "UKIP effect".
Perhaps the tight nature of the election reflects a national populace who have a low opinion of politicians overall, are expressing general apathy towards the process and see little difference between the bigger parties.
Eurosceptics though have a dog in the fight, namely Cameron's promise of a referendum on UK membership. As it currently stands anything less than a Tory overall majority denies us a potential referendum. This position may change in due course given that a week is long time in politics so just under six months is an eternity. Labour may also promise a referendum nearer the time. Anything can happen and this is particularly true of UKIP.
As we approach May, UKIP will inevitably face the traditional two party squeeze but it also faces other internal issues which have been seeping out in recent months. While newspapers have been conducting their usual summary and reflection of the year just past - the 'rise of UKIP' being one of them - it has been a very bad couple of months for the party. Bad headlines regarding allegations of unwelcome sexual harassment, racism and other shenanigans have led to a significant drop in poll ratings in recent weeks.
It is also true that what is emerging are internal tensions if not yet outright civil war within the party. The latest example being a leaked document reported by the Daily Mirror:
Ukip chiefs hired a City barrister to keep “bad stuff” hidden from the public, leaked documents show.
National executive committee meeting minutes from June 2013 detail how Matthew Richardson became Ukip secretary.With further 'leaks' today, can the party manage to hold itself together before May, only time will tell.
They state Mr Richardson’s role as party secretary would be deciding “whether to take injunctions out” when Ukip is criticised in the media.
The minutes state: “We need to ensure all of the bad stuff is kept out of the public domain.
“As party secretary (Mr Richardson) would try to ensure that we keep a tight reign on things.”
The revelation is damaging for Ukip chief Nigel Farage, who tries to present his party as a ‘people’s army’ which does not indulge in typical Westminster spin.
All in all though it leaves us with something of a dilemma. Voting for the Tories - a party that has consistently betrayed its country, its members and its voters - is somewhat nauseating and is something I've never done before. This blog has never really forgiven the Tories for Maastricht and particularly the membership of the ERM. To vote for them would take a Herculean effort and the intake of industrial quantities of intoxicating substances. Having checked just to make sure, we discover that voting while inebriated isn't illegal:
I've been in the pub and feel drunk. Can I vote?Then there's always the risk that Cameron won't deliver - he certainly doesn't want one and only promised under political duress. Raw political calculation though suggests he won't have a choice but to deliver - he would be removed as leader and PM before we could say 1922. And his recent Article 48 proposal gives a very stong hint that he is already preparing for a referendum campaign should he win outright in May. Personally I have an additional advantage in that having access to the full version of Oxfordshire's electoral roll means I know where he lives should he renege...
Yes. Polling station staff cannot refuse a voter simply because they are drunk or under the influence of drugs. However, if the presiding officer suspects you are incapable of voting you will be asked a series of questions to determine whether you are up to the task of casting your ballot. If the voter cannot answer satisfactorily they will be told to come back when they've sobered up.
Then there's UKIP. Yet it has been increasingly this blog's view that under its current leadership UKIP is detrimental to Eurosceptic cause - a party which has also performed copious u-turns within a very short space of time on the whim of its leader. Witterings from Witney notes yet another 'policy' inconsistency within UKIP.
More damaging is UKIP remains largely a single issue party but instead of being anti-EU it is now anti-immigrant and is being described as such. By reducing EU membership solely down to an aggressive stance on immigration, toxifies the debate, limits itself to dismissing an exit strategy which could actually win us a referendum and leaves itself very exposed to being outflanked by Cameron on Article 48.
And despite UKIP policy in the last 5 or 6 years, in so much as they have one, on demanding that Cameron promise a referendum, UKIP due to its disproportionate effect on Tory votes will deprive the party of victory which is so far the best chance we've got. 'Vote UKIP and let Labour in', is more than a soundbite. Although in terms of Prime Ministerial ability preferring Cameron to Miliband as Prime Minister is akin to wishing to be run over by a car doing 29mph instead of 30mph illustrating if one was needed what a mess our current system of governance is in.
But then, like many others, I live in a safe seat - in my case Tory - it matters little what I think...my vote is largely an irrelevance. So a spoiled ballot maybe an option which will have no impact on the outcome whatsoever and saves me from dilemmas.
Thus the UKIP sentiment of 'sod the lot' is understandable, although perhaps a better way maybe of annoying the establishment is for them to lose an in/out referendum. Oh the delights of seeing europhiles such as Howe, Clarke and the ungracious Mandelson (20mins in) weeping quietly into their state-subsidised drinks as a reaction to a successful "out" vote victory persuades me that dislike of the Tories is outweighed much more by the dislike of our EU membership and the lies that have gone with it.
So decisions, decisions decisions.
And with that thought in mind happy new year to you all...