Regular readers of this blog will remember that I threw my hat into the ring to succeed Ian Taylor as the Conservative candidate for Esher & Walton. I wasn’t successful, but I was pleased that a first-rate candidate was chosen, and is now our MP. On Monday he will face a difficult choice. Support the motion proposing a referendum on this country’s membership of the EU (as I believe the majority of his constituents would wish), or oppose it, as his party bosses appear to be demanding.
It is very easy for me to sit here and pontificate. I will not have a Whip cosying up to me and whispering into my ear something along the following lines:
“Look, Dom, you’re a clever chap and you have recently made a lot of very sensible suggestions about future policy after 2015. The PM sees you as a ripe candidate for promotion when some vacancies occur. You are obviously ministerial material. But DC values loyalty, and he would find it difficult to have someone in his government who did not come to his aid at a time of crisis. It’s up to you, of course, but do think about it.”
I can think of at least one current Whip who would himself find it very difficult to oppose the referendum. For me this is a matter of conscience and should not be whipped. The Conservatives went into the last election promising a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. The majority of the British population, time and again, has made it clear that they wish to express a view on the EU. The Euro project is in tatters, and we are being asked to pay some £12 billion towards the rescue package, despite having sensibly decided to stay out of the single currency. If this party is to convince the British people that it is on their side it should support this proposal.
Were I an MP and faced with the dilemma that Dom and many other MPs of the 2005 and 2010 intakes are now facing, I would say this:
“Thank you for suggesting that I might be in line for promotion. If the PM thinks I am capable of being a Minister he will promote me irrespective of my vote on this motion. If he were to decide not to do so should I support this motion, then that says a great deal more about the priorities of the upper echelons of the party than it does about me. On this issue, I must follow my own conscience.
But that’s very easy for me to say, isn’t it?