It would appear that Cameron has got his dog-whistle out again as he tries to pirouette on a pin over the European Referendum issue.
He seems to be trying to say we will have a referendum but it will not be an “in or out” referendum. So what will it be on?
We could have a referendum on a specific future treaty – “Should the British Government ratify the … treaty?” The problem is at the moment the EU is just a little busy and probably don’t want to spend time pandering to David Cameron’s desires. So what is he going to do when they tell him to wait whilst they deal with something a touch more important – like making sure that a flawed currency that is key to our export success is rescued and re-organised? He either looks stupid or in high dudgeon has to go for an “in / out” referendum.
If he somehow gets a new treaty he is then stuck, because many in his party will still want to reject it, but he will have negotiated it so will presumably wish to recommend that voters vote for the treaty. But if the electorate vote “no” will he then (logically) go for an “in / out” referendum.
The referendum issue is driven by splits in the Conservative party and their fear of UKIP causing them to lose marginal seats. Strangely if the Conservative Party was to support STV (where losing protest votes can get transferred to real-hope parties), UKIP would be neutered (their chances of gaining 20% of the votes in a four member constituency is pretty small). Likewise with STV the conservatives could put up pro- and anti-europe candidates and rely on the transferring process to avoid split votes.
If we could clear the Conservatives of this two-decade long fetish, perhaps we could properly engage with the other members of the EU.