Britain: Needing a general election

But the timing is awful.

They entered Coalition with a huge sense of achievement and dedication to cut the deficit and mend the economy. It was agreed between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that they'd be bound by their agreement, a cornerstone of which was that the duration of the parliament would be a full five years and the next election would be held in 2015. But Europe got in the way.

The media has tried hard to prise open this government, with rifts between Tories and LibDems alerted at every turn:
  • Human Rights Act
  • Voting Reform - the AV Referendum
  • Academies
  • 50p Tax
  • Immigration
  • NHS Reforms
  • Terrorist Control Orders
  • Bank Reforms
  • Apprenticeships
  • Secure Council House Tenancies
  • Planning Law Reforms.
But none could be so stark as that which is presented by the European issue. As the EU struggles to contain the debt crisis, lurching from one patch-up to the next, with the catastrophe of Italy looming, so the schism in the Coalition widens. 

Under normal circumstances, now would an opportune moment to call a poll in the UK so the business of government could proceed unimpeded. But the fragility of Britain's own economic position (teetering on recession), let alone the breaking of firm Coalition commitments, makes 'going to the country' an unassailable ambition, it appears. 

But could any other time be better: as Europe staggers and fumbles, with greater fiscal union and new treaties upcoming, this is an ideal moment to either renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU or break away free.

Things have come to a head with Nick Clegg, LibDem Leader and DPM, writing in The Observer that repatriation of powers from Brussels would be economic suicide. This is the direct opposite of the position taken by PM David Cameron, who has attempted to placate swelling Euroscepticism in Tory parliamentary ranks. William Hague has echoed Cameron's views. For his part, Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has steered a cautious path in maintaining that his party "would consider calls for any re-alignment of specific powers in a "hard-head, pragmatic way"" reports the BBC. Cameron has wavered, it has to be said, as he attempts to hold his fractious Coalition together. And his latest position appears to be that he'd go for returning EU powers over Britain as long as his Coalition partners agree. 

Clegg presses the case for continued British "top table" involvement in the Union.This is highly unlikely to assuage either Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers or an increasingly irritated general public.

Sunday Times and Daily Mail polls have both reported huge support for Euroscepticism. In the Sunday Times poll "41% of respondents thought that Britain would be better off if we left the EU, 29% think we would be worse off and 30% neither or don’t know" relays UK Polling Report. The Mail poll finds that more than two thirds of Britons believe the EU has become "over mighty". Forom the poll in the Daily Mail it seems Cameron will be under enormous pressure, as nine out of ten Conservatives demand repatriation, with the majority of those wanting negotiations to begin "straight away".

The Brits have, in fact, been promised a Europe Referendum before a new Treaty has to be signed. Can the public wait until then?

Europe is only a hot topic to those who consider the long view, of course. As Britain is sucked into an ever closer Union, and population projections now envisage the UK will swell to 70 million within 16 years (mostly from immigration), the harsh realities have to be faced.

Labour, with a recent history of allowing the migration floodgates to open, really doesn't have a leg to stand on when discussing this issue. And the Europhile LibDems tow Clegg's line that from the "economy, to climate change, to defence and crime, co-operation between European countries has delivered untold benefits" to the UK. 

Well, I disagee:
  •  Britain makes a consistent loss in its dealings with the EU, which has damaged Britain's competitiveness by installing a range of measures designed to slow the UK's ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and has also forced the severing of Britain's historic trading relationships.
  • Crime has increased as fast as European criminal gangs have seemlessly entered Britain. 
  • What makes Clegg think Britain can't defend itself, or provide weight to international conflicts unilaterally? 
  • I'd agree that climate change co-operation is beneficial, but would that not occur in any event: ever since Chernobyl nations have been fully aware of the drift of polution from one state to the next?
Importantly, the LibDems are now only polling at 8% according to the Sunday Times. With the Labour Party leading in that poll by a small margin of only three points over the Tories at 39% to 36% respectively, an election campaign could easily rectify the Conservatives standing. It might be tight, but it is possible the Conservatives could win, despite public concern over the current precarious domestic and global economic positions. 

Of course, Cameron is likely to carry on regardless, navigating his way deftly through this political minefield. But Italy will undoubtedly cause an implosion in Europe, in all probabablity. And, at that point, tough calls must be made.

It's a shame William Hague isn't running the show, as I've a sneeking feeling he'd be more likely to win through on every front: European, parliamentary, and with concerned domestic public opinion.

These are fascinating if problematic times for the UK.

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