Inside the Tories' EU dogfight

The Brexit campaign has been greatly bolstered by the support of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

27 February 2016

9:00 AM


Many Tories had doubts about David Cameron’s EU renegotiation, but only Boris Johnson was promised a piece of legislation to assuage his particular concerns. It was quite a compliment. The so-called Sovereignty Bill was, in effect, the Get Boris Onside Act. It was designed to deal with the Mayor of London’s fears about the relationship between the British parliament and courts and the EU. It was also mooted that Boris would be offered a top cabinet job — perhaps Foreign Secretary. The Prime Minister was convinced that this combined offer would be enough to secure Boris for the ‘in’ campaign.

But a few days before the Brussels summit, when Oliver Letwin telephoned Boris to run through the Sovereignty Bill, he sensed trouble. As the conversation went on, Boris’s concerns seemed to multiply. Even if Cameron secured his deal, he said, EU law would still retain supremacy over UK law. And there was still no answer to the question, posed by Boris’s wife Marina Wheeler QC in The Spectator, about the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Then Johnson told Letwin he was going to put the call on speakerphone while he consulted his dinner guest Michael Gove. The Lord Chancellor was already known to be tending towards supporting ‘out’. When Letwin finally put down the phone, the Tory leader-ship had to face the fact that Boris might follow Gove in backing Brexit. Perhaps this episode explains why Cameron was so short with the Mayor when they met the next day to discuss the matter.

Four days later, Boris made it official. He would defy Cameron and advocate leaving the European Union. Today, the two best-known Tories in the land stand in direct opposition on the most important vote the UK has had since the second world war. Only one of them can win.

Cameron is infuriated by Boris’s decision and makes little attempt to disguise it. In the Commons he launched a thinly veiled and deeply personal attack on his fellow Old Etonian, implying that he was only backing ‘out’ to further his own career. After the exchange, one observer said Boris looked as if he had been mugged. A member of his camp said: ‘We weren’t expecting a warm reception, but we weren’t expecting that level of vitriol either.’

And it has only just begun. Cameroons claim Boris’s decision is an act of ‘naked self-interest’. A source close to the Tory leadership predicts that Boris’s decision to back ‘out’ will be a disaster: ‘He’s going to struggle in interviews as he doesn’t believe in getting out of Europe and he’ll face the kind of scrutiny he’s not faced before. He’s not good on detail.’

The personal attacks will only increase in ferocity as time goes on. ‘He was given all the time in the world to make up his mind,’ another source adds. ‘He’s made his bed, he’s now got to lie in it.’ When I asked if Boris could still serve in a Cameron cabinet, the acid reply was: ‘Boris will make a very good International Development Secretary.’

It might be satisfying to savage Boris in this fashion, but it is not entirely wise — as some cooler-headed Cameroons admit. No. 10 appears to have forgotten Michael Corleone’s dictum, ‘Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.’ But if it wasn’t war before, it is now. ‘Boris is going to have to come out gloves off,’ warns one minister who is backing ‘out’. The Mayor is acutely aware that he is fighting for his political life.

But leadership ambition does not entirely explain his decision to vote to leave. If Boris’s only aim was to succeed Cameron, he would have been better off playing nice, backing ‘in’ and becoming Foreign Secretary before making a leadership bid when the PM stepped down. Backing ‘out’ is a far riskier strategy as it currently looks like the losing side — one poll this week had ‘in’ ahead by two to one.

But this more perilous route to the top has greater intellectual coherence for Boris. It makes his years of mocking daft EU initiatives not just journalistic mischief-making but an attempt to alert the British public to the extent to which rules and regulations were coming from Brussels, not Westminster. As one colleague puts it, supporting ‘out’ is ‘a culmination of his career and instincts’.

But if Cameron is determined to win the civil war in the Tory party by whatever means necessary, George Osborne is already planning for the peace. Intriguingly, Osborne’s allies are letting it be known that he had the Goves to Dorneywood, the Chancellor’s country retreat, last weekend. Apparently, it was a ‘very happy occasion’. It was also a rather extraordinary one, given the timing.

Gove had already made his declaration to cabinet, visited the offices of the ‘out’ campaign Vote Leave, and posed for photographs. He had also released his personal manifesto for Brexit — the most powerful piece of writing by a British politician in living memory. Then the Goves went to break bread with the Osbornes. ‘When George realised Michael was “out” there was a moment of rage,’ explains one Tory moderniser. ‘But he’s now in full reconciliation mode — George has adapted to the new reality.’ This is about as civil as civil wars get.

More than 120 Tory MPs are backing ‘out’ — with more to declare. Gove has given the ‘out’ side intellectual firepower, and Boris has brought voter appeal. Osborne had hoped to deride all outers as cranks and gadflies. He wanted the campaign question to be: ‘Who does the country trust — the Prime Minister, or Nigel Farage?’ Cameron himself mentioned the Ukip leader four times in his interview with Andrew Marr.

The Tory leadership can still make the point that ‘no one with great economic heft’ has backed ‘out’, by which they mean no minister in either of the economic departments is making the case for Brexit. It will be hard, they hope, for ‘out’ to neutralise the economic argument and withstand the barrage by business leaders wanting to remain in the EU. How will the ‘out’ campaign respond if the pound starts collapsing days before the referendum? A great deal of effort was put into persuading Sajid Javid — an instinctive Eurosceptic — to back ‘in’. ‘It would have been very difficult if the Business Secretary had gone the other way,’ says a Tory who is supportive of the leadership.

But the ‘out’ campaign is confident that it will be able to produce some influential business backers in the next few weeks. They believe that now they have the support of senior politicians, they will be able to get people sympathetic to them to make the case for leaving in public.

The referendum will now be a proper contest. Just a few months ago, it looked like the ‘out’ campaign’s most familiar face would be Farage. It seemed as if Osborne’s plan would come off and the debate would be turned into a choice between the future and the past for both the country and the Tory party. Now the referendum battle will present two futures for voters to choose between.

Gove and Johnson will bring a distinctly 21st-century take to the campaign for leaving. They will attack the EU for being a closed regional bloc in an increasingly open world. Expect to hear a lot more of Gove’s argument that the EU ‘is an analogue union in a digital age’. This jibe is in fact a riff on the one Cameron used to attack Gordon Brown ten years ago when, responding to a budget, Cameron said: ‘He is an analogue politician in a digital age. He is the past.’ Notting Hill folklore has it that the line was actually written by Sarah Vine, Mrs Gove, now a Daily Mail columnist.

Yet for all the éclat with which Boris and Gove have backed out, it is important to remember that the odds are heavily stacked against them. The ‘in’ campaign has the Prime Minister on its side and he is still the most formidable politician of the moment. Cameron will endlessly remind voters that he isn’t running for re-election, so he is offering his view on what is best for Britain with no hidden agenda.

The Prime Minister’s message will be reinforced by the panjandrums of business who will pop up at regular intervals to warn us of the dangers of quitting the EU. They will ask an electorate, already wary on economic matters, if they really want to go through the years of disruption that leaving would entail. Another advantage for ‘in’ is the support of most of the senior Labour figures. The number of people on the centre-left making the argument for Brexit is strikingly small. If the ‘out’ campaign is to win, it will have to find a way to reach these voters without the assistance of a well-known Labour figurehead.

But what has changed in the last few days is that the ‘out’ campaign has been decisively wrested from the hands of Nigel Farage and his ‘useful Tory idiots’ and placed in the political mainstream. Gove’s declaration has given the ‘out’ campaign a clear intellectual case to present to the public, and in Boris Johnson the outers have someone who can take this argument to the country. The MPs who are joining ‘out’ — Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, Nusrat Ghani — look very much like the party’s future. Or at least a significant part of it.

For all the focus on Westminster, events beyond our borders could well determine the referendum. The migrant crisis will continue to intensify. The eurozone crisis could return with a vengeance.

But whatever happens elsewhere, the Conservative party cannot avoid the defining question: should a Tory want Britain to leave the European Union or stay in it? As William Hague has said, the party could have ten or perhaps even 15 years of power ahead, if the party can avoid tearing itself apart over Europe. As matters stand today, that’s a very big ‘if’.


Join Isabel Hardman, James Forsyth and Fraser Nelson at the ICA, near Trafalgar Square, to discuss the campaign with Ben Page, pollster at Ipsos Mori. A subscriber-only event. To book, click here. To subscribe from £1/week, click here.

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  • toasted teacakes

    Cameron’s behaviour towards Boris Johnson in the Commons was astonishingly reckless. Judging by the tone of the debate so far, which has otherwise been overwhelmingly civil and confined to policy rather than personalities, it’s as if the rest of the Conservative Party wants to avoid a repeat of the Nineties conflagration but he’s determined to goad them into tearing chunks out of one another.

    I detect hubris. I think that the man is going the way of Thatcher: he’s been leader for over a decade, has managed to steer the party through Opposition to Coalition to majority Government – increasing the Tory vote share, seeing off Ukip, driving Labour mad and crushing the Lib Dems along the way – and is still overwhelmingly likely to win the EU referendum with room to spare, and he now believes himself to be untouchable. The situation positively invites Gove, or some figure like him, to do to Cameron exactly what Geoffrey Howe did to Maggie. Cameron is a master politician and probably a lot more in tune with the majority of Tory voters out in the country than Thatcher was by the end of her time in office. But he’s also a bullying, sneering, multi-millionaire toff who finds himself on the wrong side of half the Parliamentary party and most of the party membership – whom he has deliberately insulted – on the European question. Anybody ready and willing to denounce his personal shortcomings would be shooting at an open goal.

    If, as seems most probable, Cameron gets his way over this referendum then it would probably be in both his interests and that of the party for him to go soon thereafter. What I’m afraid will actually happen is there’ll be a revenge purge of selected Leavers from the Government, which will leave serried ranks of humiliated enemies muttering on the backbenches and lead to a drip drip effect of years of stories about Tory internal splits appearing all over the media. We have been there before. We know how that story ends.

    Whichever side of the EU referendum you are on, the one thing that pretty much everybody outside of the Loony Left can agree on is that the country can ill-afford Corbyn, or some marginally less loopy successor, being let into No.10 because the Conservatives have committed seppuku over Europe. Again. Up until the last few days, I thought that this Prime Minister had enough good sense to do his best to avoid such an outcome. I am now very much afraid that I may have been mistaken.

    • Malcolm Knott

      I agree. Speaking of hubris, did you notice the Prime Minister’s jibe about Corbyn’s personal appearance? That was like the matador turning his back on the bull to show his contempt for his opponent: flashy, but unwise.

      • paul

        I would call it being pig ignorant as manners maketh the man old boy !!!

        • Conway

          Ah, but Cameron is not a Wykhamist.

  • diqi

    “… Cameron will endlessly remind voters that he isn’t running for
    re-election, so he is offering his view on what is best for Britain with
    no hidden agenda.”

    But the point is that his agenda is hidden, he has no motivation to do what is right by the majority of voters rather than the majority of the elites.

    If he really was looking out for our interests he would have declared that it was impossible to reform the EU, impossible to meet his manifesto promise and so offer facts and truth to allow the country to make up it’s mind. Instead we get obfuscation, threats and waffle. Then his senior civil servant blocks the outers for access to infoirmnation and analysis.

    What Cameron has really done is to deny us an objective assessment.

    If the remain case was so beneficial, logical and economically sound then there would be no need for the dirty tricks.

    • JewishKuffar

      He is running for election, as President of Europe. He will have no more care for Britain other than the stepping-stone it can provide him to a cosy EU sincecure.

    • Rodolph de Salis

      All most reminiscent of Blair’s dodgy dossier.

  • ThatOneChap

    A shake up of the Conservatives has been required for some time and there’s no doubt that Brexit will result in a Tory squabble or even a civil war. However this is far bigger than Tory internal politics and we cannot let the referendum be framed in such a manner.

  • Atticus

    So Mr Gove is in line for losing his job. It’s no wonder then that I saw the sycophants of the Tory cabinet nodding with glazed expressions as Mr Cameron delivered a speech of half truths and fear mongering on TV last night.

    I shake my head in wonder at how we ended up with such a spineless set of politicians governing so great a nation.

    • John Carins

      Absolutely right. I hope Cameron sacks Gove because it will be a huge mistake and really split the Tories. These alienated Tories are then more likely to start a new party or defect to UKIP.. The British people need a strong Eurosceptic party in Westminster to represent them.

      • Conway

        Well the current “conservative” party most certainly is NOT Eurosceptic. It’s why I gave up on them.

    • geoIndigo

      Great?! After Brexit when Scotland splits and we can’t even call outselves Britain anymore – let’s see what the world thinks then..

      “Oh so now you guys are the “United [snigger..] Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland”?

      • Cav

        We don’t need the EU and Scotland will not vote to be independent, have some courage and belief in your country.

        • geoIndigo

          Wow your head sounds nearly as pie-in-the-sky as Corbyn himself!

    • Dominic Stockford

      No 10 has ordered Civil Servants at the Justice Dept not to allow Gove to see any papers relating to the EU. Effective sacking – given that many pass his desk every day.

      • Holby18

        The civil service supports the governments decisions. Whilst Ministers are free to campaign in either camp they surely must not believe they can have to support of the civil service against a government policy?

        • Dominic Stockford

          The Conservative Party decrees that ‘remain’ is government policy, but it is not the official Conservative Party position on the subject – which is ‘neutral’. There is clearly jerry-mandering going on, and the reason is also clear.

          Secondly, Mr Gove is being barred from seeing ANY papers to do with the EU, which includes those relating to doing his everyday job as Justice Secretary. This is vindictive, an effective sacking, AND is bad for the daily business of governing Britain.

          There is no excuse, rationally, for what they have ordered.

  • geoIndigo

    Poor or disingenuous analysis. No-one believes Johnson would be better off “backing ‘in’ and becoming Foreign Secretary before making a leadership bid when the PM stepped down”. Backing Brexit (probably quite quietly, certainly not vociferously) is his best way to best Osborne, and both he and everyone else knows it. I suspect this rag wants that to happen and is trying to groom its readers.

    • gunnerfan

      Very well put. Why can’t writers like Mr Forsyth, who aspire to influence, come clean at the start and stop pretending they are neutral and objective?

  • James Chilton

    If the referendum goes Cameron’s way, the future for Boris looks dim. He might just survive on the political scene as a perennial gadfly.

    • John Andrews

      The tide of history is flowing against the EU – and a rising tide carries you further uphill than a falling tide.

  • Bill Brinsmead

    James Forsyth s now clearly part of the Barclay Bros, Neil, Johnson, Telegraph, Charles Moore, nexus for Brexit. Tactical incoherence from BoGo; out in order to get back in.

    • gunnerfan

      Fully agree.

  • Sean L

    Good dog!

  • Michael H Kenyon

    Cameron’s running for a post-PM directorship earner, as are his other toadies. They see Blair having become quids-in, and want some, too. The insincerity of the “Ins” is blatant. I hope to see a Geoffrey Howe/ J’Accuse moment coming up, particularly given how personally obnoxious the PM is becoming.

  • Peter Stroud

    Lord Owen’s main reasons for wishing to leave the EU were twofold. He believed that the union was already too large, and contained some smaller states that would never be able to attain the level of economic and political stability enjoyed by the larger states. His second reason was that, in his opinion, the single currency could not survive in such an economically diverse collection of states. Pretty sound reasons, in my opinion. And it should be remembered that Lord Owen was a founder member of what has become the LibDem party. The most Europhile party in UK politics.

    • jeremy Morfey

      Not quite. David Owen actually led the splinter group “The Continuing SDP” when the rest of his party merged with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats.

      Nevertheless, one of the two defining policies upon which the SDP was founded, breaking off from Labour, was its enthusiasm for Europe. Indeed co-founder Roy Jenkins was President of the European Commission for a while.

      • Peter Stroud

        Thanks for the clarification.

  • jeffersonian

    Regarding Cameron’s alleged fury with Gove/Boris notwithstanding, isn’t it remarkable that so few highlight the PM’s own colossal dishonesty in presenting the threadbare and legally very tentative agreement the EU has allowed him to reach as ‘fundamental reform’?

    Sajid Javid’s and Theresa May’s support of this fraud without blushing is a triumph to opportunism and careerism.

    Cameron kept saying that he, as opposed to Boris, ‘had no agenda’. Really? His agenda seems to be hoodwink the (apathetic and mainly indifferent) British electorate into giving up our sovereignty. Far far worse than any hopes Boris might be nursing re the Tory leadership.

    • milford

      Yes Javid and May have shown their true colours. Dave’s future’s in the EU. The peanuts one gets as PM fades into insignificance when one’s President of the EU.

    • thomasaikenhead

      “Sajid Javid’s and Theresa May’s support of this fraud without blushing is a triumph to opportunism and careerism.”

      They will be forever tarnished by their actions.

      In the future, they will never escape that taunt;

      “Where were you when the EU was being discussed”?

    • Alex

      Allowed him to reach? It was all he asked for – indeed it was all the Brexit bunch could come up with after months of racking their brains for what they actually wanted from the EU.

  • paul

    Flashman Cameron the old overgrown Public Schoolboy Bully is clearly rattled he will be eating gravel in the car park outside Parliament next and then he will complain to The Oxford City Council about the lack of Mental Health Care in the Community he is a total disgrace !!!

    • Terry Field

      Good lord, you as mad as a hatter. Barking.

      • polidorisghost

        Yes. yes, everyone is mad except you.

  • john

    Can nobody see the difference between the UK and the US when it comes to political debate? In the US constituencies in every part of the 50 States are involved and an incredible range of interests participate. In Britain, its Oxbridge and Eton versus Oxbridge and Eton – with guidance from Prince William. The US is a democracy – UK is a class-based quasi democracy.

    • milford

      Yes anyone can be president, after all, you only need a few billion dollars to run for the US presidency. It’s totally democratic.
      I for one am green with envy.

      • john

        This comment is so bizarrely inaccurate that it’s tough to answer.
        This year: Sanders has nowt, Hillary has funds now but inherited nowt, Rubio has nowt, Cruz has nowt, the others have only what they’ve earned.

        • milford

          ‘Hillary has funds …..’ You betcha she does! The Clinton’s ‘Charity’? is worth billions of dollars with foreign heads-of-state donating hundreds of thousands of tax payer’s money into it as ‘Foreign Aid’, including Cameron.

          • john

            My response showed that your view of the wealth of Presidential candidates is incorrect.
            The Clinton Charity is a not-for-profit.
            But this is not the point, in the US a huge share of the population is actively involved in the political process (state by state caucuses etc).
            In the UK, the process is dominated by and largely controlled by a small London based elite.

          • milford

            That’s just what you see on the telly. There’s loads of other stuff going on in the world that they don’t put on the telly. Weird I know but there you go eh..

          • Terry Field

            She is bought and paid for by special interest groups. Corrupt. Nothing more or less.

        • Coromandel

          Current spending:

          Clinton: $188,000,000
          Cruz: $101,000,000
          Sanders: $97,000,000
          Carson: $70,000,000
          Rubio: $69,000,000
          Trump: $25,000,000
          Kasich: $15,000,000
          Stein: $300,000

          Other Candidates: $297,000,000

          • john

            Do I take it you can’t differentiate between personal wealth (topic of this thread) and contributed funds? The point is that only a couple of the Presidential candidates are in the 1%. Most have only salaried income.

          • Alex

            So which special interests contribute the money? Sanders is OK, his are all grassroots donations. But other than that the personally wealthy candidates like Trump are actually better bets: at least they are not beholden to anyone.

          • john

            This is not the topic – it is the personal wealth of individual candidates. BTW Trump is a far worse bet – he has huge vested interests in ongoing hotel/golf course deals (eg Scotland, Washington DC) – these will be conflicts of interest if he is President (God forbid!).

    • Terry Field

      Indeed, in Britain the paucity of debate, with the Goebbels-like BBC ‘moderating’ all thinking is dreadfully narrow.

    • terence patrick hewett

      Thatchers antecedents were corner shop: Heath was a grammar school boy: Majors parents were music hall entertainers: Callaghan worked for the tax office: Wilson was grammar school.

  • Brian Jones

    It’s all very interesting what’s happening inside the Tory party but will someone tell us what Labour are doing , you know labour , the Working Man’s Party, who seem quite happy to have immigrants from all over Europe , and the rest of the world, come and undercut wages , clog up the schools and housing without saying a word about it other than , to paraphrase Milliband , tell us we’re too stupid to make such an important decision.

    • Brian Jones

      I’m a Tory voter who will definitely be voting out by the way.

      • Terry Field

        I am a T
        ory voter and I won’t. So poo to you.

        • Conway

          You do your case no good by adding stupid yah boo sucks comments.

          • Terry Field

            I have no case! These comments are pure entertainment. These columns are one massive joke!

          • polidorisghost

            “These columns are one massive joke!”

            Maybe if you didn’t take part……

          • Terry Field

            I am a vulture, ripping tasty bits of absurdity from the column, chewing them and their progenitors up, and spitting them out with the scorn and contempt that they deserve.

          • polidorisghost

            You flatter yourself

        • Lawrence James.


          • Terry Field


    • John Andrews

      It is standing on the side lines and hoping it will not have to play a part.

  • sarahsmith232

    Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng, Dominic Raab, Nusrat Ghani – look like the party’s future? hmm, they might look a bit more like people with zero emotional connection to Europe. Abbott is only pro immigration when it’s not white, if it’s white and really very dependent then that she can handle, when it’s white, middle-class and educated she’s immediately hostile (check ’96 and her statements about ‘white, blond, blue-eyed’ Finnish nurses for evidence). Muslims are anti EU cause of white, Christian, European immigration. Vince Cable believes himself pro immigration, he’s not, he’s another one, pro when it’s of benefit to him, v.v.v. anti when it’s rich world immigration. The 4 Tories prob’ want to be cautious about registering as another e.g of hypocrisy, I note Gove seems to have suddenly become an anti immigration convert, having previously spent decades denouncing anyone asking for a few controls as backward.
    This is what i’m seeing when i’m watching all of this. Career politicians coming out with any old claptrap if they think it’ll work for them politically. I’m for Raab as next Tory leader, if he shows he’s nothing more than another brainwashed Metropolitan with zero intention of getting a grip on out of control immigration then i’m still Ukip.

  • Richard Brinton

    It is interesting to observe the absolute delinquency of this referendum with regard to the potential effect on the City Of London where financial houses would migrate over time to Frankfurt should the incompetent, irresponsible Tories get an OUT result. Never would anyone have inflicted so much damage on Britain since the Blitz.

    • sidor

      It has to be reminded that the Blitz was an attempt to include Britain in the European Union (3d Reich). Do you suggest that its failure was damaging for Britain?

      • Terry Field

        You are quite plainly mentally ill.

        • sidor

          Thanks for your interesting opinion. Which particular fact of those I mentioned are you unaware of?

        • polidorisghost

          “You are quite plainly mentally ill.”
          Then you should have no problem dismantling his argument.
          But you can’t.

          • Lawrence James.

            Here’s a start: the Blitz was part of attempt to coerce Britain into make terms with Hitler’s European empire which was a product of conquest and repression. To compare it with the European Union is further evidence of the sheer stupidity of so many of the out arguments. It is an insult to our intelligence.

          • Terry Field

            What argument. The ravings of a lunatic.

          • sylvesterthecat

            How about some reasoned argument and drop the ad hominem stuff eh?

    • John Andrews

      As everyone points out, this is exactly what was said about the UK staying out of the Euro.

      • Lazydaisy

        I can honestly say that every single bad thing predicted about the EU has come true; while none of the good things have happened.
        And then on 19th February 2016, Martin Schulz – a fat, bulging-eyed Teuton of a kind most normally seen in war-time dramas threatening a female British spy – says these immortal words:

        “We will kill any deal that is good for Britain”

        Says everything you need to know about the EU.

        • John Andrews

          Great account of Herr Schultz’s ugly mug! I wonder if we should re-invade the Fatherland. We haven’t done it once this century.

          • LG

            As long as the Russians have beaten the Germans first. Like last time.

          • John Andrews

            The Russians supplied the men but they would have not have achieved much without western material and technical help.

    • Holby18

      You are right. the small investment companies say there would be no change. However, the big companies such as Goldman Sachs say they would have to move. Given how much the financial sector provides for our GDP this would be disastrous.

  • Watt

    The guys heading north from Greece and Turkey will swing it for Brexit. They tend to go full blown come June.

    • sylvesterthecat

      Events dear boy, events !

  • Dominic Stockford

    EU = TTIP = Privatisation of the NHS.
    Get that into people’s heads and they’ll be flooding into the leave camp.

  • Terry Field

    Boris is unconvincing, and is obviously egomaniacal and self-centred.Gove is clever, but lacks the ‘common’ touch

  • Conway

    ‘He’s going to struggle in interviews as he doesn’t believe in getting out of Europe…” Good thing, too! We’ll have a job dragging the UK away from the continent. I do wish people wouldn’t mix up Europe (a landmass with a diversity of countries) and the EU (a sclerotic, undemocratic institution which is intent on destroying said diversity of countries).

  • Hospitaller

    So the Tory party is more interested in staying in power than it is in promoting British interests by leaving the EU. Nice to have them tell the truth, for once in their worthless, miserable lives. As for Cameron complaining that Boris is promoting his own self interest – very nice case of the pot calling the kettle black right there. All Cameron has ever done is promote his own self interest.

    • geoIndigo

      The art of only questioning the motives of those with diverging views.. what IS that word??

  • antoncheckout

    Hague is good example of how politicians get corrupted the moment the walk up the marble flight of stairs at the FCO.

  • antoncheckout

    Letwin – there’s another Tory Wet-lin. Just to have him flapping around in the Remain camp must help the Brexiters – or it would if he were of any importance at all.

  • John Andrews

    Thank you for the best overview of the referendum campaign I have read.
    Like the occupants of a medieval castle, Tory leaders retain control and enjoy support from the baronage. But the tide of history is flowing against them, in their own party, in the country and among the peoples of Europe. If Gove and Johnson ride hard and hold their lances steady, victory in June is a distinct possibility. Frank Field, David Owen and Nigel Lawson may be figures from the past but they demonstrate the wide and deep anti-EU changes on the battlefield. Farage’s role now seems closer to that of a skirmisher – an important function.

  • thomasaikenhead

    It is The Corn Laws all over again for the Conservative Party.

    Cameron will be gone in two years whatever the outcome of the EU vote, much, much sooner if he loses, of course.

    His successor will inherit a foreign policy that is a shambles, no economic policy worth the name. Trident replacement in the balance, massive resentment over the multinationals that pay no tax but are popular with Tory politicians for lucrative post-retirement sinecures, a nightmare regarding British policy on immigration and a Conservative Party deeply divided with a great deal of rancour and resentment, with the additional bonus of Scotland pushing for a referendum to leave the UK.

    What a legacy David Cameron will leave!

    • SocratesWept

      And no idea of how we will fund pensions and the welfare state, or reliably meet our energy needs…

  • Holby18

    I voted for the Conservative Party after Tony Blair was ousted from Labour. The reason i did so after supporting labour for years was David Cameron who in my opinion is a one nation Tory. I could never have voted for previous leaders such as IDS, MH etc. If DC is ousted, I will not vote for the conservative party. Neither could I vote Labour with that 1980s socialist as leader.

    I will never vote for Boris Johnson. I am with Nick Cohen and Bruce Anderson who have penned excellent articles on him in recent weeks. I think he would be a disaster as leader and PM. Jolly nice fellow and all that. However, much more suitable for a celebrity TV programme thyan representing my interests. Even the interview he gave last Sunday was flawed – wanting his cake and eating it. He really does believe in membership of a reformed EU. Everything he has written tells me that. What he is doing is looking to the membership (mostly like me oldies) who are anti EU. He wants to be leader and this is the best way he can do this. I sincerely hope that he is not selected by the PLP. They would be quite mad to do so.

    I have yet to make up my mind what way I shall vote. I have been reading the financial press particularly those of the large traders and banks. The economy does matter to me as I need to protect my investments and I worry about years of uncertainty that would follow a Brexit.

    I am also very worried about immigration. Living in a food producing area I am constantly alarmed at how my small town is growing. Nursery places, medical appointments etc are becoming difficult. Last week I saw a rather large mini bus with some 20 Romanians in it (from numberplate) and felt worried.. At the same time I have to balance that out with the local economy which would go bust without migrant labour and EU subsidies.

    A very complicated decision. I am reading everything I can and have subscribed to EU newsletters etc. It is not an easy decision to make. I hate the unelected bureaucrats. I am worried about the next decade if Turkey becomes a member too. All those people having the right to resettle.

    Given all the problems and anxieties i am still leaning towards remain. I worry about security – Russia would love the EU to fragment. We are a small Island and where we would stand in the world. Being the fifth largest economy does not provide me with comfort as I see Asia developing and Africa. in the decades to come we will be down the league of wealthiest countries.

    I shall continue to read, not listen to biased journalists and politicians too. I read that some who voted out are involved in boundary changes and have put their own careers before the country. That is what Boris is doing right now. He must think we are all daft and are taken in by him. I shall balance all – see the wood from the trees and then decide.

    • Space 1999

      Partly because of demographics, several studies predict we’ll overtake Germany in a decade or so, going up to 4th ranked country in the world in GDP terms. The world’s top four economies outside the EU, and free to trade with one another…

      Putin is no threat just so long as his economy continues to be a basket case. No sign of any change until oil prices rise steeply, and that’s not on the cards thanks to the US abundance of shale gas. As long as we stay in NATO we have nothing to worry about, providing we don’t let our Armed Forces shrink any more and/or get subsumed into the planned EU army.

  • Suzy61

    I was watching Marr this morning.

    He was giddy with excitement at the Boris/Cameron spat – as is every media outlet in the country. He rolled over like a puppy at Eagle’s assertion that the only party in disarray is the Conservatives (Corbyn attending the CDN rally was thrown away) and something tells me that anyone connected to the Westminster bubble finds this all so much more interesting than the plebs.

    Am I alone in finding the whole thing tedious?

    I really don’t give a cuss who is where on June 24th….as long as we are OUT of the EU.

    • Space 1999

      Good point. The media overplay the role of politicians. It will be people’s own experiences that guide their vote.

  • Richard Brinton

    As stated in an earlier post I am scandalised that a referendum is taking place at all. Britain has always impressed me by its parliamentary democracy and now not content with a referendum in 1975 we need another one as if one should call a referendum every time a group of dissidents become rowdy. I am not a monarchist and be reassured I am not requesting a referendum for the disestablishment of the Monarchy but I feel sympathy for the Queen who loves every corner of the UK and all those peoples connected with British history but here we have the Tories poised to wreck havoc with Britain’s standing in the world and the very likely destruction of the Union of the UK. There exists a cohort of individuals who are infinitely more destructive than yobs and hooligans put together because they are obsessed by vanity like a renaissance Pope insisting the world was the centre of the universe or Cnut the Great commanding the waves to retreat. Well, we should know that vanity leads to disaster and collaboration is the only route to security and strength.

    • RobertRetyred

      He is the Heir to Blair.

    • Space 1999

      This is satire, right?

    • Stuart Gairns

      The apocryphal story of Cnut commanded the waves, was to show to his fanatical followers that he didn’t have divine power, not that he thought that he could stem the tide.

      Also, I’d be totally down for a vote on the Monarchy – I didn’t vote for the Queen.

  • LG
    • Space 1999

      This is because all those big companies are actually part of the EU machinery. Google ‘European Round Table of Industrialists’ and you’ll see that turkeys ain’t going to vote for Christmas…


    • gillardgone

      It will be much more so if we don’t remove ourselves. BREXIT.

  • gillardgone

    It will make not a jot of difference as the trade deals that the EU has are not on behalf of the EU but Britain and each 28 member states and so stay in place even when we decide to remove ourselves from the dead hand of the EU.

  • Fenman

    Cameron’s increasingly ludicrous claims on behalf odf the EU defy economic basics. Between 201 and 2015 2 million foreign workers took jobs in theuk and UK wages were stagnant. Why would this change with the planned entry of even more cheap labour from Turkey, Alabania and Bosnia? Floodingthemarket with cheap labour keeps wages down, which , of course , is why the big corporations and muti nationals love it.
    Cameron is defying the laws of supply and deamnd