Tory Eurosceptics to support David Cameron until after general election
Rightwing Conservatives expect ‘moment of reckoning’ over Europe in runup to possible EU referendum if party is re-elected.
Tory Eurosceptics are planning to stand by David Cameron even if the party performs poorly in the European elections, as the right keeps its powder dry for a battle over Europe after the general election.
One senior figure said that the “wagons are beginning to circle” protectively around the prime minister as rightwing Eurosceptics acknowledge that the Conservatives need to unite in the runup to May 2015.
But the right is preparing for a battle over Europe before the prime minister’s planned referendum on EU membership in 2017, amid warnings from insiders that it could lead to a Tory split as epic as the divisions over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.
That fissure, which pitted the former and future Tory prime ministers Sir Robert Peel and Benjamin Disraeli against each other, helped to deprive the party of a parliamentary majority for the best part of three decades.
One leading figure on the right raised the prospect of a generational split if, as they fear, Cameron tables modest demands in any EU negotiations. “That means the reckoning moment will be bigger when it eventually comes,” the Tory told the Guardian.
The warnings from the right come as the final polls before Thursday’s European election point to a victory for Ukip leader Nigel Farage. A ComRes /ITV News poll put Ukip on 33% among those certain to vote, ahead of Labour on 27%, the Conservatives on 20% and the Liberal Democrats on 7%. But the six-point Ukip lead was almost half the 11-point lead it enjoyed in another ComRes poll at the weekend.
The Tory right has long expected that Ukip would win on Thursday, which helps explain why the party is likely to avoid one of its periodic meltdowns. One senior figure said: “My impression is that the wagons are beginning to circle. I can’t see what would beat that. But we will have to see.”
- The Guardian,