Tuesday, 25 October 2011
A vote for independence?
If a week is a long time in politics, it only took a few days for us to witness two party leaders appealing to their parties for support.
Over the weekend Alex Salmond addressed his party conference and outlined the case for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom. He had a rapturous welcome by his party members and even the Scottish voters are beginning to warm to the prospect if the latest opinion polls are to be believed.
Meanwhile in Westminster David Cameron appealed to his parliamentary colleagues for their support and their response was to give him a large raspberry.
All he wanted was for them to not go in for gesture politics and vote for a referendum on leaving the EU. The majority of his back benchers chose to ignore his pleas. This despite him pandering to the anti-Europeans by agreeing with them that powers ought to be repatriated, but now was not the right time. It begs the question, when?
The one party leader is riding high, the other is a bust flush. You can decide in which category they fall in.
Clearly you can’t expect to sit at the top table of the EU to protect UK interests and at the same time send a message to very same body that you want as little to do with their rules as possible. And add, as a by the way, that most of us want to leave your club.
With more than half of David Cameron’s backbenchers prepared to vote against his wishes it is clear which way the tide is turning within the Conservative party – to be out of the EU. As a backbencher said last night after the vote “the issue isn’t going away.”
In Scotland the ruling party there is united in wishing to leave the Union but the union they want to leave is the United Kingdom.
Similar aspirations. They both want to rule themselves.
But there are differences, whilst the Scots want an end to English rule, they still see membership of the EU in their national interest. Alex Salmond, who was an economist before entering politics, can see real advantages for his country in membership of the EU.
It is quite conceivable that if Scotland gets its way it will be a full member of the European Union in a few years time whilst if the Conservatives get theirs, England will be out.
What about Wales? Currently, Wales is a net beneficiary of European aid. Its economy has been greatly helped by European infrastructure support. To be cut off from European funds would seriously damage the nation’s health.
Although it might ‘just’ conceivably be in England’s interest to leave the EU it certainly wouldn’t be in Wales's.
It would be ironic indeed, that in the process of winning power back to Westminster the Conservatives would have unwittingly given the movement for Welsh independence its biggest boost.
Has the momentum started by the Tories vote last night, unwittingly given Plaid Cymru a golden opportunity to push for a referendum on independence in Wales too?
A funny old business, politics.