Thursday, February 11, 2016

William Hague on why Conservatives are torn on the Brexit vote

Former Conservative party leader William Hague, one of the five people who did most to ensure that we still have the pound as our currency rather than having been bounced into the Europe, has a good article in the Telegraph this week about the reasons most Conservatives can understand both sides of the argument.

As he writes

"In Britain, the blending of national identity and security, practical policy rather than being a slave to theory, and belief in economic freedom with sound money, has made the Conservatives by far the most successful of our parties. But on the issue of Europe, these components of Conservative thinking mean the party is naturally and inescapably torn."

"So how does a minister or Tory MP decide which side they are on, given that they are in a party whose very strength, history and views can tip them either way? "

"They will not find the answer in what Margaret Thatcher thought, because I can join those who testify that her views varied according to whether she was in or out of office. They will have an interesting time if they consult thousands of constituents, but they will generally find the same division of instincts they feel themselves."

"They should cast aside any residual starry-eyed enthusiasm for European unity, which is faltering, or for national independence, which can be an illusion, and decide for themselves on the basis of cold facts, practical thinking and the serious risks involved."

You can read the full article here.


Jim said...

Do you think the conservative party can withstand a remain vote, or do you think it will rip itself apart following it?

that is an honest question, I am pretty unsure on it to be honest.

Chris Whiteside said...

Is it possible that the Conservative party might tear itself apart in the vent of a "Remain" vote?


Do I think it will happen?

No, provided both those Conservatives who support Brexit and those who support Remain have made a reasonable effort to campaign fairly, honestly, and with respect.

However much I may think both sides have put out a lot of what I personally think are very poor arguments, I have yet to see any evidence of the sort of seriously dishonest or nasty tactics which might make it impossible to put the party back together after the referendum.

I think 90% of the people on both sides believe at least 90% of what they have said and although there has been quite a bit of abusive material from certain media outlets and across parties I have not seen very much personal abuse directed by Conservatives at other Conservatives.

Jeremy Corbyn may have done us a favour here by making the dire consequences for the country of a catastrophic Tory split so obvious that most of us will bend over backwards to avoid it.

Stephen Bush discusses what consequences for the Conservatives might result from various referendum outcomes in a piece in the New Statesman at

Jim said...

I am just not sure on it. I just have this feeling that afterwards many will feel with "hindsight" that the vote was rigged from the start, as will a lot of the public.

I'm just not sure of the right word to put in.

All the Kings horses, and all the Kings men, ____________ put the tory's together again

Jim said...

The Conservative party to my mind have not been able to recover from Maastricht. They have not had the support they did since. They could not win a majority following the govt of HWSNBN, which was one of the least popular ever.

Granted they won a small one this time, but I still think that is only because they were the only ones with a referendum on the table. And even then I did not "trust" Cameron as such to deliver, I honestly think he was hoping for another coalition so he would never have to deliver, so he nailed his colours to mast so firmly to back out would have been suicide.

I'm just not sure the party can withstand something like that.

Chris Whiteside said...

If a "remain" vote was believed by a significant proportion of the party to have been effectively the result of tactics sufficiently unfair to amount to rigging the consequences could be extremely serious. Similarly if a "leave" vote resulted in the departure of David Cameron and the destabilisation of the government and this was seen by a significant proportion of to the party to have been the result of disloyal attacks on him by elements of the party, it is not impossible to imagine that we might have a split nearly as destructive as some of the ones we have seen in the Labour party recently.

That is a genuine danger, but I don't see either as being an inevitable result.

FWIW I think that because David Cameron has given the "Leave" side almost everything they asked for in terms of the conduct of the referendum, or done anything worse from the viewpoint of that side than express opinions they violently disagree with, I don't believe that the damage which the Conservative party will take during the referendum is likely to be irreparable.