WHAT are we to make of David Cameron’s pledge to allow the people of Britain to choose their own destiny when it comes to Europe?
Before we discuss what may happen as a result of his ground-breaking speech, we should consider what possessed the prime minister to make it at this particular time.
Beset by the usual simmering mid-term disenchantment, intimidated by back-benchers muttering menacingly, and worried by constituency workers sending back discouraging bulletins about supporters defecting to the UK Independence Party, Cameron knew he had to do something.
But his promise of a referendum will have had a bitter-sweet resonance for UKIP, whose recent surge in popularity shook Cameron to his soft-left core. UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, now knows he is doomed to learn the bitter truth behind the old adage, that he who wields the knife can never wear the crown.
His party’s anticipated boost at the local elections this year, and the European poll in 2014, can no longer be taken for granted.
UKIP seems destined to pay a heavy price for being right all along.
The other benefit Cameron will derive – apart from improving the Conservatives’ chances at the next general election immeasurably – is the elephant trap he has left for New Labour.
They immediately fell into it head-first by declaring that they do not support an in-out referendum.
This leaves the prime minister in possession of a multi-purpose club which he will use to beat them around the head at every opportunity between now and 2015.
In future Westminster skirmishes, while flailing around in a bid to defend the indefensible, he will be able to hit back with variations on the theme of ‘but at least we trust the British people and are not afraid of the democratic process’.
What happens between now and 2017 – which is when the referendum is likely to be held – is almost academic.
People are already dug in on both sides of the argument, and, like all trench warfare, positions are unlikely to be influenced by heavy bombardments of facts and figures. However, the BBC has already made its position clear.
In street interviews, purporting to reflect the views of Birmingham, its reporter managed not to find a single person who wanted to leave Europe.
Snow bombs and beast from the east
THESE are exciting times for weather forecast aficionados like me.
I was thrilled to add ‘the beast from the east’ to my bulging lexicon recently, but this has now been eclipsed by the phenomenally-exciting ‘snow bomb’ which was destined to explode over south Wales.
While continuing to wait impatiently for ‘the pest from the west’ and the ‘force from the north,’ I must content myself with the intriguing words of forecaster Peter Gibbs.
He assured viewers to the BBC news channel there would be ‘no more snow from the skies’.
Infuriatingly, he did not give any clues as to where it would be coming from.
Fear not, I will maintain my vigil because the truth is out there somewhere.