Reading Mr Stevens on EU affairs is one of those guilty pleasures. I would suggest people take a short peruse of this article in the Guardian from 2008, The crisis in the Eurozone was already upon us, Greece, Italy, Spain Ireland and Portugal were already in the spotlights and John, dear John had this to say,
"But the eurozone offers not just a discipline to prevent the repetition of past failures, but also a more solid stimulus to future success. Membership would indeed encourage our competitive advantages, which remain significant and, if not compromised and undermined by a culture too dependent on debt and consumerism, will surely again be powerful engines of our prosperity."A man of great prescience and wisdom I think we can all agree. It's worth looking at the whole series of articles, it will give you a warm feeling that goes perfectly with a decent coffee and a croissant. So what of these arguments.
Yes, it is true that,any Conservative government worth its salt would address his series of issues far better than they do today. It is true that they cannot do so whilst they are forced to introduce deeply unpopular measures by this or that Directive or this or that ECJ or ECHR judgement (pasty tax, charity tax, prisoner votes, the current chaos surrounding Qatada). It is probably true that a Tory majority Government would at least start to approach some of these issues in a way that would give succor to its despairing membership. But would having a referendum deal with UKIP in the way he presumes? Not in any meaningful way. UKIP are currently averaging about 7-8% in the polls. 1 or 2% might decide to go back to the Tories, in the event of a promised referendum. But doesn't he think that if the Tories were to do such a thing that the Labour Party, or the Lib Dems would not do the same? Of course they would.
At which point any electoral advantage would vanish. Then there is the problem of believability. Does he really think that anybody will believe a word of it? There has been a huge change in the people who support UKIP in the last year or so. Far from being the single issue obsessives that we were (with some accuracy) caricatured, we have become a far more grounded, broad and responsive party. These days UKIP is a radio, set not just to broadcast, but to receive. Those who are joining us are doing so for a variety of reasons, though they all share our desire to govern ourselves.
A referendum promise, if it had been kept at the last election may well have 'dealt with' the UKIP problem. At least in Westminster electoral terms. But using it today in Andrew Bridgen's terms elsewhere on this site, to 'shoot the UKIP fox', is like the armchair generals in the MOD, always laying plans to fight the last war. The target has moved on. Oh he is right on Lord Bethell, a man whose latter day ardent federalism sadly has obscured magnificent work on human rights and anti-communism over decades.