Rebellion over EU rocks Cameron

by Daphne Liddle

PRIME MINISTER David Cameron’s grip on power was shaken last Monday when 81 back-bench Tory MPs defied a three-line whip and supported a motion calling for a national referendum on withdrawal from the European Union.

The motion, opposed by the Cabinet, their Liberal-Democrat coalition partners and Labour, was defeated by 483 votes to 111, a majority of 372.

But 81 Tories backed the motion and a further 15 abstained — revealed a party deeply divided on the issue that has dogged the Tories for decades.

At the same time French President Nicholas Sarkozy last weekend attacked Cameron as the head of a European Union country that is not in the Eurozone for “standing on the sidelines” criticising France, Germany and other Eurozone countries for their financial mismanagement.

The Tory rebels pointed out that, as the euro-crisis deepens and France and Germany are seeking to accelerate the merging of EU economies, this is the time to withdraw from Europe. And that view does have growing public support.

Cameron has tried to minimise the significance of the rebellion and Sarkozy’s attack. He claims the joint Anglo-French support for the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi and the western powers regaining control of Libya’s oil reserves shows they are really good friends.


And Cameron has tried to placate his right-wing backbenchers by proposing further anti-working class legislation by withdrawing workers’ protection from unfair dismissal.

The Tories are claiming that many companies and public sector bodies are hampered by lazy workers who cannot be sacked because of regulations.

But most employers have in place a proper procedure for dismissing workers whose work is deemed unsatisfactory. They only meet problems if they fail to adhere to their own procedures.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Scrapping protection against unfair dismissal, even for people who have given years of loyal service, will do absolutely nothing to boost the economy.

“Indeed if people are constantly in fear of losing their jobs it will lead consumers to spend even less.

“But while this proposal does nothing for growth, it does show the kind of economy those close to the Prime Minister want to create — one in which nasty bosses are given full licence to undermine those trying to maintain decent standards.

“The clue is in the name. Employers already have plenty of powers to make fair dismissals. Giving them the right to act unfairly may go down well on the backbenches, but will horrify employees.”

And Len McCluskey, general secretary of the giant union Unite, attacked Cameron offering this measure to appease right-wing Tories. He said: “It can’t be any coincidence that this sop to the right wing of the Tory party comes just 24 hours after the Prime Minister faced a massive revolt by his backbenchers demanding a referendum on Europe.

“It is despicable that this Government seeks to appease its voracious right-wing by promising to crush any powers to defend themselves that workers in this country may have left.

“UK workers are already the cheapest and easiest to sack in the European Union. Now David Cameron plans to take the nation further back to the dark days of ‘hire-and-fire.’

That is not in any way a plan for growth — it’s a pathway to workplace misery and a demoralised and less productive workforce.

“This is a government in thrall to its vested interests — a rabid business lobby and an-out of-control right wing of the Tory party. With every day they remain in office, this country becomes a more unhappy and unequal place.

“As those who study the evidence on industrial tribunals know, the system works extremely well to root out so-called vexatious claims.”

Meanwhile in Brussels EU leaders are meeting to try to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis. First they have to resolve the problem of the Greek debt.

Greece has been given impossible targets to meet and had conditions imposed that will wipe out virtually the whole welfare system and cost more millions of jobs

The Greek people are angry and refusing to accept this unjust burden. The problem was caused by bankers, not workers.

But the bail out money already extended to Greece under these harsh conditions has gone to the bankers, not the workers.

And the EU leaders have to debate the collective fund they are establishing to bail out both banks and countries in danger of economic collapse — at a time when they are all short of money. Failure to reach an agreement could spark another crisis.