Home / General / Was Cameron’s Referendum Decision Defensible? (SPOILER: No.)

Was Cameron’s Referendum Decision Defensible? (SPOILER: No.)

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david-brentAbove: A More Competent British Leader Named “David”

In comments, Murc argues that Cameron’s catastrophic decision to call for a referendum was defensible:

We talk a lot on this blog how all politics is the work of coalitions and that political leaders often are, counter-intuitively, often forced to follow their electorates rather than the other way around. This comes up a lot during Clinton-related sturm und drang; people will say “They put the boot into the welfare state and ran on making poor people poorer and locking up black people” and they’re not wrong, but then others will come back with “the political atmosphere of the Democratic Party and the national mood as a whole at that time required them to make compromises with the no-more-handouts and tough-on-crime wings of their own party, to say nothing of the Republicans” and they aren’t wrong either.

Or, in a more British context… there’s been a lot of talk about how Cameron is going down as “the worst PM since Neville Chamberlain.” Chamberlain is reviled by history for his appeasement… but it is ignored that Chamberlain was representing the will of the vast majority of his party, the opposition party, and most of the British electorate. If he’d tried to drag Britain to war in 1938 there’s a very good chance his government implodes.

The thing is, I buy the Chamberlain defense in re: Chamberlain. Chamberlain probably made the best choice available to him, and even if he didn’t, he certainly had no good choices available, which is often the case with famous political blunders. James Buchanan is currently ranked as the worst president in American history by scholars, and between what he stood for and his ridiculous passivity in the face of secession, I don’t find that particularly objectionable. But, to be frank, he’s ranked as the very worst because of the many generic Jacksonian hacks to attain the White House he was the one who happened to be in office when the police finally raided the floating craps game. I don’t think there were any choices Buchanan could have made to keep the Democratic coalition together. Polk, often ranked as an average or above-average president, almost certainly did more to create the conditions for the Civil War than Buchanan did. Douglas would certainly have better after secession than Buchanan was, but he wouldn’t have been able to stop the secession from happening. By that point I don’t think anybody could have. The category of political leaders remembered as being uniquely bad largely because of circumstances beyond their control is real enough.

Which is exactly what makes Cameron’s incompetence so astounding — this catastrophe was a completely unforced error. He didn’t need to call this referendum, and he really didn’t need to call this referendum.

On the first point, I just don’t buy that coalition politics compelled him to call a referendum. It should have been pretty obvious that Johnson and Gove were cynical rube-runners rather than people deeply committed to leaving the EU (and, certainly, the fact that they’ve gone into witness protection after “winning” settles the question.) While I understand the temptation to use the referendum to stop the trolling, given the downside risk the better option is obviously “put up or shut up.” It is highly unlikely that Johnson could have led a successful coup against Cameron, who had just delivered the Tories their first majority government in more than 20 years even if he wanted to, which he almost certainly didn’t.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you think Cameron had to call the referendum. As MacK said (and, I should note, Murc apparently agrees), it should be blindingly obvious that this referendum should have had some kind of supermajority requirement, starting with the assent of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. In theory, I would also prefer something like a 60% national vote, but the multiple majority requirement would make it superfluous in any case. What you certainly don’t do is call for a referendum that would lead to Brexit given 50%+1 on any given day. Even leaving aside the merits of leaving the EU, you don’t make such momentous changes based on bare popular majorities from a single vote. That a decisive number of voters who were indifferent or actively opposed to leaving the EU might have voted Leave to send a message of frustration or patriotism or whatever is something that any remotely competent leader should have seen coming. You can blame the voters if you want, but the blame is much better directed at Cameron’s stupid decision rule.

In conclusion, Cameron massively blundered. He was trolled into calling an unnecessary referendum, and even worse structured the referendum ineptly. Comparing him to Chamberlain is unfair to Chamberlain.

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  • Craigo

    I noted this in another thread, but-

    No UK referendum has had a threshold since Scotland in 1979, when the devolve side won a majority but failed to clear 40% of the total electorate. There was a backlash, and the failure was added to a very long list of Scottish grievances against Westminster.

    That doesn’t absolve Cameron’s decision not to include a threshold, but it does explain it somewhat. And I think Scott’s right on balance that Cameron didn’t need to call for a vote at all.

    And as another commenter noted, simple majoritarianism is the British default answer to most questions. 1979 was the only threshold so far, and the Northern Ireland Executive is only set up the way it is because lots of people were murdering each other at the time.

    • Scott Lemieux

      This is why I like the multiple majority requirement more than a national threshold requirement.

      If it’s true that it was impossible to call a referendum with anything buy a single-day simple majority, though, then very obviously the answer is “no referendum.”

      • petesh

        I understand that Alex Salmond explicitly but privately told Cameron back when the concept was first mooted that he had to include a multiple majority requirement, and Cameron dismissed it as completely unnecessary.

        • Craigo

          Sigh. Of course he did.

          Keep fucking that pig, Davey.

        • Warren Terra

          The clear lesson from the past week is that instead of seceding, Scotland should take over. Salmond and Sturgeon seem to have a far better grasp of the situation than anyone in London.

          Or maybe the UK just needs more seafood-named leaders? I don’t suppose there’s a Labour MP named Pike or Bass or something?

          • Camilla Highwater

            Don’t tell him.

        • skapusniak

          He might well have suggested before hand privately, but he also gave it as one of the reasons for his amendment opposing the legislation on second reading:

          Alex Salmond, for the SNP, tabled a reasoned amendment to decline the Bill a Second Reading because it did not include 16 and 17 years old in the franchise, did not provide for a double majority threshold to ensure that no nation in the UK can be taken out of the EU against its will, and did not provide that the referendum cannot be held on the same days as elections to the devolved legislatures. He also argued that a purdah provision should be included in the Bill, and that EU nationals should be included in the franchise

          From:

          http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7249/CBP-7249.pdf

          As I remember it, this was the SNP line all along.

          Of course that might have contributed to why nobody else went for any of that. There is something of a tacit convention at Westminster among the other parties of voting down SNP amendments whatever they happen to say.

        • It was good of Falange and the Leave campaign to give the SNP so many arguments about “National sovereignty” and “keeping government close to home” for them to recycle in the next Independence referendum.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Ummm, its rather ironic that someone who regularly criticizes the Senate for giving small rural red states equal power with large urban blue states, and who also opposes the Senate’s supermajority requirements, would favor both of those things in this referendum. Its almost as if your choice of governance policy has nothing to with fairness or consistency, but instead is based on whatever policies you hope to enact on any given day.

        Since Britain didn’t have a threshold or multiple majority requirement to enter the EU, it would make absolutely no sense that it have such a requirement to exit the EU. Beyond that the population of England, Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland is approximately 54M, 5M, 3M, and 2M people respectively. If Wyoming or Kansas was to suddenly get the same electoral college votes as New York you’d be howling that doing so undermines the popular vote…and yet fail to see your proposal would do the same thing.

        But I know, I know, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

        • tonycpsu

          Yes, because there are no acceptable positions between “the ridiculous number of veto points in the US system for renaming post offices” and “direct democracy where referenda are held to decide major constitutional changes.”

          • ThrottleJockey

            Ummm, hate to break it to you but the EU is at this moment still a trade pact, not its own country, which is why a substantial number of people want to get off the train before it reaches its destination…And direct democracy is often used to decide whole Constitutions themselves, not to mention major constitutional changes.

            Its funny that I don’t recall Lemieux insisting that the Scottish Independence vote have threshold and multiple majority requirements. Nor do I imagine he’ll insist on one now that a 2nd referendum is all but certain. Its especially funny since Scottish Independence involves seceding from, you know, an actual country.

            • Hogan

              the EU is at this moment still a trade pact

              [head/desk]

              • ThrottleJockey

                Notwithstanding the other aspects (security, human rights) of the EU, I phrased it that way to make a point.

                Hogan, what is it that makes such a fan of the EU? Fifteen, twenty years ago my view was quite positive, but since ’08 its been much less so. My views were then and are now based solely on its economic performance. So I’m surprised to see so many liberal Americans be so enamored of it. Why the love?

                • a_paul_in_mtl

                  “Hogan, what is it that makes (you)such a fan of the EU?”

                  I’m no fan of the United States government in general, but that doesn’t mean I think it would be a good idea for Texas to secede, for example. Love for a government body, whether local, national, or multinational, is quite beside the point.

                • Hogan

                  I’m a fan of good arguments.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Its funny that I don’t recall Lemieux insisting that the Scottish Independence vote have threshold and multiple majority requirements.

              1)What multiple majorities would this involve?

              2)I think the threshold for a secession vote should be higher than 50%+1, yes.

        • Craigo

          I know, right? It’s like when you draw a kid a bath and it’s scalding hot, and they cry. But when you fill it with ice cubes instead, they still whine! Little minds indeed.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Ummm, its rather ironic that someone who regularly criticizes the Senate for giving small rural red states equal power with large urban blue states, and who also opposes the Senate’s supermajority requirements, would favor both of those things in this referendum

          There’s no inconsistency at all. Believing in representation by population doesn’t mean that you have to agree that constitutional amendments can be passed with a simple majority vote.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Should NAFTA have required a super majority of the American electorate? If a super majority or multiple majority wasn’t required to enter the EU, it would’ve been both bizarre and unfair to impose such requirements to exit the EU.

            • Craigo

              You know that the EU and NAFTA are like, not at all comparable, right?

              Edit: Okay, so you called the EU “a trade pact” above, so no, you don’t know that.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I’m well aware of the differences and similarities of NAFTA and the EU, craigo. That the EU aspires to be a country-like-supra-national-body does not make it so.

                Notwithstanding its current aspirations, it was simply a trade pact when Britain joined.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Should NAFTA have required a super majority of the American electorate?

              It was required to pass through many veto points, so I’m not sure what your argument is.

              • tonycpsu

                It’s okay, neither is he, as evidenced by the comical goalpost-moving on the EU being simply a trade pact to downplay that the importance of the vote may justify a higher bar than a single referendum.

              • EliHawk

                It was required to pass through many veto points, so I’m not sure what your argument is.

                That the Ludlow Amendment and Bricker Amendments were a good idea, apparently?

            • a_paul_in_mtl

              Should NAFTA have been subject to a referendum at all? I’m no NAFTA fan, but if we’re going to require that every international treaty must be ratified by referendum, then that leads to an obvious question: what the hell are we playing elected representatives for?

              • Murc

                Treaties in the US already have a supermajority requirement.

                • a_paul_in_mtl

                  Among elected representatives, yes,

            • Ahuitzotl

              Should NAFTA have required a super majority

              Well, it required a super majority in the Senate, yes? so that seems to be self-defeating as arguments go

        • AB

          In most places it is more difficult to get out of a marriage than into one.

          • Procopius

            Off Topic, but: Somewhere I saw the line, “It would be good for society to make getting married as expensive as getting divorced.”

  • Karen24

    Cameron will go down not as Chamberlain but as Fritz von Papen: the man who made a catastrophic political decision for his own arrogance.

    • Craigo

      I think he’s more the Hindenburg figure. Boris is Papen, and Gove is Schleicher.

      • Schadenboner

        Hindenburg had an (arguably very*) successful military career behind him when he was installed.

        *: Although not really since Tannenberg was more of a Ludendorff operation.

        • I thought he meant the Zeppelin.

          • Karen24

            The analogy works with either reference.

          • Hogan

            In that case wouldn’t Boris be Hindenburg? A flaming Nazi gasbag.

            • Procopius

              That’s odd. I could have sworn I’ve read that Hindenburg regarded Nazis with loathing and contempt, but thought his class could keep them in line and so reluctantly accepted Hitler as Chancellor as a temporary solution to a political crisis. Did he change later?

      • ThrottleJockey

        And who is Hitler in this fine re-enactment?

  • jpgray

    Polk was a POS, but what kind of president allows his Sec of War to scatter the army and stuff materiel into the soon to be rebellious South? Buchanan eventually cottoned on to it, but Jesus.

    • Gwen

      Yeah, Buchanan was criminally incompetent.

      With regard to Polk, he at least knew what he was doing. And let’s not forget that the Texas question was not entirely about slavery. As every Texan will note, we are God’s gift to the earth and you are very fortunate to have us in your Union.

  • Joe_JP

    should be blindingly obvious that this referendum should have had some kind of supermajority requirement

    The first comment noted the national norm but as a matter of first principles, the OP suggests why a supermajority requirement should be in place in certain cases. Or, at least, (as is the rule in amending certain state constitutions), the need of multiple votes separated in time. Now, like in our country, this requirement can be applied in an excessive fashion, but (including the “indifferent” and “just sending a message” vote) this vote seems to me to show its importance.

  • Gwen

    It seems to me that Britain has had an awful lot of government-by-plebiscite recently. There was the AV referendum a few years ago, then the Scottish referendum, and now this.

    To me as an American, this seems highly unusual. Maybe it is more normal by international standards?

    Anyway, I can understand the AV ref… It was needed for the LDs to back Cameron in 2010 (this was the epic mistake that precipitated all of this… Well that and Labour backing the Iraq War… In a sense isn’t this all really Bush and Blair’s fault?).

    The SNP of course owned the Scottish question.

    But the EU question makes no sense from the perspective of coalition politics. Tories had/have a fat majority in Westminster. Seems to me that Dave either got addicted to direct democracy, or he was incredibly insecure as PM. Turning the fate of the country over to the voters, is usually not something a confident government will do.

    • Lev

      I always assumed this was about former marketing exec Cameron being much more comfortable campaigning than governing. He was a lot better at the former than the latter.

    • EliHawk

      The most important British politician of the last 20 years is Sandra Day O’Connor (or, because it’s LGM, Nader). No Bush, no Iraq, and Tony Blair’s legacy is Cool Britannia and not toxic recriminations. On 9/11 Labour was 20 points ahead in the polls. By the time Iraq was invaded and the aftermath, it was the low single digits, built mostly on economic competence and the Tories still being relatively toxic, and the bloom was completely off the rose.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Eh, that lets Blair off the hook. He didn’t have to join Bush’s folly.

        • CrunchyFrog

          The fact that Blair jumped in so eagerly and willingly is strange. Given the extensive Murdoch-Blair links, once has to wonder if Murdoch called in a favor.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            Also: even without Iraq, New Labour’s austerity lite would have created the precarity and ressentiment that helped fuel Brexit.

            • EliHawk

              New Labour didn’t have austerity lite; it took a lot of the boom revenue from 97-07 and shoved it into public services, (which was popular to the point that, pre-Crisis, Cameron and Osbourne committed to matching Labour public service spending levels), but which led to a lot of opprobrium about “Not fixing the roof when the sun was shining” from the British equivalents of Pete Peterson, the press, and the public when the crisis hit. The idea that New Labour was austerity lite is belied by the fact that all these austerity cuts are austerity from what New Labour actually, you know, spent.

          • EliHawk

            Far less likely than Murdoch conspiracies is that Blair, whose first major foreign policy crucible was Kosovo, really did believe that a) Removing Hussein would be a positive for the region and the people of Iraq b) The Special Relationship is the most important piece of British Foreign Policy, there can be no daylight between the UK and US and c) The Bush Administration can’t possibly be as big a fuckups as they turned out to be. This was a completely colossal misjudgement on all sorts of levels, but it has the Occam’s Razor quality of fitting the available evidence better than the conspiracy.

    • Manny Kant

      My understanding is that government by referendum is a relatively recent thing in British history. According to Wikipedia, there have only been thirteen since 1973, eight of which have related to devolution or independence in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland (including the 2014 Scottish independence referendum), and two of which were about self government for particular regions of England (one for London, one for the Northeast). Of the other three, the first was on entering the EEC in 1975, the second was the Alternative Vote referendum, and this was the third.

      So basically, this is only the third referendum ever to be held in most of England.

    • Captain Oblivious

      Apparently you don’t live in California or Florida.

  • priceyeah

    Agreed. The thing I haven’t seen anybody say is that — just based on the merits, I don’t see any reason to have believed, a year ago, that any such vote would be a shoo-in. From the vantage point of the US, the Brits have ALWAYS seemed like profound Euro-skeptics relative to the Continent, and if the problem he was trying to solve was SUPER STAUNCH Euro-skepticism within his own party, I don’t see how you get from there to “this referendum will be a cakewalk.” So there’s that.

    But wait! I’m not done. Scotland came within a whisker of leaving Britain just a couple of years ago, and totally normal countries like Norway and Denmark have opted out of the EU or the Euro when the voters are asked to choose. I am unaware of a sheaf of headlines documenting lopsided referenda in Romania and Lithuania — they might exist — but it sure seems like these votes are often close affairs. Even Scotland could have gone the other way.

    So even on the argument that he “had to” call a referendum, he should have been damned worried about it, and that he wasn’t doesn’t speak well of his political acumen. If you have to bet your mortgage on the talents of Trent Richardson (!), that’s one thing; to feel super confident about it, quite another.

    • Warren Terra

      It’s not just the Brits; as I recall, a few other EU countries have had plebiscites to ratify EU deals, and they always lose or barely squeak through. I believe the EU has been a great thing for its citizens, especially compared to not having anything of the sort, but it’s never been great at convincing them of that.

      • priceyeah

        Yes, I agree wth that entirely. The UK is probably an outlier on Euro-skepticism, but getting voters anywhere to love Strasbourg or Brussels or whatever is a bit like getting US voters to love the DMV. That’s totally right. And Brown didn’t know that.

      • Ronan

        Well yes and no. My understanding is turnout on those refs was pretty low and eurosceptics are better able to get their base out to vote so low turnout favours them.
        I voted against the Lisbon treaty (iirc) which initially failed to pass, but passed on a second ref with a higher turnout

    • priceyeah

      A simpler summation would run that Brown bet the ranch that the public couldn’t be demagogued based on its nationalistic feelings. If you had to choose a rule of thumb, betting on nationalism rather than against it would almost certainly yield better results.

      • Karen24

        Barnum’s quote about no one going broke underestimating would be apposite here.

        • Colin Day

          Barnum’s quote about no one going broke underestimating would be apposite here.

          That was Mencken.

          No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

          • LosGatosCA

            And my new corollary – when stupid meets incompetent, bet on stupid.

  • ThusBloggedAnderson

    People, please quit credulously linking a crappy Slate article that regurgitates a Chamberlain biographer.

    Munich was a military disaster. The U.K. was stronger in 1939, but so was Germany – the Rhine door could’ve been kicked

    The only defense of Chanberlain is that he couldn’t get the French on board, & we’ll never know, because he didn’t try. Add to that the failure to engage the USSR & the moral failure of giving away other people’s country …

    • Joe_JP

      What were the odds in 1938 — would Germany have gone to war if the Brits threatened? If it was pressed, what would have the possible effects in losses for the Brits? What was the will of the British people? Figure these are perhaps unanswerables but seems like a complicated matter. Anyways, the point about giving away is true regardless. Not quite Brits call there.

      • Dilan Esper

        It was definitely Britain’s call whether to go to war to stop German expansion. “Giving it away” was nothing more than “if you go in there we won’t stop you”, which is a perfectly legitimate choice as Britain had no authority to police Eastern Europe in the first instance.

        • Warren Terra

          Well, you could argue it was France’s call when they didn’t stop the remilitarization of the Rhineland.

        • Joe_JP

          I will let TBA, if he wishes, comment some more but not sure about this “no authority” business.

          First, as a matter of consistent application of their then current policy; second, as a matter of existent international law at the time.

          This is definitely not my area of even amateur expertise but look at the text between “GERMANY, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.”:

          The United Kingdom, France and Italy agree that the evacuation of the territory shall be completed by the 10th October, without any existing installations having been destroyed, and that the Czechoslovak Government will be held responsible for carrying out the evacuation without damage to the said installations.

          What authority do those countries have over Czech “responsibility” here? Also, an international commission that did include the Czechs is cited, but curious the validity under international law at the time (including per the League of Nations) of this sort of thing. Also, would think the Czechs should have signed the agreement given how specifically they were involved.

          Anyway, the agreement has more details than an agreement not use force. It seems to me, again not my area, to bless the move. You make it sound a tad more agnostic.

          • Dilan Esper

            It definitely blessed the move. But absent the agreement, Hitler invades and the British do nothing. It’s basically the same result except you avoid the forceful invasion.

      • Warren Terra

        The scenario you always see quoted – based on postwar recollections – is that the German General Staff (or whatever the correct term is, I forget) watched Hitler play chicken with the allies on Czechoslovakia and were all conspiring to remove Hitler in a coup if it looked like Hitler was going to start a big war for which (in their opinion) Germany was not ready. Then came Munich, demonstrating that Hitler’s grasp of the situation was better than theirs, and none of them seriously considered going against him until 1944.

        Mind you, this is an awfully convenient explanation – it lets the German Generals place all the blame on Chamberlain and France’s pusillanimity, if only the allies had stood firm and had their backs they would have deposed the mad warmonger. And there’s no evidence beyond the testimony of people making this argument in defense of themselves later. But it’s one you see a lot …

        • Manny Kant

          There is certainly real contemporary evidence that some generals were planning a coup. It’s not just bullshit they made up after the fact.

          That said, I’m doubtful they’d have actually gone through with it, or that if they had, it would have succeeded.

    • Dilan Esper

      Here’s the thing- as you concede, what happens if Britain goes to war earlier is a total counterfactual. We don’t know. What we do know is that Germany beat Britain like a drum when they did go to war, and it was only beaten due to BOTH the interventions of the US AND USSR, neither of which happen without a Munich.

      So the people attacking Chamberlain have a huge burden of proof. By far the default assumption is Britain goes alone and gets conquered if they don’t do the Munich deal.

      Instead, all we ever hear is that Chamberlain was naive and if they just listened to Churchill, there would never have been a long war, with its attendant Holocaust, Soviet domination if Eastern Europe, etc. And further, that this proves that appeasement can never work as a political strategy.

      Finally, there’s nothing immoral about what Chamberlain did. Britain was not the world’s policeman. When a country gets invaded, “doing nothing” is an entirely appropriate option. Chamberlain’s chief job was to prevent Britain from losing a war and to protect the people who elected him.

      • rewenzo

        Finally, there’s nothing immoral about what Chamberlain did. Britain was not the world’s policeman. When a country gets invaded, “doing nothing” is an entirely appropriate option. Chamberlain’s chief job was to prevent Britain from losing a war and to protect the people who elected him.

        1) Then why was Britain in the room in the first place? Britain could have stayed out of it completely. If you don’t want to be the world’s policeman, then don’t act like the world’s policeman.

        2) Britain was a military ally of Czechoslovakia, as was France. They had specifically agreed to defend Czechoslovakia from attack. There is something immoral in selling your ally down the river so that you don’t have to fulfill your obligations to them. It’s true that Chamberlain had a duty to his constituents, but if you can’t honor treaty commitments, don’t make them. If you feel you have to break your treaty, you can’t claim there’s nothing immoral in what you did.

        • Manny Kant

          Britain was not a military ally of Czechoslovakia, though France was.

          • a_paul_in_mtl

            It was not officially an ally, no. However France was an ally, as you mention, and Britain was an ally of France. France wanted a guarantee that its British ally would back it if it backed Czechoslovakia. Britain refused to provide that guarantee. In part, it did so because Chamberlain, the British government and the British political class were sympathetic to the idea that the idea of “self-determination of peoples” meant that Sudeten Germans should be allowed to become part of Germany. It certainly didn’t seem to be worth fighting a war over. It was only when Hitler went on to grab the rest of Czechoslovakia that British elite and popular opinion started to turn against appeasement.

        • Barry_D

          “They had specifically agreed to defend Czechoslovakia from attack. ”

          Using what?

          Thousand bomber raids?

          A million-man British invasion through the Baltic?

          Nuclear weapons?

          • Ahuitzotl

            Captain Britain!

      • Karen24

        We also forget just how very unpopular war with Germany would have been in 1938. The memories of WWI were very fresh, and many of those who survived the trenches were in government in 1938. Also, as much as we would to forget it, Fascism had quite a following among the Fashionable in the 30’s, including among some leftists. Sir Oswald Moseley, to use one example, went from being a Laborite to leading the British Union of Fascists. Hitler had pretty good press in the early days, especially since the German economy was revving along rather well by the time of Munich.

        • Barry_D

          “Also, as much as we would to forget it, Fascism had quite a following among the Fashionable in the 30’s, including among some leftists.”

          And among what proportion of industrialists and WASP bankers?

          25%? 50%? 75%?

          A lot of the elites loved Hitler. They saw him and Nazism as a bulwarks against Communists, Socialists, Unions, Jews unsavory elements, and the USSR. They liked how he revived Germany.

      • MikeJake

        We’ll never know how the Czechoslovak military could have performed defending that fortified border zone, with French and British military assistance on the way. They weren’t the Wehrmacht, but they weren’t Hungary or Romania either. Britain and France not only conceded Czechoslovak military strength, they ended up ceding a portion of it to Germany in the form of Slovakia and the Skoda works.

        But then again, maybe Germany bleeds the French in a limited war, makes peace, and sets its sights east.

        • Barry_D

          “…with French and British military assistance on the way. ”

          It would not be on the way, since there was no way to get there.
          Fighting an offensive war in the West would, so far as everybody knew, simply allow Germany to trade casualties at 5:1 or 10:1.

          And the elites were really hoping that Hitler would have gone after the USSR.

      • Manny Kant

        By far the default assumption is Britain goes alone and gets conquered if they don’t do the Munich deal.

        Whose default assumption was this? What’s the basis of your claiming this? I’ve never heard such a thing.

      • Ahuitzotl

        By far the default assumption is Britain goes alone and gets conquered if they don’t do the Munich deal.

        That would require a blissful ignorance of the actual course of WW2 to write that counterfactual. Germany had no way of conquering Britain before or during WW2, the Royal Navy is an enormous bulwark that Germany had only deficient tools to break down.

    • Murc

      The only defense of Chanberlain is that he couldn’t get the French on board

      No, it’s that he couldn’t get his own country on board.

      As I said in the part of my post Scott quoted, Chamberlain was representing the will of his party, the opposition party, and the British electorate as a whole. And on top of THAT, it wasn’t a weak preference either; British society at the time, from the top to the bottom, was not just pro-peace, it was heavily anti-war. Winston Churchill was regarded as a doddering old warmonger even by many of his own political allies.

      If Chamberlain had tried to get the Empire into a war on behalf of the Czechs, as I said, there’s actually a very good chance his government implodes and is replace by one that won’t get it into a war.

      • Manny Kant

        Labour was not at all impressed by the Munich Agreement. They just also weren’t super into spending money on the military.

        • a_paul_in_mtl

          This is true. It is also true that the British public were initially relieved by the Munich Agreement, because they did not want war. However, I am not sure that they were as antiwar as claimed. If there had been no Munich Agreement, and if there had been war, I doubt very much that the British public would have taken to the streets to prevent it. From what I have read, the mood as one of grim resignation when it seemed that war was imminent. The real reason was that Chamberlain reasoned that the Sudetenland wasn’t worth fighting for, and if it turned out that Hitler’s territorial ambitions weren’t as limited as he claimed, the British would have at least bought some time, since he thought they weren’t prepared.

          • Barry_D

            “The real reason was that Chamberlain reasoned that the Sudetenland wasn’t worth fighting for, and if it turned out that Hitler’s territorial ambitions weren’t as limited as he claimed, the British would have at least bought some time, since he thought they weren’t prepared.”

            Chamberlain’s government was cranking up things as fast as they could. IIRC, they accelerated Hurricane production, brought the Spitfire in ahead of schedule, and started Chain Home. They also manufactured a vast number of gas masks, since the (quite reasonable) assumption was that the war would bring mass gas attacks against cities.

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        Churchill was not seen as just a warmonger, but a deeply irresponsible publicity hound with no commitment to anything but his own advancement. In many ways the Boris Johnson of his day, minus the chronic adultery and abuse of women.

        • AMK

          People today forget what an absolute military and political disaster Gallipoli was, and before 1940 that was Churchill’s major claim to fame in government. He was a political outcast in his party for a reason….everyone assumed, with a substantial body of evidence, that Churchill was a fucking moron.

          He did 2 things really really well—rhetoric and a clinical inability to give up–and it turns out that’s exactly what was called for in 1940-45. As soon as a more nuanced postwar government was needed, the Brits dropped Churchill like a sack.

    • Manny Kant

      The French were defeatist, but much more clear-eyed that Hitler couldn’t be appeased than Chamberlain was. Daladier would almost certainly have gone along if Chamberlain had been firm.

      That being said, I’d say appeasement was defensible right up until Bad Godesberg, which was the tell that Hitler was completely full of shit. But at that point Chamberlain had already given up so much that it really was kind of untenable to go to war. The eleven month delay certainly had bad consequences, but it was probably necessary to get the populations of the allied countries on board for war.

      • Dilan Esper

        Why does anyone think Chamberlain really felt Hitler could be appeased? He was building up the military. Munich bought him time.

        Constructing the debate in those terms is like assuming that everyone who opposed the Iraq War felt Saddam was benevolent.

        • like assuming that everyone who opposed the Iraq War felt Saddam was benevolent.

          Which was an assumption I used to see a lot, and gods but it was infuriating.

        • Charrua

          Well, the whole reason that he needed to buy time was because he had refused to start rearmament earlier, right?
          If the Brits had been spending on defense since let’s say 1935 what the French had been spending, then not time buying would have been needed.

          • Manny Kant

            Well, Baldwin was the one who didn’t start rearmament sooner. And the Brits did start rearming in 1936 or so, just not at the pace they needed to. At any rate, it’s very clear Chamberlain wasn’t simply buying time. He saw appeasement as a genuine policy to avoid war with Hitler.

          • Barry_D

            “If the Brits had been spending on defense since let’s say 1935 what the French had been spending, then not time buying would have been needed.”

            Remember, right-wing economic doctrine was that all governments needed to *cut back* on spending, since there was a Depression on.

            Analogy: when your public health people insist on cutting sanitation back due to epidemics, reality can be a real rhymes-with-witch.

        • a_paul_in_mtl

          Why would Chamberlain build up the British military while also trying to avoid war with Germany?

          Prudence. He wasn’t a total fool.

          Also, since Germany wasn’t even supposed to have rearmed in the first place and was now surpassing Britain’s air force capacity, there was enough public concern that he probably couldn’t have got away with not rearming even if he had personally trusted Hitler 100%.

        • Manny Kant

          You can make that argument, maybe, for Baldwin or Halifax or Simon or Hoare. Even with them it’s questionable. But it’s very clear that Chamberlain himself genuinely believed there was a real possibility of peace with Hitler, from pretty much everything he said and wrote during this period. You don’t talk loudly in public about how you’ve just achieved “peace in our time” if you think you’ve just bought a year of rearmament.

          He didn’t think Hitler was benevolent – certainly Chamberlain had no fondness for National Socialism as an ideology – but he did think that the costs of a war would be horrible, and that it should be avoided if possible. And he didn’t think it was clear that Hitler was bent on war no matter what.

          I don’t think this is a totally unreasonable position (though I do think Chamberlain took it to unreasonable lengths), but it’s simply wrong to say he was just buying time for rearmament.

          • Barry_D

            “You don’t talk loudly in public about how you’ve just achieved “peace in our time” if you think you’ve just bought a year of rearmament.”

            Fascinating. Since when?

    • Ahuitzotl

      Munich was a military disaster. The U.K. was stronger in 1939, but so was Germany – the Rhine door could’ve been kicked

      Maybe, although tbh I’m not sure of that.

      But the critical thing is, there was no political will for a war in the UK, or in France, in 1938. It took another year of hyperventilating and more German aggressions, to pump it up to the relatively tepid levels it hit in Sept 1939. Chamberlain really had no recourse to war, and not really even credible threats to cow Hitler.

  • waspuppet

    It should have been pretty obvious that Johnson and Gove were cynical rube-runners rather than people deeply committed to leaving the EU (and, certainly, the fact that they’ve gone into witness protection after “winning” settles the question.)

    I don’t think Cameron is smart enough to have done this on purpose, but I’m starting to wonder whether this “(Cough)(shuffle) Well, no one said we had to leave RIGHT AWAY …” business, combined with the admission of the NHS lie and the seemingly general mood of Bregret, will ultimately do more harm to Johnson, Gove and Farage than losing would have. Probably just wishful thinking …

    • Ronan

      I linked to polling on the other thread which seems to imply bregret is a myth

      Here

      https://mobile.twitter.com/britainelects/status/746820394217259008

      • waspuppet

        Well, poop.

      • Manny Kant

        British polling generally seems to be pretty awful, though. At any rate, I think it’ll take a few months to really get a sense of it. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Bregret, even if it’s not real now, will be soon.

        • Ronan

          True, but as bad as it is it’d surely show some sign of a Bregret, even if not entirely accurate? I agree people will come to regret, just think the stories coming out in the papers might be pretty unrepresentative.

      • Dilan Esper

        I am sure there is some buyer’s remorse. But we definitely need some real evidence before we start talking about having another referendum.

  • Frank Wilhoit

    Too busy to look up the cite, but some PM from >= 100 years ago — I think Asquith, but perhaps it was Disraeli, it might even have been someone more recent — swatted down some proposal to hold a referendum by pointing out that the referendum was simply not part of the British Constitutional apparatus.

    The best possible collateral outcome here would be to reassert that principle.

    If you want to make some huge change of policy like this, there is exactly one way to do it: get a majority in the Commons. Full stop.

    If the issue is one that fractures both parties, then there will be no progress until the parties realign or the issue lapses into desuetude. (See: Unionists, Liberal; Imperialists, Liberal; Peel, Sir Robert; Chamberlain, Joseph).

    If, as a member of Her Majesty’s Government or of Her Majesty’s Opposition, you find yourself thinking “…but I must hold my Party together…”, you’ve already lost the plot. The goal of “holding the Party together” is, ipso facto, neither feasible nor respectable.

    Parliament is sovereign.

    In this situation, the concrete application of that principle might play out somewhat thus:

    1) The Commons pass a resolution rubbishing the outcome of the referendum and begging the world to take no notice.
    2) The parties realign (or not) over the next five to thirty years, against the backdrop of a quick succession of revolving-door minority/coalition Governments.
    3) If the realignment succeeds, AND Europe is its linchpin, AND the new Euroskeptic party (whatever its name) gains a Commons majority, THEN tell Brussels to sod the fuck off.

    That’s how it’s done, not by holding a decibel meter over the crib.

    • Craigo

      Worth noting that the constitutional principle has not changed – the referendum is technically not binding on the government.

      This could be the new home rule issue, sure, but I’d bet on the parties muddling along, badly split, rather than re-aligning along this one axis.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Equating the electorate to a babies and saying that only the Commons is expert enough to decide this is a very good way to persuade Brexiters that “the elites” have learned their lesson and the EU is a good thing.

    • holding a decibel meter over the crib.

      I just wanted to put that there and just kind of stand back and applaud, quietly.

      • Karen24

        I think “holding a decibel meter over the crib” really needs to become a new LGM catchphrase. Seriously, this is a genuinely brilliant formula. Thank you!

        • tonycpsu

          When is the next meeting of the Internet Traditions Council? Add this to the agenda post-haste!

          • Hogan

            Don’t we need a referendum for that?

            • Craigo

              Depends on whether we the people can force the Internet Neoliberal Elite to give us one.

              • Malaclypse

                The superdelegates will sell us out on that. They always do.

                • Ahuitzotl

                  I thought you were one of the superdelegates?

          • Colin Day

            Add this to the agenda post-haste!

            Shouldn’t that be email-haste?

        • Karen24

          I love all of you.

  • petesh

    I for one supported entering the EEC as was on social rather than economic grounds (the economics were a wash), and I regret the vote for the same reasons. What we seem to have here is a deliberate stirring of racist, or more precisely ethnocentric, attitudes. In mild forms (Welsh pride) they are not particularly harmful; but when they are encouraged by (for instance) a Manhattan-born, Eton- and Oxford-educated, French-speaking, philandering TV personality and journalist (when not being fired for making up quotes) who was partly raised in Brussels, where he met his second wife … we need a new word for cynical, which frankly is way too mild.

    Cynically, they may try to get out of it. Might even succeed, at the cost (or benefit) of shattering both major political parties in England. If Boris tries to come to the US, throw him out; he renounced his citizenship in 2015.

  • Breadbaker

    The question as framed was also entirely misleading. It might have asked, “Do you wish to remain in the EU and have a seat at the table for whatever possibility there is of reform, or leave and watch as the remaining members pick the carcass of whatever benefits Britain actually gets from it?”

    • Thom

      “Do you want the rest of the world to think you are insane?” (Maybe we could also have this for our presidential ballot.)

      • waspuppet

        I don’t think that would work nearly as well as you seem to.

  • tonycpsu

    (and, certainly, the fact that they’ve gone into witness protection after “winning” settles the question.)

    Yeah, you should see what the Leave supporters who haven’t been as successful at dodging microphones have been saying.

    “You fucked up, you trusted us!”

    Or what anonymous Leave supporters are saying to get ahead of the inevitable clusterfuck:

    “there is no plan. Leave campaign don’t have a post Brexit plan, Number 10 should have had one”

    “Don’t blame me, blame the dipshits that I blindly trusted!”

    • sharonT

      Ah, The Otter Excuse.

      I’ve had that phrase stuck in my head for over 36 hours.

    • waspuppet

      “Leave campaign don’t have a post Brexit plan, Number 10 should have had one”

      That was precisely the Republicans’ argument when they were trying to force a default.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      (and, certainly, the fact that they’ve gone into witless protection after “winning” settles the question.)

      Correcting the misspelling.

  • Daragh McDowell

    While I agree Cameron has been disastrous, I’m not sure he could have avoided either holding a referendum, or imposing a multiple majority requirement on the outcome. He’s the leader of a party in an FPTP political system – that is, just like US political leaders he heads what is effectively a coalition. A massive chunk of the Tory coalition is hard eurosceptic. Half the parliamentary party opted for Out. The membership is about 75% leave, and the general Tory electorate majority leave as well. I don’t see how Cameron could keep the party in line, while also trying to modernise it on social issues at least, without offering this kind of concession. Even then he had a hard core of irreconcilables (there was nice quote during the campaign from an MP wanting to ‘knife him in the front, so he could see the look on his face.’)

    As to the multiple majority requirement – there was already a ruction in the party over Remain allegedly having an ‘unfair’ advantage by being the official position of the government, and therefore having the civil service machinery onside until purdah began. Cameron might, MIGHT, have been able to push through legislation for a multi-majority referendum if he had a Blair/Thatcher scale majority. He has one of 12. If he had tried, dozens of his own MPs would (with some justification) revolt claiming he was making it impossible for the Leave side to win. Even if one concedes the referendum was a bad idea, I don’t think you can reasonably blame him for not setting terms for fighting it that he could never have got through parliament.

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      It’s not just that most of the party ended up supporting Leave, it’s also that most of the rest of the party wanted to use the threat of leaving to pressure the EU into granting more special exemptions to the UK. Cameron himself at one point tried to tell the EU that if he didn’t get enough concessions he would lead the Leave campaign himself!

      • Daragh McDowell

        Yep – the old ‘stop or I’ll blow my brains out’ threat.

  • Murc

    I will note that even in my original comment, I stated that it was going to be an EXTREMELY qualified defense of Cameron’s choice, and it remains such. The choice was, indeed, a mistake… but I think it’s a defensible one.

    I do agree that he made a whole bunch of fuckups along the way, not least of how the referendum was structured, that were completely unforced errors.

    But I don’t think that, if you’re David Cameron, coming to the conclusion “I have to offer the wing of my electorate that wants out out out SOMETHING, and they won’t tolerate, and the EU probably won’t tolerate either, asking for more tinkering around the edges of our EU rights and obligations. We just got done doing that. Again. I can’t promise a free vote in Parliament, it would be a nutty circus and I have a lot of MPs who are vulnerable on one flank or the other. I’m unsure how a referendum goes either, but it seems better on the optics, expression of the peoples will and all that.”

    Now, I happen to feel that a bunch of that logic is WRONG, but I do feel it is politically DEFENSIBLE. It’s not on-its-face idiotic. It’s only after he goes “right then, referendum it is” that the unforced errors start.

    But, to be frank, he’s (James Buchanan) ranked as the very worst because of the many generic Jacksonian hacks to attain the White House he was the one who happened to be in office when the police finally raided the floating craps game.

    Well, I also disagree with this. There are plenty of generic Jacksonian hacks who would have reacted far differently than Buchanan did to secession. Jackson, himself, probably doesn’t give a wishy-washy speech about “intemperate northerners” and allow his Secretary of War to kneecap the union, for example.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Again, there’s no question that his actions after secession were unnecessarily bad. Before the fact, though, I don’t think there was any way of keeping the party together.

      • Murc

        Before the fact, though, I don’t think there was any way of keeping the party together.

        Oh, that’s true. Jackson himself, since I’m invoking him, couldn’t have kept the party together. But “party leader” and “President” are two different jobs, and you can be Worst Ever at one and not half-bad at the other.

    • But I don’t think that, if you’re David Cameron, coming to the conclusion “I have to offer the wing of my electorate that wants out out out SOMETHING, and they won’t tolerate, and the EU probably won’t tolerate either, asking for more tinkering around the edges of our EU rights and obligations. We just got done doing that. Again. I can’t promise a free vote in Parliament, it would be a nutty circus and I have a lot of MPs who are vulnerable on one flank or the other. I’m unsure how a referendum goes either, but it seems better on the optics, expression of the peoples will and all that.”

      Now, I happen to feel that a bunch of that logic is WRONG, but I do feel it is politically DEFENSIBLE. It’s not on-its-face idiotic. It’s only after he goes “right then, referendum it is” that the unforced errors start.

      Nope. Really really nope.

      A referendum was insane. It was insane on its face. It was ridiculously dangerous. It was insane to think he could “beat on the EU” then come back triumphant. It was insane for him to trust his luck.

      He thought he could *appease people he thus far hadn’t been able to appease* with *concessions he knew weren’t possible and wouldn’t be enough*. That’s madness from the start.

      A sane dude would have said, “I’ll go negotiate with the possibility of referendum in the air. If that doesn’t work out then by gum we will vigorously consider a referendum.”

      The whole thing is reckless folly. There’s no defence.

      • Ok, it’s Politico and there’s some dodgy stuff in it but this article is still worth reading. Cameron thought he could get more than he could from the EU and that he could sell whatever he got and that it was an easy win because hey Scotland worked out.

        Scotland was painful and very touch and go. If the lesson you drew from Scotland was “hey, these are easy” then you are an idiot.

        Let’s add:

        But they needed Labour to step up. Internal polling found just weeks before June 23 one in five Labour voters did not know the party’s position in the referendum.

        If that’s true, then well, it doesn’t look good. I’d need to know how messaging works in general but 20% unclear on Labour’s position is pretty damn bad.

        • Daragh McDowell

          Actually, 20% is the lowest figure on that I’ve seen quoted. Most surveys I saw were around the 50% mark.

          • Good god.

          • Murc

            It’s good to see you back over here, by the way, Daragh.

        • Barry_D

          “If that’s true, then well, it doesn’t look good. I’d need to know how messaging works in general but 20% unclear on Labour’s position is pretty damn bad.”

          Have you ever seen polls in the US asking people about high school civics level information? The correct answers are very scarce.

          • KI have. So what?

            I mean, that’s why I asked what the norm is.

      • EliHawk

        It’s also worth pointing out that Cameron had, before last election, already promised to resign some time in this parliament. So, you know what you do? Don’t hold the fucking referendum before you resign, and then let your successor figure it out (and if he/she doesn’t want it, well, he didn’t make the promise!) There was an out, but he’s a moron.

        • Daragh McDowell

          Manifesto commitment was to hold referendum by 2017. There wasn’t an out.

          Again – Tory eurosceptics are a big group, and not idiots. They made sure that Cameron had to promise a referendum, had to deliver on that promise, and give them an honest shot at winning (e.g. no ‘double locks’ for Scotland and NI).

    • Manny Kant

      A free vote in parliament would have been a circus? As compared to a national referendum? When a clear and overwhelming majority of MPs opposes Brexit?

      • Murc

        It would have been a different kind of circus and I can absolutely see why Cameron would prefer a circus out in the public square, which the british are kind of used to, than one in Westminster, which…

        … actually they’re sort of used to that too, aren’t they.

  • a_paul_in_mtl

    I would prefer not to defend David Cameron or his decision to hold a referendum. However, I’m not sure I agree that “this catastrophe was a completely unforced error”.

    Boris Johnson and Michael Gove may be trolls but the Europe issue has divided the Conservative Party for decades, fatally weakening the leadership on John Major in the 1990’s. So it’s not like Conservative leaders have no reason to be concerned about the Euroskeptic wing of their party.

    The UK Independence Party has been around for a while but made some electoral breakthroughs in 2013-2014. Although that party took support from both the Conservatives and Labour it took more from the Conservatives. Cameron was then leading a coalition government with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, and wanted re-election in 2015, preferably with a majority, so he needed to prevent any further bleeding of support to UKIP, making sure that the opposition Labour Party, not his, suffered from UKIP success. The Euroskeptics in his party wanted to be sure he’d take a firmer line with Europe in the event of a majority.

    So in 2013, Cameron promised that if his party won a majority in the 2015 election he would negotiate a new deal with Brussels and then hold an “in/out” referendum on Europe.

    He could have broken that promise after the election but he would have certainly faced attacks on his leadership. Those might not have succeeded but no doubt he wanted to avoid such attacks altogether.

    So he negotiated a new deal for some more preferential treatment from Brussels. “Not enough”, sniffed the hard Euroskeptics. And he held the referendum, with disastrous results.

    In the end, the disaster was caused not just by David Cameron but the Conservative Party and its ideology. Most of the Conservative Party is not keen on the EU because EU institutions put checks on their ability to pursue a hard right agenda while in office. Even those who, like Cameron, argued that the consequences of leaving the EU were not worth the trouble, have tried their best to exempt the UK from obligations they oppose on ideological grounds. Cameron, like most Conservatives, is guilty of playing the game of bashing Brussels for partisan purposes. He helped create a situation where he had little choice but to call that stupid referendum. But he wasn’t alone in that.

    • a_paul_in_mtl

      “fatally weakening the leadership OF John Major in the 1990’s”

  • a_paul_in_mtl

    Just to build upon a couple of my comments, more than the disastrous gamble of one man, this is the logical outcome of a game of chicken the British Conservatives have been playing with the EU off and on for a long time. Although a majority of Conservative supporters did vote to leave the EU, I think they did so thinking that they could still have a strong relationship with the EU, only on their terms. The British Conservatives have been using the threat to leave to pressure the EU into changing the terms of the UK’s membership. David Cameron himself did this in recent negotiations. At the same time, much like Republicans in the U.S., the Conservatives have disappointed their supporters in terms of how much they could actually get through such extortion. Now they will find that the EU isn’t in the mood to offer the UK a sweet deal that gives them all the advantages they want while removing the obligations they find burdensome. But that was the promise, you see. No wonder Johnson and Gove are looking a little shifty. They promised a bill of goods they won’t be able to deliver. In his own way, Cameron did the same thing.

    • Murc

      Although a majority of Conservative supporters did vote to leave the EU, I think they did so thinking that they could still have a strong relationship with the EU, only on their terms.

      And that just won’t happen. The UK is still a very large economy and the EU probably will want to have a relationship with them for their own sake if nothing else. But it isn’t the early 70s anymore. Times have changed.

      The UK can have a strong relationship with the EU on mutual terms. They will not have a strong relationship with it that involved holding the whip hand.

    • Now they will find that the EU isn’t in the mood to offer the UK a sweet deal that gives them all the advantages they want while removing the obligations they find burdensome.

      My offer is this… Nothing.

  • MacK

    Let me explain my point about a lock based on Scotland and Northern Ireland – it’s a sort of contract by referendum.

    In the case of Northern Ireland its constitutional settlement is based on the Good Friday Agreement, which explicitly incorporates references to both the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights, and the guarantee of theose rights by the ECHR in Strasbourg. Moreover, the common membership of both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom – incorporating Nothern Ireland still – was an implicit term of the constitutional settlement offered to Northern Ireland and which they accepted by plebiscite with a hefty majority. To terminate that membership of Northern Ireland in the EU without its consent is to break the bargain explicitly agreed to.

    In the case of Scotland, two years ago, continued membership of the EU was explicitly one of the benefits presented to its voters to get them to remain in the UK – and the loss of that membership one of the explicit consequences of leaving the UK. As such, the UK secured Scotland’s continued membership in the UK by a clear offer, stay in the UK and you stay in the EU – to then take away the EU membership less than two years later would be to break the implicit bargain that secured their vote in the Referendum to stay in the UK.

    These two factors justify giving Scotland and Northern Ireland a double lock.

    • Daragh McDowell

      I totally agree that a double lock would have been politically and morally just. I simply don’t think the Tory party would have stood for it. Nor would they have accepted a free vote in parliament they could only lose.

      Euroscepticism runs deep in the Tory party, especially at the grass roots. Cameron has always been viewed with suspicion by a large chunk of the party. I really don’t see how he could offer a referendum the Brexiteers couldn’t possibly win and not face a massive backlash from his own MPs.

  • MilitantlyAardvark

    Two points:

    1) Chamberlain is now remembered for Munich and “weak” leadership in Europe, but in his glory days he was a mercilessly effective leader of his own party. You simply did not cross Chamberlain and hope for a career thereafter.

    2) The Tories have exploited the EU as a means of ducking blame for their own ongoing incompetence and corruption when it comes to running the economy for decades. Thatcher began this game and made a point of using her forays into ignorant fuck-up plays at diplomacy to stress that she was batting for Britain against the sinister French/Germans etc. It was a stupid and ultimately fatal game to play – and Cameron has now taken it to its logical conclusion. Ironically, if there’s one party that needs the EU, it’s actually the Tories, which might explain the utter panic now that the traditional game of bait the silly foreigners to advance our careers has blown up in the faces of Johnson and Gove, along with a generous dose of their lies being exposed and business reacting with incredulous rage to the clown show.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      If I’m understanding your second point, the Tories needed the EU as an evil enemy in much the same way the Republicans needed the USSR.

      The post-USSR experience in the US shows there’s no problem for right wingers to come up with new enemy(s) to replace the one that went away. So long as they’ve got someone to hate and blame it’s all good.

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