i Editor's Letter: Nothing really changes in politics


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The Independent Online


Many thanks for all your kind messages yesterday – too many to respond to (I now also have to find time in my tight schedule to write a daily letter). 

But, unlike newspapers, it appears that nothing changes in politics. Forty years ago Britain joined the EC. Twenty years ago we were watching the Tories tear each other apart over Europe. And yesterday Lord Lawson became the most senior Conservative to challenge David Cameron on the issue.

When John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister in 1990, he promised to keep Britain “at the very heart of Europe” and claimed to have won “game, set and match for Britain” after he negotiated a single-currency opt-out. But when the “Maastricht Rebels” rounded on him over aspects of the treaty, it forced him to call a vote of confidence, the result of which damaged his authority beyond repair, despite winning by 40 votes.

While the challenge facing Mr Cameron is different in many ways, the European issue is again beginning to tear his party apart. The surge in UKIP’s vote – and the Tories’ decline – in last week’s local elections has been largely attributed to a protest vote from Eurosceptic Conservatives.

The PM attempted to head off the challenge in January by promising a referendum “in 2017 at the latest”, but the issue has continued to rear its ugly head. Lord Lawson’s words have only served to prevent the beast from creeping back into hibernation after the local elections.

With things going in 20-year cycles, who’s to say we won’t be having the same debate in 20 years? You never know, I might still be here to say: “I told you so!”

Twitter.com: @jonesrhodri