Major rules out promise of referendum: Prime Minister accused of indecision over Europe. Donald Macintyre reports
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Wednesday 11 May 1994
He sought to reassure restive backbenchers that he would not sign up to integrationist proposals that could emerge when Europe debates its future in 1996. But he reasserted his determination to stay in office with a declaration that he intended to exercise the 'five-year mandate' given him by the general election.
To the relief of pro-Europeans in the Tory party - and the disappointment of some on the right - the Prime Minister said that he was 'sceptical' about referendums and insisted he had not 'changed his mind' since expressing his opposition to them last year.
His refusal to rule one out explicitly drew jibes from both the main opposition parties. Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal Democrats, who are holding out the prospect of a referendum, called him the 'maybe man'. John Smith, the Labour leader, said the Cabinet was 'hopelessly divided' on the issue.
Although right-wingers had pressed - vainly, as it turns out - for the Government to include the referendum proposal in the Euro- manifesto, Mr Smith challenged the Prime Minister to say whether his shift from opposition to scepticism was because he was 'running in front of the Europeans'.
Mr Major's formulation appeared last night to have satisfied both the pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics inside his party.
For more than one prominent MP of the Thatcherite right, there was enough from Mr Major to suggest that the referendum door was not so much ajar as unlocked. Mr Major held consultations with senior Cabinet colleagues before issuing his careful words on referendums. But he appeared to some pro- Europeans to have gone further in their direction in his answers to Sir Terence Higgins, the MP for Worthing.
In a clear side-swipe at calls for a referendum either on the single currency or on the conclusions reached by the EU Inter-Governmental Conference in 1996, Sir Terence said: 'It is absurd for those who argue that the authority of this House is being usurped by Brussels to advocate the use of such a device which would undermine the authority of this House.'
Mr Major declared: 'The points made by you are undeniable and I agree with them.' He said he did not intend to return from the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference with a 'package that this House would find unacceptable'.
The latest ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper reveals that more than half the electorate - 55 per cent - believe John Major should stand down.
Only 26 per cent say they would vote Conservative at a general election. That puts the Tories equal with the Liberal Democrats, with Labour well ahead on 44 per cent. Only 27 per cent of those polled say that they will vote Tory in next month's European elections. The Labour vote is put at 44 per cent with 24 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.
A projection made from the poll results by Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, forecasts the Conservatives would see their European parliamentary numbers fall to 16.
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Boris Johnson claims porn-obsessed Islamic jihadists are 'literally w*****s'
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Putin opponent reveals Russian President's daughter's secret identity
Ball pool for adults opens in London
Gay couple buy JebBushForPresident.com web domain, and refuse to sell
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
King Abdullah dead: We can't afford not to hold Saudi Arabia's royals to account
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...
£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...