Britain: Inching towards a referendum on Europe
A quiet suburban street set in the leafy suburbs of Cheadle, Manchester, Northern England on Monday, witnessed a coming together of a former Leader of Manchester City Council, Labour MP Graham Stringer and a local Conservative MP with a strong independent streak, David Nuttall. This unlikely couple had joined forces with activists from the pro EU referendum campaign, 'Peoples Pledge' to launch a new campaign for three mini referendums in three Manchester constituencies.
There is of course no guarantee for either side - those who would stay in, or those who would exit that once out of the bottle, the genie can be returned. Currently, voters attitudes to the EU are hardening further, as the Euro-zone splinters apart under its own contradictions and German recalcitrance. Conversely it is just possible that a new Euro zone, centred on Germany and the Benelux countries, could one day begin to make the EU more popular as an institution. But for now, these are imponderables. For Ed Miliband and Labour, this is make your mind up time. The Labour leader will be by now aware that in making a firm commitment to hold a referendum at the next election it would throw the Coalition into utter chaos and split the Conservative Party from top to bottom. Miliband's new policy supremo will also be able to see just how popular this move would make Labour with its traditional base.
Of course, should Ed Miliband, make this seismic shift, he will be accused of populism, seeking cheap electoral advantage and potentially playing with fire. But in truth, and for all of those pundits who have been trying to find Miliband's 'Clause Four moment', the moment when he breaks with the all party consensus over the EU, is just that moment. All of the signals are that he now knows it.
When adults are challenged to behave like adults, by a child, they can go in one of two directions.