In April 2010, Nick Clegg was a hero and champion of young voters. Since his coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, the man has faded to obscurity. In 2013, the Labour Party were a force in Scotland, playing host to many of the UK party’s safe seats. Since they campaigned against independence with the Conservatives, they have one MP. There appears a pattern developing here: that teaming up with your rivals in politics for whatever cause is ultimately political suicide.
With the referendum on Europe’s membership of the European Union, Labour and some of the Conservatives once again find themselves on the same side. We already knew there would be losers from this referendum, largely in the Conservative Party. If Britain votes to leave, David Cameron’s entire tenure will be wiped and he will be remembered as the Prime Minister who allowed Britain to sleep walk out of the single market. Meanwhile, if Britain votes to stay, Boris Johnson’s shaky hopes of becoming the next Conservative leader will take a hit and Michael Gove will struggle to hold another senior position in Cameron’s government. More interesting still is the question of what will happen to those factions which have been formed in attempt to convince the public to align with their side.
Recently David Cameron took to the same platform as Sadiq Khan to highlight the case for remaining in the European Union, just weeks after playing a key part in a campaign against the London Mayor accused of Islamophobia. Joining Cameron to campaign together doesn’t particularly hurt Khan at all, he wasn’t the one making wild and offensive accusations. On the other hand, David Cameron – who told Labour to be careful who they shared with a platform with – has come out of this event looking like a man void of principles and boundaries. This is compounded by the fact that neither himself or Conservative candidate for London Mayor, Zac Goldsmith, have apologised. So even if Cameron does pass the second referendum test of his time as Prime Minister, his flip-flopping around the subject of Sadiq Khan is bound to hurt him anyway.
Another recent Britain Stronger in Europe press release detailed an unlikely and potentially damaging team: Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband. Now, it is reasonable to argue that all four of these men are ‘has-beens’, whose reputations it is hard to damage much further: Kinnock claimed defeat from the jaws of victory in 1992; Blair is blamed for bringing Britain into the disastrous, immoral Iraq war; Brown is associated with the 2008 financial crash; Miliband can’t even eat a bacon sandwich. The former Labour leader’s part of that press release is quite telling. However, this collaboration still has potential to cause substantial damage to reputations. Blair and Miliband, for example, are supposed to have stood on opposite ends of the Labour spectrum, with Miliband favouring a leftist agenda which Blair very vocally blamed for his defeat at the general election. Ultimately this particular combination won’t be ending anyone’s political careers. It will, however, increase public mistrust of politicians and what they say – we all know these four don’t agree, so why are they pretending to be best friends just now? I mean, Blair probably wants to deflect attention away from the Chilcot Inquiry for one…
Ultimately, a referendum isn’t the same as an election. Although it’s equally partisan, the sides are bigger and it isn’t enough to just stand by your party, whatever “Labour Movement for Europe” or “Greens for a better Europe” would like you to think.
Simply how close people on opposite sides of the floor get can be very damaging as was shown after the Scottish Referendum. David Cameron’s appearance with Sadiq Khan could definitely damage the prime minister, even if he does get his wish to remain in Europe, while people are very wary of Boris Johnson’s new place on team Nigel.
Image Credit: flickr.com/firstministerofscotland