Senior Tories are lashing out at each other after they got a drubbing in this month’s local elections.
The Tories lost 335 councillors in the elections while the far right, anti-Europe Ukip gained 139.
Arguments about the European Union (EU) quickly resurfaced as the Tories squabbled about how to stem further losses.
David Cameron has tried to walk a line between those Tories who hate the EU and those who think Britain’s bosses are best served by being part of it.
This means he has raised criticisms but also sought to limit them by talking about the “benefits” of EU membership.
Cameron was in the US stressing the importance of Britain’s links with Europe this week.
Now two Tory cabinet ministers have defied Cameron to speak out against Britain’s EU membership. And former cabinet ministers Nigel Lawson and Michael Portillo have also called for Britain to leave the EU.
Politicians were preparing to vote on a motion welcoming last week’s queen’s speech as Socialist Worker went to press.
Around 100 Tories could back an amendment criticising the speech for failing to promise a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
The scale of the division in the party is so big that Cameron is allowing cabinet ministers to abstain on the vote to try and avoid an all-out confrontation. Cabinet ministers Michael Gove, Philip Hammond and Theresa May have all said they will abstain.
Gove described the vote as “an exercise in letting off steam”.
But underlying the row about Europe is a bigger argument about the economy—and how to make Britain more “competitive”.
What this means is how to wring even more out of workers.
As London mayor Boris Johnson wailed in the Daily Telegraph, “Why are we still, person for person, so much less productive than the Germans? In or out of the EU, we must have a clear vision of how we are going to be competitive in a global economy.”
The Tories claim that their austerity will benefit us because it will end recession. Yet the recession has continued and unemployment is rising.
That’s why, however many Tories openly rebel in parliament this week, the divisions within the party will continue.