Back the the future yet again?

So fundamentalism is rearing its head on either side of the water, on the twin neuralgic themes of justice and policing at Stormont and UK membership of the EU at the Conservative conference in Manchester. Malachi (in a welcome return to the Bel Tel) projects the speculation all the way to a snap Assembly election . I leave detailed assessment to others closer to the action, but I can’t help feeling all we’re getting is some pretty rough sparring bouts, not a real contest. And I do ask this: we know what the DUP and SF would be against but what would they be campaigning for? On the Tories and a referendum on Europe, I can’t recall when a party with a 12 point lead in the polls last insulted the electorate so grossly with such a threadbare argumentEven the cheer-leading Eurosceptic Daily Telegraph has pulled Cameron’s Czech rug from under him.

.. the Czech president that made it clear he thought it was too late for Britain to halt the Lisbon Treaty – something the Tory leadership had been clinging to. Vaclav Klaus said: “I am afraid that the British people should have been doing something really much earlier and not just now–too late–saying something and waiting for my decision. There will never be another referendum [on the treaty] in Europe.”

Boris is stoking the flames. And William Rees Mogg, venerable ultra-establishment ex-Times editor has outed himself with suggestions of a pull-put altogether, arguing tosh about the incompatibility between British “liberal democracy” and continental “bureaucracy.” In reply, the Tory high command is feeding the line that Cameron may settle for a repatriation of key powers like social welfare ( already excepted under Labour’s “ red lines” but maybe not permanently) and justice and home affairs ( ditto). Hardly enough blue-veined meat there to satisfy the fundamentalists. And anyway what makes Cameron think he could do that without breaking the Treaty and reaching the point of a referendum on withdrawal? Is this a route a potential PM should want to follow in the throes of a full-blown recession? BTW Worth noting that the main Conservative bloggers Conservative Home and Iain Dale are leaving it to the MSM to make the weather on this. Is this the moment when the committed don’t want to rock the boat too hard and prefer to leave it to traditional newsgatherers to put the boot in without fear or favour?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London