Those of us who have had the (dis)pleasure of watching Cameron at PMQs know he never answers a question. Whatever subject is raised, he has a prepared brief which selectively explains how brilliantly the Tory government is doing on that issue, even if it has nothing whatever to do with the question. It is of course a complete abuse of Parliament which is to hold the government of the day to account, but he gets away with it because the PM always has the last word. However, when he doesn’t have the last word and has to see an issue through to the finish, he is exposed as the weakest flip-flopping party-driven prime minister in modern times. At every move organised by the Tory Right over the EU referendum, he has humiliatingly caved in.
He conceded a referendum he never wanted, in order to keep his Right at bay, then promised sufficient negotiating gains in Brussels to see off his rebels by the time the referendum came, only to find Merkel, his only real potential ally in Europe, adamantly blocking any change in the rules governing the free movement of labour. He then tried to give himself more wriggle-room by announcing that treaty changes could be postponed till after a deal had been hatched some time in 2016-7, only to be mocked for accepting a post-dated cheque. He then caved in again to his diehard eurosceptics by agreeing not to have the EU vote on the same day as the devolved and local elections, having already made clear his view that he could see no reason why the public couldn’t decide two things on the same day. To cap it all, he told his anti-EU ministers that they would have to toe the government (i.e. his) line, then turned turtle and said they were free to campaign as they wished. So much for leadership, so much for putting the nation’s interests first.
Now he’s made a further concession – having said that purdah (which bars significant official announcements in the campaign) would now be imposed, flatly contradicting his previous stance that purdah would harm British interests. The success of the Tory Right in pushing him all over the place can only encourage future rebellions. The claim to be able to wrest the repatriation of major powers seems doomed before it starts since Britain under Cameron’s continuous vacillation has already shot its diplomatic bolt in Europe. This is the feeblest leadership that Britain has had to endure since the war, and it will pay the price.