Since publishing the list of Labour MPs who back an in/out EU referendum yesterday I have been in touch with the Labour press office about the differing opinions of party leader Ed Miliband and policy chief Jon Cruddas on the issue.
The press office confirmed that Cruddas is the party’s policy review coordinator, and that the Labour party does not support a referendum at this time. I was directed to Ed Miliband’s comment in the Commons yesterday for further clarification of the Labour position. Here it is then, direct from Hansard:
My position is no, we do not want an in/out referendum.
I was told that Cruddas’ position was stated before Labour took their stance yesterday. The view of the man charged with filling up Labour’s blank sheet of paper seems quite fixed though on an EU referendum:
Ed Miliband however, reminded us yesterday that he had voted against a referendum in October 2011.
Five months after voting for an EU referendum, Jon Cruddas restated his position in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
(The same paper highlighted Cruddas’ support for the People’s Pledge back in May.)
Discussing a referendum he said:
“It’s something we will be looking at in depth in the policy review. At some stage there is going to have to be some resolution of what our relationship is here and what format that takes. It could be a referendum. We have said the time is not right as regards a referendum on Europe given the economics ricocheting around the eurozone. Obviously our position needs to be developed over the next period.”
Some classic political cover words there, but the substance is clear – Jon Cruddas supports an in/out referendum, and the People’s Pledge still considers Mr. Cruddas a supporter of their campaign. His leader expressed the opposite view to the Commons yesterday.
In the coming weeks, months, years, Labour could change their view and support a referendum, citing an improving economy (we hope) or similar. However, first impressions matter, and the first impressions is that Ed said no to a referendum.
Ed Miliband will have to go into the leader’s debates in 2015 and make his case to be PM, and Cameron has made the EU a clear election issue. Jon Cruddas will construct most of the platform Miliband stands on, yet the two fundamentally disagree. The whole thing is totally incompatible.
Labour is more divided on Europe than any of the other parties.
I have tried to contact Mr. Cruddas’ office directly. Nobody picked up the Westminster phone, and the team in his constituency said someone would get back to me. They haven’t.