When will they get it? People hate the European Union and they don’t want to give it more powers. In fact they will dump their traditional parties if they get a whiff that powers are being transferred. That’s what happened in Clacton and what Mark Reckless hopes will happen in Rochester and Strood.
But if today’s Prime Minister’s Question Time (PMQs) is anything to go by, that is precisely what David Cameron and Ed Miliband want as well. The pair handed Reckless the seat by pledging to give Brussels a new European Arrest Warrant, something that is guaranteed to outrage the public and drive them in UKIP’s direction.
The two seemed hell-bent on making sure the public had the system – which enables corrupt foreign courts to drag British nationals out of the country for very little reason – rubbed in their faces. Miliband first wanted to know when the vote to implement it would be, and why there was a big delay. Cameron blamed the Spanish, which is a time-honoured trick for any Prime Minister.
Miliband pressed on, suggesting next week’s opposition day could be converted into a vote. The Labour leader was keen to push the vote before the Rochester and Strood by-election. Guaranteeing that neither the Conservatives nor Labour have a prayer of winning.
Perhaps surprisingly, Cameron went on the attack, confirming there would be a vote on the measure and that it would happen before the by-election. The Prime Minister claimed this meant Miliband’s “question had just collapsed”, perhaps he was right but so had Conservative morale. The answer was greeted by stunned silence from the Tory bench.
For once Ed was on a roll, so he continued to poke the Prime Minister, saying what a pleasure it would be to walk through the lobby together. He described it as being “two parties together, or perhaps given the state of his party one and a half” neatly pointing out that Conservative Eurosceptics have promised the biggest backbench rebellion ever.
At the half-way point it was hard to see who was winning, neither side has really engaged their backbenches. Then Ed switched tack and started talking about immigration, asking about the Home Office’s “total failure”. He listed some statistics about £1bn being wasted on failed IT projects and how 50,000 asylum seekers have been lost. However, Cameron easily batted this off. After all, the Conservative record on immigration is bad, but nothing could be worse than Labour’s.
There was then a fairly boring kick-about of statistics, which clearly put half the backbenchers on both sides to sleep. Net migration is 243,000 a year, but 700 bogus colleges have been shut. Labour allowed EU migrants in without any checks, but the government has had four years to fix it. Zzzzzz.
Backbench contributions came from Ian Austin (Lab, Dudley North) who has suddenly realised how anti-immigration he is. Before the UKIP threat he was very pro-immigration and spent his time drawing non-existent parallels between those who wanted controls and the Nazis. Dr Liam Fox (Con, North Somerset) was worried that the £1.7bn EU tax bill was rewarding failure. David Amess (Con, Southend West) defended the decision of the Royal British Legion to plant fake poppies at the Tower of London.
Meanwhile Mark Reckless spent the day leafleting with UKIP activists, oblivious to his big win!
Overall: Last week Brussels wanted £1.7bn, this week the PM is promising to vote through a new European Arrest Warrant. That means Mark Reckless won, not a bad effort for a man who wasn’t even in London today!
David Cameron: 0
Ed Miliband: 0
Mark Reckless: 8 (despite not even being there)