Manifesto promise turns into a moment in history

Andrew Jones Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough.
Andrew Jones Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough.
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DAVID Cameron’s attempt to resolve one of the longest-running battles within British politics ended with a momentous day of reckoning between his Government and British voters.

It seems unlikely that Mr Cameron would have thrust a referendum on the Conservative Party General Election manifesto if he had even an inkling of how the electorate’s voracious mood for change would take hold.

After ploughing through tough economic choices and defending austerity budgets, he was certainly not looking to fall on his sword and sacrifice his job. Just over a year ago he won the first Conservative majority Government since 1992.

Yet there was “pent up demand for a referendum” transport minister Andrew Jones told the Yorkshire Post, reflecting on when the Europe question first surfaced in 2015.

While critics say Mr Cameron’s hand was forced by an emergent UKIP threatening to take Conservative votes when another five years of coalition looked likely, others believe it was the right time for it to appear as party policy and it was not an error of judgement.

Mr Jones, the Harrogate and Knaresborough MP, was an early supporter of David Cameron and stood alongside him on stage when he was elected as leader in 2005 - and when barely anyone knew his name.

“He has been trying to resolve long running issues that have dogged British politics and the only way to do that is by giving the final say to the electorate.

“You can look at turnout and people have clearly felt that on Europe they haven’t had the say that they should have over the years.”

Mr Jones, who was backing Mr Cameron’s Remain campaign, said the decision to promise a referendum had nothing to do with UKIP and was solely about resolving British political issues, just as Mr Cameron had successfully the year before in the 2014 Scottish referendum.

Yet with a vote to leave the EU secured and a resignation from the Prime Minister yesterday morning the party now needs to work quickly to limit instability.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will need to be invoked to notify the EU of Britain’s withdrawal said Mr Jones.

“Business doesn’t like uncertainty so that suggested timeliness but at the same time there’s a lot of preparation work to be done over the next few weeks,” he said.

With a month to go until Parliament goes into summer recces, Mr Jones said he was expecting a “breathless” few weeks ahead.

“We are obviously in a position where we have significant turbulence and shock.

“It really was a momentous day in our history.”