David Davis on a “mandate referendum”

John Rentoul

David Davis 008 300x180 David Davis on a mandate referendumNo, I didn’t know what it meant either. David Davis explains it well in this transcript of his interview with Andrew Neil on the BBC’s Sunday Politics. But it is the politics of fruitcake and David Cameron will, of course, have nothing to do with it. Politely.

AN: Joining me now from his Altrincham constituency, former Conservative Chairman David Davis. David Davis, the Tory leadership is clearly dancing more to UKIP’s tune, we’re going to see that in the Queen’s Speech next week. It’s also clear voters don’t trust the change in mood music. What has your party got to do to win that trust?

DD: It’s got to start off by not being contemptuous of the people who voted for UKIP. I mean, they weren’t extremists, they were ordinary people. I saw them going to polling stations up here in Yorkshire. They were very often lower middle class, so-called aspirant voters. And we’ve got to treat them seriously. And we certainly didn’t do that before this election.

AN: Have they been contemptuous?

DD: Well, I think the comments made about them were contemptuous, and wrong. So that’s the start. It’s a mindset start. But we’ve also got to make them feel that we care about their issues, that we care about the taxes they have to pay and about their job prospects and so on. I’m afraid one of the things that came back and is actually quite shocking really, on the doorstep in these elections, was the extent to which a large number of those who voted UKIP simply were doing so because they didn’t think any of the major parties, ourselves, Labour, the Liberals, really cared much about them and were sort of in a different world. So things like lower taxes, things like improved job prospects are important, as well, of course as Europe, which is going to be important, not just because it’s UKIP, but because the next election is Europe.

AN: Well, let me come on to Europe. Can there be a European referendum this side of the general election, whether it’s a mandate referendum or even an in/out referendum? Can there be anything like that without Lib Dem support, which won’t be forthcoming?

DD: Well, it’s be very interesting, I think, if you put the prospect of a mandate referendum, and for your viewers that’s a referendum which allows the country to approve or disapprove the country’s negotiating stance, the government’s negotiating stance, you could do that in the next six months in timetable terms. In terms of politics it’d be very interesting for the Liberals and indeed the Labour Party to vote against giving the public a say on this matter. I think the politics of that for them are very difficult. And if I were the Prime Minister I would actually put it to the House of Commons, so this is what I want to do, this actually gives the people a say not just in the final outcome but how we approach it, and it’s up to you, House of Commons, to make that choice. If it was rejected by the other parties, then I think that would actually case a new dividing line in British politics, and one which would be beneficial to the Tories, although that’s not important.

AN: If there was a backbench Bill promoting that kind of referendum, should the Tory leadership support it?

DD: Well, I think the Tory leadership should take it as a policy, so the answer to that is obviously yes.

AN: But if the Lib Dems stop them taking it as a policy?

DD: Well, look, the Lib Dems are, what, one sixth or one seventh of the coalition MPs. Should they have a veto on everything? I don’t think so. Should they have the right to say no to something which is so fundamental to the future of the country? I don’t think so. And we’re coming up to a period in any event when the two major parts of the coalition are going to move apart as they see a general election coming. I don’t think we can go into that period giving Nick Clegg a veto on every policy?

AN: Why do you think the Prime Minister likes to surround himself with so many Old Etonians?

DD: I don’t know. I mean, this is a blind spot. I mean, it’s not just about class, this problem of being out of touch is not about class or cliquishness. After all, if it were, Boris Johnson would have a problem with it too, and he clearly gets by it. But it does open up a weakness. It does allow other people to accuse us of being out of touch. And that’s serious. That is very serious. I mean, you know, we’re not a nation of inverted snobs. Nobody really cares where an individual comes from, but the concern is more are they paying attention? Do they understand the things that I face as an ordinary person, that in fact I’m having trouble making ends meet, the fact that I can’t afford the taxes and the heating costs and the growing costs of food and so on? All those things, the public have got to believe the government understands. And I think at the moment a fair chunk of them, 25-30 per cent of them don’t believe that.

AN: Don’t you agree with Jesse Norman, the Tory MP, and also an Old Etonian, that it’s because of their selfless commitment to public service?

(Break in transmission)

(Repeat question)

DD: (laugh) Well, I’m sure they do, and actually Jesse’s a very good example. I’m a big fan of Jesse and, you know, went to support Jesse in the last election. But the point of it is not about the individuals, and the point is, not frankly, in many ways, about the education of an individual. It is about the fact it’s a narrow strata, and that’s the problem. The feeling out in the country – I make the point – it’s allowing the impression to grow which is the problem. There is a feeling out in the country that this isa group of people who don’t understand their concerns. And if, you know, when Margaret Thatcher – we’ve just had the funeral of Margaret Thatcher a week or two ago – she never confined her Cabinet to on strata, one type, one side of the party. She had the William Waldegraves and the Pattens and so on. So there is a feeling out there that this is a narrow base. And that’s the problem. It’s that problem that is feeding the enthusiasm for UKIP. Because, as I say, UKIP’s about a mindset not a manifesto.

AN: All right, David Davis –

DD: We’ve got to act on that. But if we don’t solve our own problems we will not succeed.

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  • greggf

    Perhaps a more revealing headline would have been – David Davis about a “mindset”!

  • mightymark

    What would be interesting in a Euro referendum this side of the Scottish referendum would be how valid the result would be deemed it if the balance was swayed in favour of remaining members by a Scotland which subsequently voted for independence. Most intriguing!

  • Pacificweather

    Fruitcake is question dependent. Could the Prime Minister construct a set of mandate questions that would be to his advantage in the next general election? Probably not. Could he construct a set of questions that would assist him in European Union negotiations? Probably. Would that change the outcome? Unlikely but possible.

    Does DD understand the thinking of key voters? Certainly. Will not having an in out referendum before the next general election ensure Mr. Cameron gains a majority of seats? No. Would demonstrating trust in the electorate to make a considered decision enhance his status as Prime Minister? Certainly. Will he do it? Certainly not.

    Can you not hear the Prime Minister saying, “You have voted for Britain to leave the EU. I am going to trust your judgement and do it even though I am convinced it will destroy our economy. If it does, you have to promise to remember that I did this on your behalf and vote for me as a Prime Minister of integrity.” In fact, if he said that before the referendum in a scenario speech he would guarantee an “in” vote and an overall majority at the next General Election.

  • Hill244

    They were treated with deeper contempt by Blair – 2 million Polish in overnight but “Hey guys they aren’t living in Belgravia” Beeg Issue?

  • David Boothroyd

    Altrincham? That’s Graham Brady’s constituency. David Davis is from Haltemprice.

  • Pacificweather

    His reply to the Queen’s speech was well thought out.

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