Tory backbenchers have written again to the Prime Minister demanding legislation guaranteeing a referendum in the next Parliament. Conservative MP John Baron delivered the letter, which bears more than 100 backbench signatures, to Downing Street this morning. While its existence was reported in the Sunday papers, Baron has now spoken exclusively to Coffee House about the letter’s contents.
I understand that though Baron and his colleagues working on the plan approached only backbenchers (and those include former ministers who left the government in September’s reshuffle), a number of ministers and PPSs have also approached them to express sympathy with the idea, and there are several individual letters from PPSs going to David Cameron as well. Baron also says: ‘We are going to be looking for all opportunities to raise this on the floor of the House.’ This could be through a Private Members’ Bill.
The timing is important: the letter was written ahead of the Queen’s Speech on 8 May because MPs want the legislation announced then. Baron says: ‘They are thinking at this moment about legislation for the Queen’s Speech: that’s the simple reason for us writing the letter.’ Why does a Bill need to be announced this May? Because next May the Tories will fight UKIP in the European elections, and they want to have more than a manifesto promise to wave on the doorstep.
The letter opens by congratulating the Prime Minister on his speech in January on Europe. Baron says it then turns to the key demand:
‘However, over 100 Conservative colleagues and I have urged him to bring the enabling legislation forward in this parliament.