Anyone who still has any lingering doubts that UKIP is running the political agenda for the UK need look no further than yesterday's hurried announcement by the Tories that they are putting forward a draft EU referendum bill.
The Conservatives are portraying this as 'throwing down the gauntlet' to Labour and the LibDems, but a cursory glance back at what has been going on over the past few weeks, all starting with UKIP's stunning local election results together with senior Tories coming out in favour of an 'out' vote, reveals this to be pure spin. And UKIP have achieved this without a single MP in parliament! It just goes to show how out of touch the people that work within the Westminster bubble have become and that only an outside jolt has made them peer out between the lace curtains at the masses beyond.
The draft bill also contains a proposal for what the question to be put to the public (as long of course that the Tories get this through the LibDem door, then past the Commons and Lords and of course are still in power when the vote eventually takes place – fat chance). That question is: "Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union". Some say that this is too much of a loaded question, which will make many people answer 'yes'.
Responding to this move Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, said: "This is nothing more than gesture politics. The Conservative party's position is clearly not a position Cameron holds in his heart. The very fact that he is in America selling the EU to the Obama Presidency while members of his party are making what amounts to a contradictory statement back at home just goes to show this is an act of sheer desperation. This is clearly a Prime Minister not in control and a Government in total disarray. It is a basic principle of our democracy that no Parliament can bind a successor, without the support of Parliament this is a meaningless piece of constitutional shadow play."
But, Despite the furore over an in/out referendum on membership of the EU, bookmakers William Hill do not believe that one will be held before 2019 at the earliest.
For Hills quote odds of 8/11 that an 'in/out' EU referendum will not take place before January 1, 2019 – and Even money that there will be one before that date.
'Despite the speculation, we will be surprised if it happens during the next few years’ said Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe.
However, should such a referendum be held within that time frame, Hills offer 2/5 that it will produce a yes vote in favour of the EU, with 7/4 offered about an anti- vote in favour of quitting the EU.