EU referendum: Cameron says no bad blood towards rebels


PM David Cameron: 'There is no bad blood and no bitterness'

Related Stories

David Cameron has said he has "no bad blood" towards Conservatives who defied orders to oppose a call for a referendum on the UK's EU membership.

Ministers won the vote but 81 Tories backed the call, the biggest rebellion on Europe against a Conservative PM.

The prime minister said he knew people felt "strongly" about the issue but he had to "give a lead" on the issue.

Some Conservative MPs were annoyed that the party imposed a three-line whip on a backbench motion.

Asked whether he regretted the order - which meant any Conservative MP who voted against the government would be expected to resign from government jobs - he said: "No I don't, in politics you have to try to confront the big issues, rather than try to sweep them under the carpet and that's what we did yesterday."

'Valued colleagues'

He said Europe had always been a difficult issue for the Conservatives and "always will be" but he had to do the right thing for the country.

"It wouldn't be right for the country right now to have a great big vote on an in-out referendum," he said.

"There's no, on my part, no bad blood, no rancour, no bitterness. These are valued Conservative colleagues, I understand why people feel strongly and we will go forward together and tackle the difficult decisions the country faces."


The education secretary is not just one of the prime minister's closest friends. He is not just a very clever man. He is a lifelong and instinctive Eurosceptic.

I worked with him when he was a young BBC reporter and I know.

Gove's claim was that the Conservative Party was united as never before behind the goal of renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU.

He is right that, providing Ken Clarke is not in the room, Tories can say "we're all Eurosceptics now".

What divided them last night was - as I wrote yesterday - trust.

Backbenchers do not trust the prime minister, the coalition and Whitehall to deliver.

The backbench motion - prompted after a petition was signed by more than 100,000 people - was defeated by 483 votes to 111, after all Tory, Lib Dem and Labour MPs had been instructed to oppose it.

It called for a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU, leave it or renegotiate its membership - but even if the government had lost, it would not have been obliged to hold a referendum.

However Mr Cameron urged his MPs to vote against it arguing that, with a "crisis" in the eurozone any legislation for a referendum now "could cause great uncertainty and could actually damage our prospects of growth".

But almost half of his backbenchers appear to have ignored his calls.

In total 81 Conservative MPs, including two acting as tellers (the name given to the MPs who count the votes) supported the referendum motion and two more MPs - Mike Wetherley and Ian Stewart - actively abstained by voting both yes and no.

A further 12 MPs did not vote - although that figure includes Foreign Secretary William Hague, who put the government case against the motion before having to leave the debate early to travel to Australia, and another minister Mike Penning, who was in China.

It was the biggest rebellion against a Conservative prime minister over Europe - the previous largest was in 1993, when 41 MPs defied John Major on the Maastricht Treaty.


Labour leader Ed Miliband described the result as "a humiliation for the prime minister": "If he can't win the argument with his own backbenchers, how can the country have confidence that he can win the arguments that matter for Britain?"

But Education Secretary Michael Gove told the BBC: "It's not a humiliation."

He said that while there were a "significant number" of rebels - the differences between them and the Conservative frontbench were not significant.

"It was a very precisely worded motion which allowed a number of people like myself, who are passionate Eurosceptics, to say: Look, I disagree with the tactics but we agree on the ultimate goal."

He said the prime minister was "committed" to taking back powers from Europe to boost economic growth in the UK.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Lib Dems, traditionally the most pro-European of the three biggest UK parties, would not let Britain be pulled to the margins of the European Union.

The Lib Dem leader warned Conservative rebels against what he called a "smash and grab raid" on Brussels.

"You reform and change Europe by leading it, not by leaving it. Each step of the way, the question should be, what can we get out of Europe, not how can we get out of Europe? I think the Eurosceptics need to be a little bit careful about what they wish for.

"Let's be under no illusions. Every step closer to the exit sign shakes confidence in the British economy and can hit British jobs."

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the deputy PM's comments had poured salt on Mr Cameron's wounds.

The Conservative rebels included two Parliamentary private secretaries, Stewart Jackson and Adam Holloway - Downing Street has since confirmed both had been "removed" from the unpaid roles.

One Liberal Democrat MP, Adrian Sanders, defied his party's leadership and voted for a referendum.

Nineteen Labour MPs rebelled, including Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Jon Cruddas and Graham Stringer. Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP in the Commons, also voted for the motion, as did all eight DUP MPs and independent Lady Sylvia Hermon.

Senior Conservative backbencher Mark Pritchard said Tory MPs wanted "clarity" about how the government planned to repatriate powers from Europe, or the government's position would become "politically unsustainable".

"The Conservative Party will move on from the vote last night but I do not think Europe as an issue is going to move on from this Parliament.

"It is going to be more rather than less of an issue."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    Ashamed to Be British, Ashamed of our Politicians, Ashamed that Britain Elected David Cameron and that Sniffling side kick Clegg, Ashamed those 111 men who done the right thing will have to pay for doing so, Annoyed that I will possibly never get my say on the EU, Annoyed that they have the right to deny me that say, Great Britain? Democracy? Where I don't see it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    270, swingsandroundabouts...............then please ask the other 26 members to vote us out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    @160. florere
    If the majority of people in this country are in favour of leaving the EU why isn't the largest party in the House of Commons UKIP.
    Because people don't vote in a General Election on a single issue. They do vote in a referendum on a single issue.
    @161. twentyninetwelve
    We're the 9th largest exporting nation in the world and a negative balance vs EU. Hardly insignificant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Had a referendum been called I would have voted to remain within the EU.

    That said, regardless of what the result of such a vote would be, to deliberately deny people the opportunity to voice their opinions by way of bullying is despicable.

    Politicians are here to serve us. Not themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    I think many campaigners who come out are deluded by history, and think, or hope, we can go back to being a great world power with the Commonwealth as our Empire. I saw an elderly lady on TV outside Parliament, waving the Union Jack and singing Rule Britannia. Rather sad, I thought. Hankering after the good old days of the war. Is that the future they want, resumed conflict with France & Germany?

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    @257. The_Gambler
    "Here's an idea: take some personal responsibility and demonstrate you're worth listening to."

    I would suggest you do the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Clearly the EU could work better but this is a very good challenge because a strong EU would only bring benefits to us, political, social, economic etc.. Its mind-blobbing that some people are so eurosceptically brainwashed that fail to see the endless positives and focus on the negatives; trying to protect their segregated social system, keep people poorly educated, without critical thinking..

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    As a German citizen living in the UK for many years and watching the UK's general attitude and ongoing negative debates towards Europe over the years I can assure you back in my home country the majority of Germans can't wait for the UK to actually leave the EU completely ! Time to get the brakes off ! Europe can be a much stronger region without the ongoing UK interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    This affair does no good to anyone but UKIP, shame Labour didnt vote tactically with the rebels to throw the coalition into total confusion, the government totaly agree on what they disagree about

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    I laugh so hard at the Neanderthals who are screaming about a lack of democracy - what you seems oblivious to is that a majority in each area voted your MP in, and it is him, not the Tories or Lib Dems or Labour politicians as a whole you should approach. Whether you like it or not, a majority rejected this petition at this point and that is still very much democratic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Yet again another Government proving they are out of touch with people, that they are supposed to represent.
    If we pulled out of Europe, then these politicians would have fewer opportunities to live the good life of honest working taxpayers money.
    Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dem's all morally corrupt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    This man Gove is a fool for thinking that WE are fools

    He can deny everything all he likes, but UK people want OUT.

    By demanding that MP's voted with the motion, Cameron showed his true Bully boy tactics. And there was us thinking that the UK was governed in a democratic way!!

    Cameron did NOT defeat rebels. And he didn't fool the people of the UK either!

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    One was reminded by last night's debate of the scene in "The Remains of the Day" in which the butler is humiliated by a visiting cabinet member: He is asked a set of obscure detailed questions about a far flung region and his inability to answer them is taken as proof that he should not have the vote. "Yes Minister" also has a similar scene between Sir Humphrey and Bernard Woolley.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Anyone who is surprised about how the Whip system works in Parliament should really refrain from commenting on issues of such national importance. Any child who has sat in a GCSE politics lesson will understand it - it is how parliament gets things done.

    It is precisely this kind of ignorance that Cameron was worrying about when he put a stop to a referendum taking place now.

    Well done Dave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.


    Seems my MP doesn't have a brain. He was ordered to follow the party line and meekly did
    Do you think that all those who voted down the proposal did so against their own will?

    The_Gambler is right, the public are too thick to understand the issues. They'll be thinking 'duh I don't want the Euro' and vote to leave the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I am sick of phrases like "little englanders" and of psuedo intellectuals telling us, the electorate, that we are too stupid to understand the ramifications of things we read, or are told. We don't need to be led about like sheep by those people who consider themselves an intellectual elite. We are adults quite capable of making up our own minds and know when we are being patronised or lied to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    I love how they call it a vote yet if you don't vote how they like then your expected to resign. Why pretend its a Vote when your not allowed to acctually vote???

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    What the Anti EU mob don't like is workers having rights and heath and saftey that make employers make sure workers go home at the end of the day to the anti EU profit comes before safety of workers and slave labour is better than people have decent rights in the workplace.

  • Comment number 259.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    Why do people continue with their party political scoring on this site when it should be blatantly obvious that all of the 3 main parties denied
    us our democratic rights last night ?
    MP's defying the 3 line whip are the heroes of this parliament and not the odious frontbenches.
    Cameron,Clegg,Milliband are ALL useless.


Page 35 of 48


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.