By Paul Goodman
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Ed Miliband woke up to some horrible headlines this morning. Which in itself means nothing one way or the other – that's the lot of party leaders. But this particular set re-raised a problem that can't easily be solved. Boris Johnson steamed into the Labour leader over the EU and a referendum. Well, that's par for the course, Boris being a Conservative politician as well as a Telegraph columnist, and all that. But as well a pop from the Express there was also a piece from Vernon Bogdanor in the Guardian.
"There is a fundamental decision to be made and only the British people
can make it. Europe has for too long been an elite project. The
pro-Europeans have been content to win the argument in the corridors of
power. That is why, since 1975, the argument has been lost by default.
But the Labour party was formed to combat the power of elites, not to
yield to it."
A great deal more of this will be heard for the next few weeks…I mean the next few months…I mean, well, for as long as Miliband keeps holding out against a referendum. David Cameron will go after him on the issue at every opportunity So will Nigel Farage. And so, as the Bogdanor piece shows, will some on the left. The post Cameron EU-speech polls haven't been calamitous for Miliband, but they have undoubtedly been bad. What is at stake is, in my view, more than just a judgement by voters about the EU issue. There is also a judgement about character.
This is a classic Morton's Fork dilemma for Miliband, and I am not at all sure which skewer he will choose to be impaled by. I suspect that for the time being he will try to fudge it, claiming that Labour isn't set against a referendum – just against this one. I wish him luck with that. That's to say, I would wish him luck with that, were I in the business of doing so.