Have decided to go out speaking at the occasional Tory dinner again. Mainly because I enjoy it. Since being elected I've always refused speaking invites - because having to spend 4 days/wk at Westminster, I've wanted to commit remainder of my time to Montgomeryshire. Don't want to lose ability to speak. Anyway, last night I went to Hanmer in Clwyd South to speak to the local branch - and a thoroughly enjoyable evening it was.
Surprisingly no questions on gay marriage. We had discussion about constituency boundaries (where I said I was increasingly opposed to the proposed changes) and inevitably the EU referendum. I said that I did not think there would be an In/Out referendum in the foreseeable future - but that I did think there would be a referendum on a renegotiated relationship between the UK and the EU - at or soon after the next General Election in 2015, or possibly incorporated as part of the competing parties manifestos. I also think there will be a genuine meaningful renegotiation - because anything less will not satisfy anyone. We know that the EU will froth at the mouth about such a prospect, but froth it will have to - because otherwise there may well be a real prospect of the UK withdrawing.
I think my audience was a touch surprised that I was so adamantly opposed to an In/Out referendum - particularly since I've always been more than a touch Eurosceptic. I told them there are two main reasons. Firstly, I do not believe any potential UK Government would act on an 'Out' vote to begin the withdrawal process - so any vote would (in my opinion) be a deception on the voting public. This of course may change at some stage in the future. And secondly I think that the British people would vote to stay in the EU when it came to it. OK, I can hear my Ukip friends snarling and see them finger-jabbing to emphasise disagreement, but that's what I believe. I remember the last referendum in 1975. I was all for withdrawal then, and thought my side would win - only to be trounced by the 'In' team. The result heralded a great burst of EU integration - which is why I've been careful about what I've wished for ever since.
Whatever it was an enjoyable evening. I sat next to a man who wanted to end the ban on hunting, scrap the welfare state, bring back hanging, do nasty things to Dennis Skinner - and reckoned riding to hounds was better than sex. He thought of himself as a 'One Nation' Conservative!