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David Cameron moves the EU referendum back - is he turning into John Major?

Downing Street has squashed talk of a second referendum under pressure from the party's Eurosceptics and Labour. Is it 1992 all over again?

Downing Street has ruled out an early referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union under pressure from Conservative backbenchers and the Opposition. 

Although the Referendum Bill currently making its way through the Houses of Parliament guarantees a referendum by 31 December 2017, Downing Street staffers were keen to avoid holding the referendum in midterm. May 2016 was eyed as a possible date, setting up "a day of seven elections" - elections to the devolved legislatures in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, local elections in England, police and crime comissioner elections, and the Mayoral contest in London alongside the referendum. However, Newsnight reveals, that plan has been shelved, either setting up a referendum later on in 2016 or holding off until 2017. 

The move will reassure combatants on both sides. As Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, told the New Statesman in a recent interview, holding the contest in May would mean that Welsh voters would have "four ballots, with four different electoral systems", and could scupper any hope of a joint pro-European campaign: "You can't attack Plaid Cymru one day and share a platform with them the next". But it will also cheer Eurosceptics, who feared that a quick referendum would see the contest defined as Ukip against the rest, leaving them little chance of taking Britain out of Europe. "We don't have our best suit and tie on yet," fretted one Eurosceptic MP recently. 

The reality is that it is pressure from that quarter, not concern from the devolved legislatures or pressure from Labour, that has forced Cameron's hand. It all feels more reminiscent than he would like of the last time the Conservatives won a majority, in 1992. Then, as now, it briefly looked as if Labour would never govern again, before European division torn the Tory party apart. That Cameron, at the peak of his powers, has already been forced into two European U-Turns, delaying his plans to scrap the Human Rights Act, and lengthening the timetable for the referendum, suggests the same may happen to him,

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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