Thursday, March 31, 2005

Making mischief

It did not take Jack Straw long to capitalise on Redwood’s Financial Times interview, modifying a speech he was due to give on the general theme of the European Union this morning.

Michael Howard, Straw averred, had been consistent in his support for the UK’s continued membership of the EU. Redwood’s failure to rule out withdrawal in the event that renegotiations did not succeed represented, in Straw's view, "a dramatic and disturbing shift in official Conservative Party policy".

This was picked up by BBC's Radio 4 World at One, with the egregious Nick Clarke interviewing UKIP leader Roger Knapman, who pointed out the "inconsistency" of the Conservative position on "Europe", saying that "if you try and renegotiate but you don't have the threat of saying you're getting out, then the renegotiation carries no punch".

The Guardian's Tom Happold, on the paper's newsblog was also quick off the mark, remarking that Labour will have been delighted to read Redwood’s interview. Jack Straw is claiming, according to Happold, that it reveals the party’s secret plans to withdraw from the EU.

With Labour's blood up after the fiasco of the Flight affair, the party will be working hard to convince voters that the Tories are being dishonest about the plans, says Happold. Expect things to hot up further, he adds.

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