Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cameron reneges on the EPP

Tory MPs are being summonsed this morning to hear their leader renege on his promise to withdraw the Conservatives from the EPP group, his one and only specific promise made during his bid for the leadership of the Party.

This is a major betrayal of the 40-50 MPs who supported the Cameron's leadership bid, and is a slap in the face for MEP Daniel Hannan. More than anyone, Hannan staked his political reputation on the Boy King's fidelity, which leaves him high and dry, with little option but to quit the group unilaterally.

Cameron will be attempting to dress up what is an unmistakable u-turn by enlisting the aid of Mirek Topolánek, leader of the Czech ODS European Parliament group, who will also address the meeting of MPs. Yet it is the refusal of the ODS to join with the Tories which has made the formation of a new group nigh impossible, precipitating the ongoing crisis which has led to this dénouement.

An attempt will be made to fend of criticism by talk of setting up an informal Anglo-Czech solidarity group, with promises that EPP membership will be reconsidered in 2009 at the next Euro-elections. Given how such promises have been made before, however, the prospect of "jam tomorrow" will be unappealing.

Looking at the broader picture, with Cameron having already ditched the pledge to withdraw from the CFP, pulling his party out of the EPP was the one issue to which the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory Party was able to cling, in order to convince themselves that the Boy had any Eurosceptic tendencies. This has now been shot to pieces and nothing left of the Tory policy suggests anything other than a Heathite, pro-EU policy. His u-turn signals that he has no intention whatsoever of wooing the Eurospectic vote.

Without doubt, the UK Independence Party will be the immediate beneficiary of this betrayal. It is likely that a small but significant number of activists will resign from the Conservatives and many more will – as with the last Euro-elections - be reluctant to campaign for the next batch of MEPs. UKIP itself will undoubtedly proclaim that Cameron is no longer trustworthy on any EU issue - not that they ever thought he was.

Possibly most damaging of all for the Boy, however, is the loss of trust. Although in the grander scheme of things, the EPP was a minor issue, for him to break his one "bankable" promise – made to secure his leadership victory – proves that his word is valueless. From now on, the grumblings in his Party, not least over his latest "hug a hoodie" lunacy, may be more difficult to contain.

For sure, a spoon full of sugar won't help this medicine go down.


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