06 October 2009

Europe: Where does Cameron go from here?

Let us start with the Populus poll in The Times:

Only 28 per cent of voters think that the party really seems to have changed under Mr Cameron and “that is why they are doing so much better”.  But 68 per cent still believe that the party does not seem to have changed much under Mr Cameron and is doing better “mainly just because the Labour Government has become so unpopular”.

The Tories continuing division over Europe underpins that “68%” figure.  Yesterday was finished off by Boris Johnson’s ludicrous performance on Newsnight, where Paxman just gave up and told him to talk straight to the camera.  The veneer that covers the tensions within the Tory party has been blown away.

The Tories are turning in on themselves, which Cameron was quick to appreciate when he made an unscheduled conference speech:

Let this not be the week that we talk to ourselves but the week we talk to the country.

But it is not happening and that is Cameron’s fault because he failed to provide decisive leadership when it was most needed.  Just how is he going to unite his party behind his yet to be released policy when the treaty is ratified?

Now, consider Our Dave's relations with Europe.  Here is the EU council president, Fredrik Reinfeldt:

As far as I'm concerned, [Britain] is a country which has already ratified the treaty.

On Cameron:

We disagree on the referendum. Making such a promise will not help him at all as Britain's probable future prime minister.

Turn to the possibility that Cameron could push for opt-outs or a lesser membership option and then have a referendum if he is elected.  Hopi Sen discusses this and suggests the Harold Wilson scenario.  However, the circumstances are now different, as Gavin Hewitt explains:

The Lisbon Treaty could not be amended or revoked except by another treaty. It has taken 10 years of argument to get to this point. Imagine how hard it would be to persuade 26 other countries to reopen the whole process.

More immediately, there is that little meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to come.

Will it be possible for Cameron to “seal the deal” with the voters when his party is not united on this fundamental of issues?

That task is much harder to achieve than it was on Saturday.

A week is indeed a long time in politics.

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