I touched recently on David Cameron’s first big idea on Europe: to create a new right of centre grouping in the European Parliament (EP), away from the currently mainstream European Peoples’ Party (EPP), which includes Germany’s Christian Democrats, the party of current Chancellor Angela Merkel. Well, Young Dave has now done the deed – so what does this new grouping look like, and how does the idea behind it stack up?
Well, first of all, this new grouping has an awful lot of one member representations. Five of them, in fact: only the Tories, the Polish Law and Justice Party, and the Czech Civic Democratic Party are there in any force. This means that it would not take more than a couple of defections to bring the whole thing down: while the minimum criterion of 25 MEPs isn’t a problem – the new group has more than twice that number – the rule that these must come from at least seven member states is the one that could spell trouble.
All the re-grouping is for the apparent purpose of showing that the Tories are not merely a right of centre party, but a eurosceptic one. Young Dave doesn’t want his chaps to sit with the EPP, as he says they are “federalists”, which might sound jolly distinctive until you realise that the Tories are also “federalists” – except that their definition of the term is different to their former colleagues from Germany and France.
Moreover, the idea that the Tories can’t coexist with the rest of the EPP is tosh. To follow that to its logical conclusion, the Tory front bench in the Commons should not have the substantial presence of Europhile “smoking” Ken Clarke anywhere near it. He’d have to sit well away from Young Dave, and align himself with other Euro-lovers. Yes, it would look plain daft, and that is, more or less, what the Tories are doing in the EP right now.
And all this is before any consideration of the less than totally mainstream views voiced by some of the Tories’ partners in their new Euro-venture. Then there is the strange case of Tory MEP Dan Hanann and his recent Spanish sojourn involving a party headed by a Franco apologist. Put together, this is a diversion that one would imagine Young Dave could do without.
If he were taking the EU seriously, that is.