To EPP or not EPP
So Nicholas Sarkozy told Cameron he was weak for "giving in" to those on the right of his party who want the Tories out of the EPP. While I have some sympathy with Sarko's view that the party should remain allied to the EPP (European People's Party group in the European Parliament) - it's never been a member, only allied to it through the ED - he has chosen the worst argument he could to attack the decision.
For Cameron currently does not appear weak and is not conceived of as weak by his party or the public. In fact, the current theme is that he is willing to be ruthless to achieve that which is important to him, namely, the rehabilitation of the Tory Party: see the squeals accompanying the "A-list" and his pronouncements on the NHS and grammar schools. So I don't think Cameron will lose too much sleep over Sarko's protestations. In fact he may even welcome them, because standing up to French name-calling is probably the one thing, short of sending a task force to the Falkland Islands, that he can do to demonstrate to "the right" that he is the exact opposite of the spineless lefty some suspect he may be. In the same way that Tebbit and Heffer moaning help to highlight the desire to modernise and embrace the common ground close, Sarko moaning about weakness will make him seem stronger and more resilient when he stands up to such desperate protestations. Please, mon ami Sarko, stick to the arguments rather than name-calling.
The other interesting thing to come out of the article in the Guardian is Roger Knapman's criticism of Cameron's move. This just serves as yet further evidence that it's a good idea. If you read his comments carefully, he really does sound like a man rattled and threatened by the move. But, of course, that is Cameron's aim. Shut out UKIP as a potential voice for the right by undermining them on Europe.
"While I don't want Britain to be in the EU - and believe that one day we won't - if the Conservatives were to form the next government they would probably serve the national interest better by being part of the family of European governments rather than being on the fringes."
Sorry, Signor Knapman, but haven't you criticised them before in elections for not being able to properly critique the EU when their noses were in the same federalist trough?
And can you make sense of this?
"In the European parliament we have a completely mixed picture in terms of political culture - to the extent that one culture would often be very embarrassed by another. That does not matter to us very much."
So the cultures aren't embarrassed by each other in fact? Or are you just spouting froth with this because your scared the irrelevant parties you've used for your own ends may now be used by the Tories to get influence?
"Our role has been to link arms with other campaigning groups simply to oppose the constitution. We draw a line at the racist right, so we reject Vlams Blok, the Front National, Haider's Freedom party. But after that we are very happy to link arms with a Polish party that is more Catholic than the Pope, a Dutch Calvinist party which certainly disapproves of some of my social habits and a Danish movement led by the country's former Communist party leader."
And the problem with Cameron taking the same stance is what exactly?
One valid concern with the policy is this:
In my opinion, the Parliament should exist to set the direction of EU policy as it concerns the EU. To that end we are better served working alongside other centre-right parties, no matter what their views on the structure or ambit of the EU, in order to achieve our policy goals by shaping the behaviour of the institutions. In this being allied with some of the nutjobs I understand Hague has been talking to would be sure to be a hindrance. When it comes to structural questions or those regarding the scope of the EU and its responsibilities themselves, however, these should be dealt with by member states. The Parliament, and MEPs, should be irrelevant at this stage - as will thus be the case regarding any grouping in the Parliament itself. Sadly this sensible model does not currently match the situation on the ground. The challenge is what to do in the interim, and it could be Plan Cameron/Hague is the least worst solution to gaining domestic power, and preventing further drift in Brussels.
On one thing, however, Mr Knapman is certainly correct.
"However we are not a potential party of government"
Indeed. As such any UKIP vote is a wasted vote - or worse one which tightens a federalist grip on power in the UK.