Thursday, July 13, 2006

The EPP issue should now be settled

A deal has been signed between David Cameron and Mirek Topolanek, the incoming Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and leader of the Civic Democrats, to form a new grouping the European Parliament and leaving the European People's Party from the next European Parliament elections. The Conservative-Civic Democrats group cannot be formed earlier because of complications in Czech domestic politics.

Hopefully this will be the end of the matter. But invariably on conservative blogs and messageboards the issue has become a key talking point, far in excess of things that matter.

At the end of the day nobody I've asked has actually produced the text of a pledge Cameron is alleged to have made stating quite clearly that Conservative MEPs would sit as independents rather than in the EPP, were those the only options.

Politics is about delivering and there are some pledges that one does not hold all the cards to deliver. A pledge to transfer to a new group of centre-right Eurosceptic parties can only be delivered if sufficient other Eurosceptic parties are available to form such a group. How can Cameron deliver this pledge right now?

I might also add that a lot of the people calling for EPP withdrawal for years claimed that as soon as we signalled it parties would come flocking to us and forming a new group would be easy. That this has been protracted is proof that this isn't as simple as they made out.

Some people say they made their decision about the leadership of a major political party and the next centre right Prime Minister of this country on the basis of seating arrangements in the European Parliament. Am I mad for thinking this or are they real and mad for doing this?

It is absurd that this has become such a major issue for some in our party. The reforms we want to see in Europe aren't going to be achieved by sitting on one bench or another in the Parliament. They can only be fought for from Downing Street. Ripping the party to shreds and keeping it in perpetual opposition over something as obscure as groupings in the European Parliament must constitute one of the stupidest political actions since Caligula made his horse a consul.

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