KEEP OUR PROMISE
This is my first bulletin since the Conservative Party shelved its plans to withdraw from the federalist European People’s Party (EPP). Like many of you, I am disappointed by the climb-down. David Cameron now says that the break will come in 2009, adding in a Daily Telegraph article of 14 July that his commitment “is not an aspiration, it is a guarantee — and it will be delivered.”
Put like that, it would be churlish not to believe him. None the less, the delay seems to me unnecessary and damaging. By postponing the decision over the past nine months, we created a good deal of harmful bickering, as opponents of David Cameron’s promise sought — successfully, as it turned out — to push him into a U-turn. We now risk three more years of the same.
While on the subject, it is worth dealing with a couple of misapprehensions that have cropped up in the media. First, it has been widely claimed that the Conservatives were unable to find suitable allies in the rest of the EU. William Hague, we are told, trawled Europe’s capitals in search of partners. In fact, William made just one visit to Brussels, at which he found more than enough parties to make up the necessary numbers. It is sometimes suggested that these came from the political fringe. Nonsense: they are mainstream and respectable parties — although the repeated postponement of the decision more or less guaranteed that supporters of the EPP link would attempt to smear them as far-Right.
I mention these things, not in order to carp, but because we risk making the same mistake again. By delaying the move, we give the EPP every incentive to seek to turn our prospective allies, and we encourage the federalists to plant vicious stories about them. If we are serious about forming a new group, and thus creating a vehicle to advance the Conservative vision of a Europe of nations, we should do it without further delay.