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Merkel’s Visit Hasn’t Helped Cameron – But Has It Harmed Him?

Last Updated: Friday, February 28th, 2014

David Cameron was full of warm words and smiles yesterday as Angela Merkel visited Westminster. As one German reporter suggested, the red carpet treatment was befitting a “Queen of Europe” – and the Prime Minister certainly pulled out every stop short of a trumpet fanfare and artillery salute.

The generous hospitality did not exactly pay off. Chancellor Merkel made clear that she sees Britain as a natural ally against the profligate, chaotic economies of Southern Europe, but she emphatically did not come out in support of the fundamental, structural change Cameron called for in his Bloomberg speech a year ago.

How much does this shortfall between expectations and reality harm the Prime Minister? Not as much as one might imagine.

Those Tory MPs who are convinced Better Off Out supporters remain so, and are unlikely to become any more rebellious for having been proved right about the EU (for some there aren’t many opportunities to rebel that they don’t already take, admittedly).

Those MPs who are sliding towards firmer euroscepticism will simply continue to do so. They can comfortably cite their support for the Prime Minister’s aim of ending ever closer union, and blame European intransigence for their decision to vote Out, with no danger of appearing disloyal.

Those who are closer to the Cameron position, and the very few remaining euro-enthusiasts, will be disappointed but won’t waver in their support for the Prime Minister.

So yesterday’s events haven’t harmed his position within the Conservative Party particularly. Where they have left him vulnerable is externally, particularly in dealing with the UKIP threat.

For the last year, the Prime Minister has been able to answer suggestions he isn’t doing anything about the EU with the point that he is embarking on the first ever renegotiation of our relationship, followed by a referendum.

For voters who are sceptical of his honesty and commitment, the same voters who might consider backing UKIP, a public rebuttal of that renegotiation process might well confirm that all the promises were mere fluff.

The Bloomberg speech was made in order to shore up such waverers and stem losses on the right – if UKIP make a successful assault on his position, quoting Merkel, at their Spring Conference this weekend then Cameron may find himself back where he started.

Of course, UKIP being UKIP, anything might happen. They might seize their chance to undermine the Prime Minister’s defences, or they might disappear once more into a flurry of gaffes and mis-steps.

By Mark Wallace

 

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Daniel Hamilton: What must now be done to prevent the break-up of Ukraine  “If the West is serious about securing Ukraine’s long-term political reorientation, the United States and European Union must create some form of modern-day Marshall Plan to upgrade the country’s infrastructure and wean it off its dependence on Russian gas supplies to fuel the economy.” http://is.gd/01B8oU

Paul Goodman: Going green shouldn’t mean growth-damaging, consumer-hitting, supply-threatening targets  “We should agree with Gove that human activity is having an impact on the climate. None the less, it does not follow that because we believe this is so, the necessary consequence is to impose the most restrictive climate reduction targets in the world on a country that emits some two per cent of the world’s emissions.  Extreme green zealots have deployed the idea of “climate change denial” to suggest otherwise – the cynicism of which is signposted by its trivialisation of the Holocaust.” http://is.gd/EXhlbU

Tim Montgomerie and Stephan Shakespeare preview their forthcoming book: The Good Right  “We believe that conservatism can become popular, authentic and effective if it rebuilds around the idea that family, education and work are the three keys to restoring social progress. Our belief is that the agents of social and economic progress are parents, teachers and job creators.” http://is.gd/TZPMyL

Mark Wallace: Labour and Lib Dem MEPs vote to give Brussels the power to raise its own taxes “This is the fiscal enabler to allow Brussels to wield fiscal power without the consent of democratically elected national governments. Having been burned by recently being forced to accept a cut in their budget, the eurocrats are apparently intent on preventing that from ever happening again.” http://is.gd/QXiCfV

Andrew Gimson: An alliance with AfD in the European Parliament shouldn’t be ruled out   “Merkel would of course be highly displeased if Conservative MEPs were to team up with AfD in Brussels…But it would be quite unreasonable to exclude the possibility of admitting AfD to the European Conservatives and Reformists group. For AfD is not some wild right-wing organisation with which no sane person would wish to be associated. It is painfully respectable, and is sometimes mocked for the large number of deeply serious professors who helped to set it up.” http://is.gd/5zd4uj

Priti Patel MP: The bishops are blind to the moral message of IDS’s gospel of work   “Our reforms are putting Britain back on track, and we should pursue these changes with the same commitment and zeal that we are applying to helping people own their own home. We must all campaign hard for a Conservative majority Government in 2015 – so we can continue to help create more jobs, lift more families out of poverty and prevent a return to Labour’s damaging ‘something for nothing’ culture of welfare dependency.” http://is.gd/mR6w0u

By Mark Wallace

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