On the day when David Cameron pledged “real people power” I have learnt yet again just how calculating and, yes amoral, he actually is.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Magna Carta Institue, former Tory MEP Tom Spencer told the audience that Cameron doesn’t really intend that the Tories will leave the European People’s Party, the centre-right political group in the European Parliament, for ever more. His strategy for the future is a devious one and speaks of the worst kind of political gerrymandering.
Cameron has, of course, been very careful to promise that the Tories will leave the EPP “after the European Elections”. This is crucial for two reasons. The first is clear: a political group in the European Parliament requires seven member states to be constituted as a political group. If the Tories can’t find six others, they will not be able to form a group, so what has been seen as a promise to leave the EPP will be null and void. Cameron is effectively promising something he can’t necessarily deliver.
The story, however, gets worse. There is a convention that the all-important President of the European Commission comes from the political family with the majority in the European Parliament. The Commission President is a poweful position and gives the political group who hold it considerable power. Acording to Tom Spencer, now Executive Director of the highly regarded European Centre for Political Affairs, the EPP may not continue as the largest group in the European Parliament, not because they will necessarily lose seats but because the Party of European Socialists (PES), soon to be Party of European Socialists and Democrats, may extend its reach to include national delegations currently in other political groups.
Given this scenario, the Party of European Socialists and Democrats may have enough members to be the largest group and therefore ensure a Socialist/Democrat President of the Commission. If this were on the cards, the Tories, withdrawn from the EPP by “call me Dave, power to the people ” Cameron, would be in pole position to come out the wilderness of whatever political group he may or may not have stitched together and rejoin the EPP, making it once again the largest political group. Hey presto, the Tories give the EPP the President of the European Commission. Machiavelli would be proud.
If all else fails, Cameron could take the Tories out of their new home mid-term in the European Parliament, after two-and-a-half years when all positions are reviewed and can be changed.
Having heard Tom Spencer and listened to a number of speakers at the event he addressed, organised by the Magna Carta Institute and Brunel University, it seems clear that withdrawal from the EPP is not viewed favourably by many on the thinking centre-right. David Cameron’s “policy” which looks in line for a U turn, is obviously only for short term domestic consumption to keep the Conservative Party together.
Dave obviously has ways of reneging on what, in view of the obvious displeasure at the Tory plan to come out of the EPP on the part of both Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, would be a deeply damaging policy for the Tories internationally. I’m sure I’m not the only one to find Cameron’s machinations deeply amoral – one message at home but a completely different set of actions within the European Union.