Published on 12 Jan 2012

Eurosceptics keeping a beady eye on Cameron

Just how much trouble would David Cameron have been in if he had come back from Brussels in December without concessions for the City but signing up to be part of the treaty negotiations? It’s a question Paul Waugh raised way back when it was all kicking off and, bringing slowly up the rear, I’ve been chatting to quite a few Tory MPs to see, now the knuckle dusters are back in the pockets, how bad it might’ve got.

There was a real air of menace around David Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s Questions before he set off for Brussels – Tory MPs, one after another, taking the opportunity to stiffen his sinews with varying degrees of respect. But behind the scenes, David Cameron’s team was getting some very stark warnings of a serious potential uprising if he came home empty-handed.  Talking about it today, one Tory MP said: “It would’ve been Armageddon.”  Several Tory MPs told me they thought that many letters  would’ve gone to Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers,  requesting a leadership contest. Under the leadership rules, if 15% of Tory MPs or 45 MPs in the current Commons write to the ’22 Chairman it triggers a contest.

One MP told me that he thought there were “twenty something” ready to write  such a letter back in December. Another said he thought it was “more like thirty something.”  One MP said: “By Easter you would’ve had enough letters” – i.e. 45. We can’t know because it never got to the level of a coordinated  conspiracy plan agreed amongst committed MPs. But I was told that the MPs felt they had communicated to the whips before the EU summit that the “safety catch was off” and “people said this really could happen.”

All this matters because it  tells you something about the pressure David Cameron might’ve felt under when he went to Brussels. Were some in that delegation relaxed if not keen on deploying the veto? What was William Hague’s role on the night (the only Foreign Secretary from 27 countries present to join the delegations in the building that night). And it tells you something about the continuing pressure David Cameron is under as the EU decides where to go from here and the PM navigates a course that tries to make Britain’s voice heard without hacking off his own troops.  As two Tory MPs said today, they are still watching the Prime Minister “like hawks”, and his room for manouevre (and for pleasing Nick Clegg) looks very limited.

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5 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    Glad to know Cameron’s putting UK’s interests first.

  2. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    It’s a safe bet the “twenty” or “thirty” Tories who might have signed a letter to their head prefect are little more than messengers for the gangsters in Canary Wharf.

    Frankly, who cares if financial “services” move to Frankfurt and five thousand hangers-on get fired? Won’t “the private sector take up the slack”?

    The City of London makes nothing. It produces nothing. It is a notorious way station for corruption and suited up spivs and conmen, a processor of crooked money and a thief of honestly earned wealth. We are better off without that cess pit and its horrible totalitarian architecture and crooked Las Vegas mentality.

    That’s what the Tory MPs are protecting. It has nothing whatever to do with the security of this nation or protecting its true interests. It’s the same old lies from the same old spivs.

  3. Bradc says:

    DC seems to be the moderate face of the Tory party. What would the electorate do if DC was “Thatchered”?
    The return of the “Nasty party” is on the horizon. With Labour imploding under a wanting leader and the Conservatives imploding with self loathing, I fear it will be the extremes of politics that will benefit.
    I’m no Tory by any means, but to see a democratically appointed leader subject to the whims of 45 teabaggers seems a bit dangerous in such economically testing times.

  4. Saltaire Sam says:

    Gosh! So Dave wasn’t so much concerned about the future of the euro or even what was best for Britain, just saving his own job.

  5. Yorkshire Lass says:

    I missed this the other day. Two questions occur to me.

    1. If there were to be a Tory leadership contest, who would the likely candidates be?
    2. How would any new leader cope with maintaining the coalition?
    3. Would Nick Clegg get a say?

    Oops, that’s three questions.

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