Conservative candidates in the European elections in June 2009 are being required to sign up to the following pledge:
"I hereby agree that if I am elected, I will respect the agreement made by David Cameron and Mirek Topolanek in July 2006, "that at the commencement of the next legislature period of the European Parliament , following the elections in 2009 our delegations will establish a new parliamentary group, which other like-minded parties will be invited to join", and that I will become a member of whichever political group in the European Parliament is decided upon by the Party Leader, in consultation with the leader of the Conservative MEPs, after the 2009 European elections"
I, and probably most Conservative MEPs, believe that the search for "other like minded parties" has already proved to be a hopeless one, and that further rooting about in the political undergrowth of Eastern Europe in particular demeans our party and will prove fruitless. However I see the "pledge" as providing, perhaps by design, a useful way out of this mess for David Cameron, and a means of the Conservatives eventually staying in the safe harbour of the EPP if that is what the "party leader, in consultation with the leader of the Conservative MEPs" decides.
The position of the Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament has never been a particularly happy or settled one. British Conservative economic liberalism and individualism, our hostility to European paternalist social policies and to Euro-federalism, and our propensity for the cold shower of "common sense" solutions, mean that we sit uneasily with the most important parties of the European centre right.