Quick! Cameron must announce the new Tory policy on Europe as soon as possible
Sunday's ConservativeHome exclusive on the Lisbon referendum has been followed up by almost every national newspaper today and we've just put a survey online to get your views on the now widely anticipated new Tory policy.
The Czech Constitutional Court has just approved the Lisbon Treaty and the only barrier to ratification now is the signature of President Vaclav Klaus. David Cameron may be in front of the nation's cameras within hours to set out the new Conservative policy. He does now need to move quickly in order to stop MPs, newspapers and campaign organisations digging themselves into entrenched positions. One very big beast in the party told me yesterday that they were putting pen to paper in favour of a post-ratification referendum. That beast will not do so once the policy position has been stated by the leader. "It'll be impossible then," they said.
One Conservative frontbencher (and this is not a verbatim quote but pretty accurate) got closest to what (I think) the leadership thinks on this issue. This is what they said to me yesterday:
"David Cameron only has a finite number of hours in the day. The same is true of Conservative ministers. We can spend the next few years as a government devoting those hours to cutting the deficit, delivering world class schools and hospitals and rebuilding our inner cities. Or we could spend those hours on a war with Europe. A war that we probably can't win. Brown has buggered us. This is not David's fault. This is Brown's fault. Cameron and Hague would have held that referendum if Lisbon had not been ratified. Any kind of referendum would now be a distraction from what really matters to voters. We'll renegotiate some powers but the Conservative Party must not again be defined by Europe and European splits."
10.15am update: The BBC cites an interview David Cameron has done this morning with LBC radio, in which he expresses disappointment at the decision of the Czech Constitutional Court, adding: "I of course hope he [Klaus] doesn't sign the treaty but I suspect time is running out". The report adds that Mr Cameron will decide "later this week" what his course of action would be on winning power.