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Euroscepticism will triumph in the Conservative Party. It's just a matter of time.

By Tim Montgomerie
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I don't quite believe David Campbell Bannerman's reasons for joining the Conservative Party but his defection (on Tuesday) was no less welcome for that. As a supporter, myself, of leaving the EU I hope the numbers of Better-Off-Outers inside the Conservative Party will eventually reach a critical mass. The British people will then get a vote on whether we want to decide our own laws or have ever more of them made for us in Brussels.

The number of different kinds of Eurosceptics inside the party is certainly growing. We, finally, for example, have our Tory MEPs being led by a serious Eurosceptic - Martin Callanan. I can't believe that DCB would have defected to a group led by Timothy Kirkhope and still inside the EPP.

Also on Tuesday thirty Conservative MPs (including sixteen new Tory MPs highlighted in magenta) rebelled against the Coalition frontbench and said that they'd had enough of EU bailouts. Let me list the thirty brave souls once more:
  1. Steve Baker
  2. Andrew Bingham
  3. Peter Bone
  4. Douglas Carswell
  5. William Cash
  6. James Clappison
  7. Philip Davies
  8. David Davis
  9. Nick de Bois
  10. Richard Drax
  11. Zac Goldsmith
  12. James Gray
  13. Gordon Henderson
  14. Philip Hollobone
  15. Bernard Jenkin
  16. Edward Leigh
  17. Anne Main
  18. Jason McCartney
  19. Karl McCartney
  20. David Nuttall
  21. Andrew Percy
  22. Mark Reckless
  23. John Redwood
  24. Jacob Rees-Mogg
  25. Bob Stewart
  26. Justin Tomlinson
  27. Andrew Turner
  28. Martin Vickers
  29. Charles Walker
  30. Dr. Sarah Wollaston

I suspect that as many as another thirty Tory MPs were in full agreement but because they were PPS's, ministers or are hopeful of promotion, they didn't publicly support Mark Reckless' motion. As the parliament wears on, the hopes of preferment fade and ministers' unhappy experience of dealing with the EU grows, you can expect the number of rebels to grow too. One of the reasons Cameron still enjoys Coalition government is that he's glad the hard core sceptics can't hold his government to ransom.

The hard core Eurosceptics are something of a rag-tag army with differences over tactics between some of the more seasoned Eurosceptics and some of the newcomers. Nonetheless there are signs that the newcomers' focus on bread-and-butter issues (long recommended by the TaxPayers' Alliance) - like votes-for-prisoners and the cost of bailouts - is winning through. The result is that when sceptics do appear in the media they are resonating with the public. This didn't always happen when the focus was on sometimes complex issues of sovereignty (probably more important but hardly retail).

Douglas Carswell's speech on Tuesday was superb. Jonathan Isaby has already posted it but let me republish two compelling extracts:

"Having struggled for the past year to cut £6.2 billion from our public spending, why do we sign up to bail-out commitments twice as great, all in order to bail out a currency we chose not to join? We have been told that the bail-outs are to help our friends, but since when do we help a friend in debt by pressing upon them a high-interest loan? A year of bail-outs has not removed the debt burden from our neighbours and friends; it has merely increased it...

We have sat here for too long listening to what Ministers tell us. We have been fed too many bogus assurances and too many reasons that have turned out to be excuses. The bail-outs are not only ruinous and quite possibly illegal; they are indefensible. They mean that although we may not be in the euro as a currency union, we have been dragged into it as a debt union. It is not enough simply to listen to further assurances given from the Dispatch Box as Ministers regurgitate what officials permit them to say."

In conclusion, Tory Euroscepticism has at least three big things on its side:

  • A strength of numbers at Westminster, among Tory MEPs and at the grassroots level;
  • A growing deployment of streetwise arguments;
  • The increasingly obvious failure of the out-dated European model whether it's its agriculture and fisheries policies, border controls, the €urozone or the ambition for a common foreign policy.

David Cameron - or his successor - won't be able to long grass the reaction to these pressures forever.


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