As ever, the issue of Europe raises his ugly head in the Conservative Party. Tory donors are threatening to vote and support the UK Independence Party (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6262325.stm) with Stuart Wheeler saying his vote was "in doubt" because the Tories had "not been nearly strong enough on Europe". He was joined by former party treasurer Lord Kalms who told the Daily Telegraph "the option remains open for me... to vote UKIP."
To shore up support, Cameron has made reference to returning to “the ideas that encouraged me as a young man to join the Conservative Party and work for Margaret Thatcher" rather than follow Blair on the issue.
All of this follows allegations that the UKIP Leader has been promised a safe Tory seat (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6209386.stm) and the defection of two former Tory Peers who have given UKIP their first representation in Westminster (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6243807.stm). While joining, they said UKIP was the "only party telling the truth" about Europe.
All this makes the Tory’s policy on Europe a mess – the right within his party are not going to leave the issue, and Hague has failed in his attempt to form a new political group in the European Party. This leaves them in a group of Pro-European Centre Right parties, which must serve to antagonise the right and the UKIP-friendly party members.
The opportunity this offers Labour – if the Tories run yet another election having to be hard line on Europe to keep Euro-sceptics on side – may look attractive if it squeezes the Tories' support, meaning they don’t win crucial seats. But for progressives, the launch pad in Westminster and growing credibility for UKIP might be cause to re-group and redouble our efforts. Pro-European policy was important in the creation of New Labour but not something the British public have kept with us on. Labour needs to once again be seen as pro-Europe, but also pro-reformed Europe, in a way that seems meaningful.