The Prime Minister delivered an accomplished, almost masterly speech at Conference, the perfect riposte to Ed Miliband, but also a Prime Minister communicating his mission in a way few can match. Like many I leave Birmingham with greater enthusiasm for our leader, believing that both party modernisation and the deficit reduction plan are a platform, from which to:
- support all who strive for success; and
- maintain our country as something more than part of a declining EU.
The Prime Minister did not mention Europe at all in his speech except for a reference to his December ‘veto’, but that was because he had already burnished his previously tarnished credentials in this area.The Prime Minister over the weekend, and the Foreign Secretary late last week, both suggested that seeking ‘fresh consent’ from the British people on the EU need not mean a referendum and could instead be done at a general election.
I gave my reaction to that on the BBC’s Daily Politics on Monday lunchtime (as shown below) that we surely couldn’t go into a general election saying that voting Conservative would constitute giving consent to the EU, and that we needed a real referendum on whether we would stay part of the EU.
I was delighted therefore to hear the Prime Minister’s remarks on the Today programme as I drove back to Birmingham on Tuesday, that he now accepted that a referendum would be the sensible way to resolve the matter.
Further, although David Cameron still said he was against having a straight in/out referendum now, he was apparently open to a referendum on EU membership when discussions on treaty change clarified what the ‘in’ option would mean for the UK.
Two and a half years ago I felt almost alone, there was of course the irrepressible Douglas Carswell, in campaigning for such a referendum on EU membership. Now it seems mainstream – but I will be keeping a very close eye on the small print.