One issue that the reshuffle makes no difference to at all is the Conservative party’s Europe problem. If the Prime Minister managed to forget about the pressure from his own party for an EU referendum over the summer, he’s about to be reminded of it.
In late June, Tory MP John Baron handed a letter to David Cameron signed by over 100 of his backbench colleagues calling for the government to introduce legislation now for a referendum on European Union membership in the next parliament. He has still not received a response, even though the Prime Minister said he would write back. Last week, Baron pestered Cameron’s office, and this week, he has tabled a parliamentary question which must receive a response within five days. The question demands an answer from Cameron, saying:
To ask the Prime Minister, when he plans to respond to a) the letter of 27 June 2012 from the hon. member for Basildon and Billericay signed by a further 100 hon. Members on a referendum on the EU and b) the subsequent e-mail of 30 August 2012 from the hon. member for Basildon and Billericay.
Baron also tells me he is setting up an all-party parliamentary group for an EU referendum in the coming weeks, which he hopes will be made up not just of his eurosceptic friends on the Tory benches, but also of pro-European MPs who also want to give the public a vote on Britain’s membership. This will not be a poorly-attended obscure group by any means, and will certainly add to the Prime Minister’s discomfort. Not only does he have over 100 members of his own party waiting – now rather impatiently – for him to send a letter back to the one they wrote just under three months ago, but he will also hear MPs from across the House saying a great deal more about the need for a referendum.