David Cameron has survived the post-Juncker post-mortem without a Tory grandee briefing against him. This is comforting for the Prime Minister, although he shouldn’t assume that he has the full loyalty of his party: it is quite clear that many are simply holding their fire until after the General Election. David Davis, who will again become a dangerous figure in 2015 if Cameron holds onto power, reminded everyone of what the PM has got coming to him when he popped up on the Today programme this morning. Davis said:
‘He’s had a very, very difficult few weeks to say the least, but what he has to do is turn this into a tactical advantage in the next year or two. It’s going to be really difficult: Lord Lawson who knows his way around these corridors as well as most people, has taken the view that there’s going to be nothing material that comes out of the negotiations. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but that’s what the odds are, it’s going to be very very difficult to deliver an outcome that will allow British people to stay in.’
Davis then set out a series of targets on freedom of movement, regulation and constitutional changes that would create the outcome where Britain could remain. The question now is not whether the Tory party takes Davis up on these targets before the 2015 election, but whether it uses them afterwards. Cameron can be assured that the numbers simply are not there for eurosceptics to cause trouble at present. But if enough MPs are willing to listen to Davis after 2015, then the PM will find that his Europe troubles come rushing back once again.
P.S. Davis was preceded on the programme by Lord Mandelson who had plenty to say about Cameron’s European strategy. But the most notable comment the Labour peer made was that ‘I don’t think [Juncker] is an ideal candidate, but he is the Commission president we now have’. Not exactly the highest praise. But it’s the same phrase that Mandelson used about his own party leader. Interviewed on Newsnight on 18 June about Ed Miliband’s leadership, Mandelson said: ‘In my view he is the leader we have and therefore the leader I support’. Watch out for that phrase whenever Mandelson uses it from now on.