David Cameron should savour today as the moment he finally satisfied Mrs Bone. I’ve been calling round Tory MPs, and Peter Bone, often a thorn in the flesh of the Prime Minister with his probing questions that his wife wants clearing up, is happy with the speech. He says:
‘I could hear Mrs Bone singing in the shower room and it included the words “for he’s a jolly good fellow”.’
Bone explains why his household is filled with such joy this morning:
‘I am in a very good mood. A year ago, if I had said to you the Prime Minister is going to renegotiate the terms of the EU towards a Common Market and then put it to the British people in an In/Out referendum, you would have said I was barking mad.
‘I think he will fail to get his renegotiation, though I wish him well, not because of what he does, but because of the other EU countries. He could well end up campaigning on the ‘out’ side.’
Steve Baker, who rebelled on both EU votes, is similarly full of praise, with a cautious note about the success of a renegotiation:
‘I’m delighted the Prime Minister has made an unequivocal commitment to an In/Out referendum. The question is now whether the EU elite are prepared to allow a relationship acceptable to the British people. That is, whether David Cameron can shift the entrenched, failing political economy of the nations of Europe. I very much hope so.’
The Prime Minister was very cagey about what he’d do in the event of a failed renegotiation when pressed on it this morning, but he has still managed to please those who plan to campaign for ‘out’. Douglas Carswell, again never afraid of making his disagreements with the Tory leadership on Europe perfectly clear, is also happy, even going so far as to suggest that this could end Tory grumbles about Europe:
‘If the Bruges speech of Thatcher launched 20 years of grumbling, Cameron’s speech today should launch a more forward-looking European policy that Tories will welcome.’
He’s not the only one hoping this signals a new dawn of party unity on Europe. At the other side of the spectrum, Laura Sandys, who is one of the few brave enough to stick their head above the parapet with pro-EU views, makes the same point:
‘I think it does have the potential to improve party unity: in some ways, because it was an issue that was never spoken in many ways, the debate was only being spun in corridors.’
So for today at least, the Prime Minister seems to have succeeded in uniting his party on Europe. He should enjoy the party atmosphere while it lasts.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.