Why is Theresa May stalling on the publication of the Balance of Competences review? The Times is reporting that the Home Secretary feels the review underestimates the extent of benefit tourism, which would certainly chime with what’s been published so far – the last tranche of review documents made the European Union sound like something no sensible person could ever find fault with.
But aside from the policy issue, which is becoming more and more sensitive as the deadline for the lifting of transitional controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants approaches, there could be another reason the Home Secretary wants to be seen to be delaying on this review. The BoC was initially trumpeted as a dry way of settling some debates on the European issue, but now it’s another example for the eurosceptics of the way Whitehall is hardwired towards europhilia. Over the past year, the Home Secretary, once someone keen to target the modernisers in the Conservative party, has set her sights on the right instead. And so causing a bit of a stink over the BoC isn’t the worst way of letting the right know that this Home Secretary is on their side.
Number 10 today insisted that we can expect the review ‘in the coming weeks’, but the Home Secretary has already made her message quite clear without saying anything in public at all. The only problem is that there is still a certain amount of resentment on the right of the Conservative party over May’s ‘the nasty party’ comments, even after a number of years.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.