David Cameron heads to Brussels today still not knowing which Tory big beasts he will have supporting him in the referendum campaign. The Cameron circle had always been confident that Boris Johnson would ultimately back staying In. But that confidence has been shaken by yesterday’s meeting between Boris and the PM. Part of the problem is that what Boris has always said that he wants on sovereignty is very hard, if not impossible, to actually deliver.
If the Cameron circle is worried about Boris, it seems increasingly resigned to losing Michael Gove to the Out side. As I say in the column this week, an immense amount of emotional energy has gone into trying to persuade the Justice Secretary not to back Out. Gove is close to both Cameron and Osborne personally and politically, and it would be a blow to them if he was not with them in this campaign. Also, if one of the intellectual driving forces behind Cameron’s modernisation of the Tories backed Out, it would show that Out isn’t the preserve of the old right or those who yearn for a return to the past.
The Out campaign will also, I understand, get the support of a slew of junior ministers. A group of Eurosceptic junior ministers has agreed to meet early next week. These ministers, many of whom were members of the Fresh Start group which set out a bold plan for the renegotiation, hope to form a caucus of ‘sensibles for out’.