Cameron's attempt to face two ways on Europe were spectacularly revealed by his trip to Brussels.
On the one hand, to pander to the Eurosceptic right of his party, he feeds a line to the sceptic newspapers in which he lambasts the EU. On the other, he tries to reassure mainstream opinion by teling other papers that he believes in a 'strong Europe'.
Just look at the contradictory messsages fed to different newspapers, according to their owner's position on Europe:
In the Financial Times, Cameron "fought to shrug off his party’s reputation for hostility towards Europe as he mounted an all-out charm offensive in Brussels. Mr Cameron lavished praise on the European Commission and said he fully shared its drive to tackle climate change, cut global poverty, reduce red tape and improve Europe’s competitiveness. Having secured election as leader of the opposition Conservatives exactly a year ago adopting a Eurosceptic tone, his new approach reflects a dawning sense in the British political establishment that Brussels is moving in its direction. He endorsed the “Europe of results” approach of José Manuel Barroso, the liberal-minded European Commission president."
The FT further reveals that, during his closed-door meeting with his Tory MEPs, he barely mentioned his notorious pledge to pull them out of the moderate EPP Group in the European Parliament. The FT reports that he could abandon it at a later date. "The moment to have done it was straight away. This is a defeat for the right"
Similarly, to Guardian reders, Cameron promises that the "Tories will engage with Europe". The Guardian relates that "On his first visit to Brussels as Tory leader, Mr Cameron abandoned the hostility of his predecessors as he pledged to join forces with Brussels to tackle climate change and world poverty" Cameron is quoted as saying: "One of the things that makes me optimistic is the agenda of this [European] commission does seem to be very positive in terms of deregulation, in terms of making sure that Europe is more competitive and [tackles] climate change".
But in the Sun, he tells readers that the EU is a "disaster'. The Sun reports that "he slammed the EU's 'culture of hopelessness' and branded farm subsidies an 'economic and humanitarian disaster'. He told his MEPs "We are a new generation. We have no time for the culture of hopelessness that has plagued the EU"
To Mail readers, perhaps surprisingly, he took the middle ground, venturing that he wanted to make the Union a 'shining symbol of progress'. The Mail reports that "his overall assessment of Britain's place in Europe was positive, risking angering some of his more Eurosceptic MPs. 'It's because we want to see a future for the EU and believe in a strong Europe that we want to make the EU confront its failings' he said"
Cameron's first visit to Brussels as party leader was long delayed. Only when staying away became an embarrassement did he finally come. But, far from being an exercise in statesmanship, his attempts to please conflicting parts of his party back home has simply revealed his hypocrisy on Europe. Chameleon indeed!
Labels: Cameron, Conservatives, EPP