A slender Tory majority was one of my most feared election outcomes, mostly because of one issue: Europe. I worried that if the Tories got a majority but only a very tiny one, the right of his party would hold Cameron to ransom on the subject. They would reject his calls for a renegotiation at all, saying they planned to oust him, split the party, whatever, lest they get an In/Out referendum with no strings attached pretty much immediately.
Instead, Tory unity, so far I’d like to stress, has been admirable. Cameron’s approach to the Riga summit seems to be the right one, talking tough and determined but also in a collegiate spirit with his fellow European leaders. Having Junker to Chequers is a masterstroke; one that seems obvious, but often great political moves always seem thus in retrospect. It all seems to be shaping up rather well for British pro-Europeans: a reasonable set of changes to Britain’s relationship with and within the EU, which we’d all have to concede is where the country is at with the European project for the time being, paves the way for the UK to remain in the European Union.
Some Eurosceptics will bleat (and some have started already) that a “Harold Wilson Mark 2” approach will not work; that a short, sharp set of renegotiated demands that do not even require treaty change will be seen through and rejected by the British people. This is wishful thinking on their part, as the sudden upturn in the “Stay In” option polling wise suggests. I even like the prime minister’s idea of having the whole thing in 2016: let’s get it done early and move on with our lives.
Labour meanwhile, have nothing to say of any novelty or cut through on the subject. This is simply a consequence of the outcome of the election and not their fault per se, but there’s no way for them to win on this. Either Cameron succeeds in what he’s attempting to do and looks brilliant, or he fails and Labour weren’t on the other side of the argument anyway and cannot capitalise.
I will close with the following caveat: although he’s had a great start, it could still all go pear shaped for Cameron. The path he’s on is filled with potential pot holes, any of them possibly being large enough to derail his whole mission if he hits one. But I’m heartened by a good start. For the sake of the nation and its future, I have to admit it, I’m really cheering Cameron on with this.