As the British contingent of Conservative MEPs arrive in Strasbourg where they will vote for their new leader in the European Parliament, a former member of the party has proposed a radical move that would continue the spirit of coalition that the party endures back home in the UK.Edward McMillan-Scott
, a vice-president of the European Parliament who was expelled from the Conservative group
and subsequently crossed the floor to join the Liberal ALDE group
, has in a speech suggested David Cameron should abandon the European Conservatives and Reformists
(ECR) group - once described by Nick Clegg as “a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists and homophobes” – and follow his lead.
Mr McMillan-Scott, pictured left, believes the Liberal ALDE group is now “far closer to his sensibilities
” since Mr Cameron’s eurosceptism has (mercifully) weakened since taking office, and that such a move would be in the country’s best interest because the ECR’s standing on the sideline has dented UK influence in the assembly.
Here follows some extracts from Mr McMillan-Scott’s speech to the AGM of the Liberal Democrat West Midlands group on Saturday 20th as reproduced on politics.co.uk
"As prime minister he cannot afford to let his snappy nature get in the way of the national interest. He will have to accept that the ECR was a political disaster. During a welter of media criticism of his new group last October, the Economist described the ECR as 'a shoddy and shaming alliance'. By early November, Cameron's Euroscepticism was wilting. He declared that there would be no referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
In the European Parliament, the ECR is sidelined, impotent and fragile. For survival it relies on several individual MEPs to comply with the European Parliament's rules. It has no commissioners and Cameron's only ally in power is Petr Necas, the Czech prime minister. So while all the other EU leaders gather in pre-summit 'family' meetings to prepare the agenda - the EPP, Socialists, Liberals - Cameron has a twosome with Mr Necas.
As it is highly unlikely that the EPP would welcome him back, some form of link with the continental liberal family is the way forward for Cameron. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, which I joined earlier this year, is on the winning side in 90% of votes in the European Parliament. The LSE described the group as the 'king-makers', a phenomenon I witness when chairing the votes.
As Nick Clegg said during another leaders' debate about the EU, "size does matter". While the EPP governs 14 EU countries and deploys 13 Commissioners, the liberal family is also in government in 13 countries, has five prime ministers and no less than eight Commissioners.
Even if Cameron as prime minister enjoys good bilateral relations with Angela Merkel or Nicolas Sarkozy, it is his ministers, diplomats, civil servants and MEPs who need the throw-weight of a serious European political family in order to deliver for Britain in an increasingly powerful post-Lisbon European Union.
It is in the national interest that Cameron swallows hard and admits that he made a mistake. It would also show true character."