“There won’t be a long discussion”. So said an anonymous French diplomat, prior to the Brussels summit dinner on Thursday night, where David Cameron apparently began to renegotiate UK’s European Union membership. The British Prime Minister will have time only to set out his proposals “in a general way”, observed a German official before the meal, adopting an almost equally withering tone.
There seems little appetite among EU governments for the UK to reconstitute our relationship with the other 27 member states and then hold an in/out referendum. That lack of appeal may even extend to Number 10 itself – given that the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge was made under pre-election duress, to try to win back Tory voters attracted to Ukip.
The party conference season is over for another year. While it was uninspiring mid-term fare for the most part, I offer some observations. Thanks to Labour’s Manchester set-piece, we now know that party leader Ed Miliband wants to steal Disraeli’s “one nation” mantle. We learnt in Brighton that maybe, possibly, the Liberal Democrat’s Nick Clegg won’t back the Conservatives’ plans to find another £10bn of welfare savings, but he definitely wants to increase taxes on the rich.
In Birmingham, we were reminded of Boris Johnson’s oratorical skills and the affection he generates among his own party faithful. But it was also apparent that much of the Tory rank-and-file still see “Bozza” (for now at least) as an amusing rabble-rouser, rather than a future party leader.