James Forsyth

Ed Davey’s ‘pro-European’ claim has Tory ministers fuming

Ed Davey's 'pro-European' claim has Tory ministers fuming
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There’s barely disguised fury among Conservative ministers about Ed Davey’s claim that the coalition may well be more pro-European than the Labour government was. One complained to me earlier that it was typical Lib Dem mischief making and that ‘if they are not going to behave like normal ministers then we shouldn’t either’. Indeed, this minister went on to suggest that William Hague should publicly slap down Davey for his comments.

I doubt this is going to happen. Davey is the leading Lib Dem on the Cabinet’s European Affairs Committee and I suspect there’s little appetite in the Foreign Office for a coalition row over Europe.

But Davey’s comments do illustrate a broader problem for the Conservatives in getting their message across. In Number 10 they know that they need to talk more in terms of values. But any attempt to do that can end up being undermined by the Liberal Democrats.

One lesson that Number 10 should take from this flap is that Cameron needs to give a big speech setting out his views on Europe and what powers a Conservative-majority government would seek to repatriate from Brussels. Until he does that, there is going to be a certain level of confusion about what Cameron’s Europe policy really is.