Last week at PMQs, Ed Miliband had great fun, mocking the wait for David Cameron’s Europe speech. He lampooned the Prime Minister as the weak leader of a divided party. It was a performance that disturbed even some normally calm Number 10 aides.
But this week, it was Cameron who was relishing PMQs. By the end of the session, he was even telling Dennis Skinner — who normally brings out the Prime Minister’s irritable side — that he might agree with the speech Cameron is giving in Davos tomorrow.
Now that Cameron has set out his position, Miliband is under pressure to follow suit. Miliband appeared to rule out a referendum, responding to Cameron’s taunts with the line ‘No, I don’t want an In/Out referendum.’ He stressed that it was Cameron who had shifted position not him, pointing to the fact they had both voted against an In/Out referendum back in 2011. But after the session, Labour spinners were trying to add some caveats to Miliband’s line.
Cameron will also have been cheered by the Tory response to the speech. He received a rapturous reception on arrival in the Chamber and every question from Tory MPs on the matter was supportive. He said that he wanted to campaign for Britain to stay in. But it is significant that at the moment he won’t publicly contemplate what he would do if the renegotiation failed comprehensively.
I suspect that this mood of Tory unity won’t last forever, though. A year or two after the next election, if there is a Conservative-led government, the party will find out what Cameron has got back. At that point, every Tory will have to decide whether or not they can campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.