Conservative MEP's Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer quit their frontbench posts to concentrate on campaigning for a referendum on Europe after David Cameron said it was pointless to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty now it has been signed.
The comments by a French government minister who branded the Tories' new European policy "pathetic" may even help them in the short term polls given how some people feel about the French.
I think the Tories are really making a mess of Europe given their new grouping in the EU parliament and the effect of this on there relations with the bigger European governments etc.
The Conservatives now have no strength in Europe to get any of their wishes through, like a having the power for a Sovereignty Act or to repatriate powers from the EU. I very much doubt the EU would consider another treaty within the first conservative term in office after the Lisbon Treaty and therefore won’t have any form of referendum.
I think Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer are right to resign and campaign for a referendum to give the people a say as the Liberal Democrats would do. I also imagine that UKIP Leader Nigel Farage is trying his best to get Daniel to join his party as this really would be a great move for UKIP, if they could carry it off. I’m sure they would love too grab Daniel. Daniel Hannan also has a massive ground swell of support within the conservative party.
But the real problem for the Conservative party is that they could almost never hold a referendum on an in/out question on Europe. If they ever did, the leadership I guess would campaign to be in Europe but many of the grass roots would campaign to be out of Europe. In fact if this happened I could imagine UKIP gaining more activists from the Tory party during such a campaign then ever before. The same may also be true to a lesser extent of the Labour Party.
I actually think there are only two options if you really have given up on the European project and that's vote Lib Dem for a referendum or go the whole hog and vote UKIP.
Daniel Hannan Blog can be read here
Charlotte Gore makes a point that the Tories should stay quite on Europe here