Byline: Stephen Glover
DAVID CAMERON is in a pickle -- by far the most serious of his political career. He will not be able to charm himself out of this particular predicament. What it comes down to is that he cannot please Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and his own party at the same time.
That is why the European Summit beginning later today is historic. It won't solve the economic problems of the eurozone, which may very well be beyond any resolution. But it will determine the future of Mr Cameron's prime ministership.
The issue is one of good faith. Again and again he has promised Tory backbenchers that Britain will negotiate to repatriate some powers from Brussels. But not now, he insists. Not when the eurozone is peering into the abyss.
But when could there be a better time? Mrs Merkel and President Sarkozy of France have agreed there should be a new European treaty. That will necessitate Britain's agreement.
If there was ever a moment to secure the repatriation of powers in areas such as immigration and employment, this is it.
And yet Mr Cameron, despite his repeated promises on repatriation, says he doesn't want to rock the boat now. Far from doing what he has said he would, he is enthusiastically supporting the Merkel/Sarkozy plan for fiscal union among the 17 eurozone countries -- i.e. an embryonic United States of Europe.
It won't do, and it can't do. Here is a man who was elected leader of his party on a Eurosceptic platform. And he is discovering that there are many in his overwhelmingly Eurosceptic party who took him at his word.
The signs were plain six weeks ago when 81 backbench Tory MPs defied the whip and voted in favour of a referendum on this country's future relationship with the European Union. This was the biggest ever Tory revolt over Europe.
Over the weekend, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that any 'major treaty change' in Europe should be put to a British vote -- a promise that the Prime Minister has signally failed to make in recent weeks. Mr Duncan Smith was slapped down by No 10 for his pains.
Perhaps even more significantly, Mr Cameron's old rival Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, yesterday made a similar call. And on his way to Brussels, Mr Cameron might like to read a piece in today's Spectator magazine by Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary and a close ally of Mr Duncan Smith's, advocating a referendum even if the 17 eurozone countries agree to fiscal union without a new EU treaty.
THE truth is that the modern Parliamentary Conservative Party is overwhelming Eurosceptic in a way that it wasn't nearly 20 years ago at the time of the Maastricht Treaty (which gave more powers to Brussels). The same could be said of the British people as a whole.
Many Tory MPs do not like seeing pledges on which they fought the last election, and which have been periodically endorsed by their leader, being disowned and ignored in this manipulative way.
In other words, Mr Cameron is increasingly out of step with his party. The days of trying to keep Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy and his Lib Dem Coalition partners and Tory backbenchers all on side at the same time have ended. Mr Cameron is going to have to make a choice -- and if he goes against the views of most of his party, not to mention the majority of the British people, he will be in trouble.
Of course, not even the most fanatical Tory Eurosceptic expects him to come back from Brussels with a list of concessions in his back pocket. …