David Cameron given a bloody nose by new Tory 'bastards'
Here we go again: Eurosceptics made John Major's life a nightmare – now it's Cameron's turn
DAVID CAMERON will have little option but to use the veto at the upcoming EU summit after last night's disastrous defeat at the hands of his own Eurosceptic rebels if he is to deny Labour's charge that, on Europe, he is like John Major – "weak, weak, weak".
Chancellor George Osborne told the Today programme this morning: "David Cameron will veto any deal that is not good for the British taxpayer."
Later today, Nick Clegg will infuriate the Tory Eurosceptics who inflicted the humiliating defeat on Cameron by telling them they are “unrealistic” and that there is "absolutely no prospect" of achieving a real-terms cut in the EU budget, despite last night's vote.
Nothing could be calculated to annoy the Eurosceptics more than to be lectured to by the leader of the Liberal Democrat faction in the coalition about being nice to Europe, even though it will be dressed up as an attack on Labour.
Clegg is expected to say in his Chatham House lecture that Labour behaved hypocritically by changing its policy on the issue to join the Tory rebels and defeat the government.
"Their change of heart is dishonest, it's hypocritical," he is due to say. "And worst of all, Labour's plan would cost the taxpayer more, not less. Because in pushing a completely unrealistic position on the EU budget - one that is miles away from any other country's position - Labour would have absolutely no hope of getting a budget deal agreed."
The trouble is, most people will believe what Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is saying: namely, that the Tories now appear to be split from top to bottom by exactly the same issue that haunted Major – Europe - and that Cameron is losing any semblance of authority over his backbenchers
The Halloween defeat by 307 votes to 297 was not binding, but it is a nightmare for Downing Street. As Nick Robinson, the BBC political editor, suggested with a tweet this morning, voters waking up to hear two Tories arguing about the EU is not what Cameron needs.
John Major famously referred to the Eurosceptics who voted against his government on the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 as "bastards". Today, the new generation of Tory "bastards" who voted against the government last night are completely unapologetic about giving Cameron a bloody nose.
One of them, Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes, claimed on Today that the Tory party was "united" in its opposition to allowing the EU to increase its budget in real terms.
Another, Bernard Jenkin, rejected suggestions that last night's defeat was all the fault of the new Chief Whip, Sir George Young – the man who replaced Andrew Mitchell after 'Plebgate' – for being too nice.
Jenkin, one of the original Maastricht rebels (as was cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith incidentally), told Newsnight that Young had warned Downing Street it would face defeat, but Cameron had refused to bow, largely, the rebels believe, because Europhile Clegg would not let him.
Jenkin said Downing Street needed to listen more to its own backbenchers, rather than dancing to the Lib Dems' tune, and claimed: "There is denial in Downing Street."
The real problem for Cameron and the rebels is that on one point, Clegg is right. If Cameron uses the veto, and the EU summit comes to no decision, the Brussels bureaucrats will impose a real terms increase in the EU budget until the political leaders sort out a deal anyway.
Meanwhile, a dinner to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Maastricht rebellion is being organised by a few of the ringleaders, including Bill Cash, who took part in last night's rebellion.
It is being held at the Lansdowne Club ballroom in Mayfair on 19 November and Cash is among the speakers, but the star of the show - even if she is absent - will be Margaret Thatcher. It is being organised through the Bruges Group, the body dedicated to her speech against further European integration.