By Paul Goodman
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I read on Monday that photographs of Greek generals were being fly-posted on the streets of Athens by panic-stricken voters. There are no reports yet of pictures of David Davis being sellotaped to the walls of the Members Tea Room by disgruntled Conservative MPs (not yet, anyway).
But for the Tory Party no less than Greek voters, the Euro-crisis simply isn't going away. There was a peculiar atmosphere in Westminster among Conservative MPs yesterday – rather like the aftermath of a dire family row which everyone wants to halt, but no-one can find a means of stopping.
Let's try to work out what will – and should – happen next.
A group of Conservative MPs, given the choice between the repatriation of powers and the EU status quo, would choose the status quo. Robert Walter spoke for them during last week's debate. Their number is small.
Another group, given the choice between that repatriation and withdrawal, would withdraw. Their number is larger. By how much? Tory MPs learned long ago not to respond to surveys, and as far as I know no-one has tried to conduct one. My rough estimate is between 20 and 50.
That leaves everyone else – over 250 Conservative MPs, at the very least. This leads to the next question: how much power do they want repatriated? Again, this isn't clear. But it will be clearer by the time of the Christmas recess, for two main reasons.
The Foreign Office is now set to take the same course, but will certainly do so will less enthusiasm and probably go less far. And in the meantime, the Euro-crisis will lurch on, with a Greek referendum to take place soon and new Treaty negotiations to begin as next May. All this raises the question: how far will you go?
Above all, if the Government for a package which is less large than you like, what will you do then? Will you settle for it? Or will you reject it – and, if so, what follows? Would you really be willing to bring the Government to a halt, or risk your seats in an election? How important do you believe the issue is to your voters – and have you read the magisterial analysis of Anthony Wells on the matter? Either way, shouldn't you be trying to work out how far you're prepared to go?
These are all big questions and deserve some answers. This is not a comment from which the author is excluded. I will write about how far I'd go tomorrow.