Heseltine challenges Cameron on Europe

Big beast predicts that Eurosceptic alliance will end

Today's Times reports that Lord Heseltine believes the Conservatives will have to ditch their far-right allies and return to the European People's Party if they win power.

Is there any chance of this happening? Almost certainly not. David Cameron's Euroscepticism continues to insulate him from right-wing dissent and keeps grass-roots Tories onside. Heseltine's prediction is a case of of the wish being father to the thought.

As I've noted before, the Conservatives' pro-European wing has been vanquished. It lacks the capacity to force a policy reversal. Cameron may well further alienate Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, but given his emphasis on political consistency, he is unlikely to cite Keynes's dictum: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

In fairness, it is doubtful that Heseltine himself believes Cameron will back down. It's far more likely that his intervention is designed to prompt Europhile dissent elsewhere in the party. In any case, such mischief-making proves that Hezza doesn't regard his position on Europe as a barrier to his return to government.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.