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By Paul Goodman
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Eighteen months or so ago, I asked on this site why pro-EU Conservatives are so shy of making that case?  That question may now become redundant – at least as far as a new group of Tory MPs is concerned.

Laura Sandys speaks for a newly-formed European Mainstream Group in the film above.  "We feel very strongly that our voice hasn't been heard for many years," she says. "New people have come into Parliament who want to ensure that we have much stronger focus."

Ben Wallace, Ken Clarke's PPS, also speaks out.  "I think the other lot are very good at getting their message across," he says – clearly intending to play a part in changing the balance.  Richard Ottoway claims that a majority of the Parliamentary Party wants to stay in the EU.


Unlike Sandys, however, he isn't part of the 2010 Conservative intake.  The Financial Times, which will be sympathetic to its cause, reports that Margot James will speak on trade and investment for the group.

A senior pro-EU Conservative MP told me that the new initiative has been kept separate from the Conservative Europe Group (CEG) partly because "the torch is being passed to the next generation".

The group doesn't have a website that I can find as I write, and I will update this post as and when more information comes in.  In the meantime, some quick points:

  • Euro-enthusiasts remain wary of making their case – or at least of being identified in public.  The Financial Times (again) said recently of a pro-EU backbench letter that "only 15 of the 25 signatories were prepared to have their names published".
  • That initiative was organised by Robert Buckland, who is a Vice-Chairman of the CEG.  He argued recently in the New Statesman that "the uncertainty over Britain's EU membership is damaging growth".
  • The Express claimed that "rumours are swirling" that Downing Street backed the Buckland letter.  Other MPs in the 2010 intake who lean towards the Euro-enthusiast end of the scale include Jane Ellison, Neil Carmichael, and Anna Soubry.
  • I would be extremely surprised were Downing Street not aware of the new group, and can't help seeing it in the light of David Cameron's own commitment to EU membership.  (Sandys says in the film that their own thinking draws on his recent speech.)

That Euro-enthusiast MPs are prepared to argue their case upfront is a thoroughly welcome development, and Sandys should be congratulated for her courage in swimming against a prevailing tide.

4.30pm Update: The list of declared members is:

  • Laura Sandys
  • Margot James
  • Robert Buckland
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Richard Ottaway
  • Ben Wallace
  • Neil Carmichael
  • Bob Walter
  • Peter
    Luff
  • Ben Gummer
  • Stephen Dorrell
  • Tim Yeo  

And those named as having "co-ordinated" the letter are:

  • Laura Sandys
  • Margot James
  • Stephen Dorrell
  • Ben Gummer
  • Ben Wallace
  • Richard Ottoway
  • Bob Walter
  • Robert Buckland
  • Neil Carmichael
  • Caroline Spelman
  • Nicholas Soames
  • Peter Luff
  • Jane Ellison
  • Sir Malcolm Rifkind
  • Kris Hopkins.

On the one hand, there's a big crossover between the two groups, and some of the names are scarcely those of a new generation, whatever merits they have.

On the other hand, Sandys says that "over 30" MPs signed the letter, and there will certainly be Conservative MPs who agree with it who want to keep their heads below the parapet.

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