By Harry Phibbs
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There was broad support in the House of Commons for David Cameron's success in negotiating a reduction in the European Union budget when he delivered his statement.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind was pleased. John Redwood was pleased. Simon Hughes was pleased. Ed Miliband was pleased. Even Bill Cash was pleased. Mr Bone was happy and so was Mrs Bone. "There is rejoicing in Somerset," announced Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Peter Hain seemed displeased – on the grounds that the EU budget was already a mere 1% of the EU GDP – a trifling £100 billion.
Mr Hain was lonely. There was also something of a shortage of Labour MPs in the chamber – while there was question after question from the Tory benchers. It could have been an exceptionally cheerful gathering of the 1922 Committee.
The big question which kept being asked was whether the Labour Euro MPs would back the budget in the European Parliament. David Cameron kept asking it. Ed Miliband kept looking blank.
Grant Shapps has written to the Labour leader in the following terms:
Under the last seven year framework the EU Budget ceiling was €943 billion, but thanks to the Prime Minister’s strong leadership we have achieved an agreement that it will be cut to €908 billion, €80 billion lower than what was originally proposed. So, rather than increase the budget limit by €45 billon, we have cut it by €35 billion from the ceiling agreed by your Labour Government. David Cameron also protected the British rebate – something the Labour Government that you sat at the heart of failed to do.
As you will be aware, the president of the European Parliament and former leader of its socialist group Martin Schulz has suggested a vote on the budget should be conducted in secret to allow MEPs to more easily reject this cut in the EU budget. Please can you confirm that you will order your MEPs to vote against any such secret ballot and support the cut that the PM has negotiated.
I'd like to ask for your public support in backing the budget terms set out this week. As Labour Party leader, I'd also like to ask that you ensure your MEPs in the European parliament publicly back and vote for these terms – which are in the best interests of the people they represent here in Britain. Finally, I'd like to ask you to call on Labour's allies in the European parliament to do the same.
I would guess that Ed Miliband must know that were Labour MEPs to participate in voting down this deal it would be very damaging for the country and one for which the Labour Party would struggle to be forgiven. The Labour MEPs haven't said how they will vote but describe the deal as a "wasted opportunity." They want a budget that would be "more effective" at promoting growth – presumably as socialists they think they best way to boost growth is increased rather than reduced public sector spending.
So it sounds as though Mr Miliband has not been able to persuade his Euro MPs to come into line. He want even make a public call for them to back the cut. That is evidence of weak leadership from Mr Miliband.