By Tim Montgomerie
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The EU budget debate is still in full flow but a few bullet point observations:
- The Government is briefing that it is set to lose the motion. That might be expectations management but it is certainly set to be close. Guido Fawkes reported earlier that David Cameron had employed his all too familar trick of attacking his internal party critics. He still hasn't got the hang of party management or allowing whips to do the whipping so he can be prime ministerial.
- Mark Pritchard MP made one of the clearest contributions to the debate saying that soldiers, nurses and teachers in his constituency are all saying "not a penny more" to the EU when member states, councils and every constituent is having to make economies. Bernard Jenkin described the vote as "cry of despair" from MPs on behalf of a British population that is exasperated at the EU's wasteful behaviour.
- Labour may be being opportunistic today but I saw a vision of a Eurosceptic and fiscally responsible Labour Party that should frighten every Tory. Fortunately for Mr Cameron the Labour frontbench is so wedded to the EU project and also to the interests of the public sector unions that it is likely that Labour won't be able to become that frightening party.
- Tory Eurosceptic rebels are stating that Labour MPs are supporting their motion rather than them supporting Labour opportunism. The unwillingness of Labour to say that they will veto an EU budget
deal has been repeatedly highlighted by Tory MPs. It certainly suggests
that Mr Miliband's position is closer to posture than principle.
- Conservative MP Tony Baldry accused Tory rebels of "self-indulgence". He goes on to tell them to "get a grip" and "support the Prime Minister". Otherwise, he warned, Labour would be elected and Labour governments would take the country in the wrong direction on the EU question.
- Lib Dems have been strangely silent in this debate. They know their Europhilia isn't popular in the country and they're keen to stay off the record.
- Finally, the debate reminds us that on the question of the EU budget Britain is completely isolated. All of the other member states want some sort of increase. It is becoming clearer by the day that the EU and Britain have different priorities on a wide, wide range of issues.