It is true that the chamber (actually called the hemicycle) at the Council of Europe can sometimes make the House of Commons Chamber even during an adjournment debate look full.
But yesterday the delegates started to arrive like an audience at a premier just before David Cameron walked in. There was a lot of interest in his trailed views on reform, and also a desire to put questions to him. I have never seen it so full. In his speech he repeated the commitment of the UK to the reform of the ECHR. He laid out the good reasons for the need to reduce the caseload in order to stay true to the principles of the founding intentions to protect human rights. The action plan for implementing that will follow the Council of Ministers' meeting on April 18th in Brighton.
But it was at the Q and A that followed that our Prime Minister showed his steel. The audience was cautiously hostile. But he managed to absorb their occasional anger, speak up for Britain, and finish with a smile. In answer to a question on helping Southern European countries with immigration numbers, he countered that we were doing our bit, and that he would always protect Britain's borders. Several questioners objected to the UK refusing the Financial Transaction Tax, and he was unequivocal in his rejection of the tax, while pointing out that we are leaning on the banks with our bank levy, and that such a tax would damage Europe, not just the UK.
This was the British Bulldog spirit that his MPs have asked for. Even well-known eurosceptics on the UK delegation admitted that they were impressed. "Very courageous," said Brian Binley MP. He only partially won over the audience. Afterwards, one Italian delegate told me, how much they had admired his performance. "Very rock and roll," he said. "So you like what you heard?" I asked. "No, we didn't like the content, too much talk of Britain, not enough of Europe, but we liked the man."
Not a bad outcome. The Council of Europe delegates took the medicine because they like the man. There is more to do. But change is coming.