Dr Spencer Pitfield, is the National Voluntary Director of the Conservative Policy Forum (CPF), a national group chaired by Oliver Letwin MP that gives its members the opportunity to discuss the major policy challenges facing Britain today. Follow Spencer on Twitter.
Newspapers continue to be full of commentary about
Wednesday’s momentous speech. The headlines are broadly supportive and the
fulsome support of business leaders, particularly in the Times, is I
feel most significant.
While the commentators praise the PM, the Labour Party
have taken a curious line: ruling out a referendum while seeking to claim that
David Cameron only gave the speech to placate us – the Party – suggesting they
don’t recognise any public concern about Europe.
Labour’s bluster and all round confusion is a little
odd – you would think that the weeks of speculation might have given them time
to think of a better response.
However, once all the rhetoric and innuendo has died
down one fact cannot be hidden or swept to one side: yesterday was a Good Day.
It was a Good Day for democracy, for frank discussion and honest debate by our
Frank discussion and honest debate of the facts is our
bread and butter, so it was also a Good Day for the CPF.
I don’t deny we’ve had a few frustrating moments along
the way. CPF regulars will know that we send out our monthly discussions on the
14th of the month but you may not know that the paper itself is
usually written at least two weeks beforehand. The lack of a speech before
Christmas meant that we had to prepare an alternative paper –just in case
– based on the ongoing Foreign Office review into the balance of competences
between the UK and the EU. I suspect Groups will be pleased to be spared some
of the more technical questions which that might have included had this
‘balance of competences’
paper been indeed sent out!
The Party was great about keeping us informed and it
became obvious that the speech was going to happen so quickly after the 14th
that any other paper we published would instantly become obsolete.
While No 10 were undoubtedly right to postpone the
speech last week in light of the crisis in Algeria that did make things a
little more fraught for us. We were all too aware that Groups around the
country already had meetings planned to discuss our questions – many of them
had invited guest speakers and rearrangement wasn’t really an option.
Now the speech is done, the questions are out there
and the CPF discussions can begin in earnest. Do take a quick look at the
questions below and if you are not already a member of your local CPF Group do
make contact and join what will be one of our most significant discussions to
date (email us email@example.com to find
a local Group).
The CPF exists to make sure our Members’ voice is
heard at the very top table and now is your chance to debate the European issue
and make sure your thoughts inform Party policy as we move ever closer to the
General Election in 2015.
- To what extent do you believe that now, as the
challenges in the Eurozone drive fundamental change in Europe, is the right
time to consider reformingour settlement with the EU?
- How valuable to British business is our membership of
the single market? And how important is it that the UK has a seat around the
table having a say in what the rules of the single market are
- What changes does the EU need to make to become more
competitive and less bureaucratic?
- The Prime Minister called for a thorough examination
of 'what the EU as a whole should do and should stop doing'. In what specific
areas do you believe European co-operation is beneficial and what specific
powers currently held at a European level should flow back to national
- What risks and what benefits do you see there being in
countries of the EU being able to decide for themselves the level of
integration that is right for each?
- What is your response to the Prime Minister's
announcement that the next Conservative Manifesto will ask for a mandate from
the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiatea new settlement
with our European partners, to be put to the British people in a referendum,
within the first half of the next parliament, with a very simple choice: stay
in the EU on these new terms or come out altogether?
Meanwhile, many colleagues from across the
country are meeting this weekend at our CPF Winter Conference to talk about
Europe, localism, and lots more besides!