Ken Clarke says in public that his new leader is "the most extreme Eurosceptic ever to lead the [Conservative] Party"
More extreme than Michael Howard- leader of the Cabinet opposition to much European legislation under John Major? More extreme than William "seven days to save the Pound"Hague?? Even more extreme than the swivel eyed IDS???
Guess what, the leader of the "opus Dave" has just restarted the European dispute inside his party. The Buncefield level explosion that he is risking will lead several, perhaps even the majority, of the Tory MEPs to defy his edict that they leave the moderate EPP and sit with the smaller, weaker and substantially madder Independents.
I think that we are beginning to get the measure of Mr. Cameron, and aside from a certain breezy charm, I detect some interesting limitations. OK he could not help the fact that he went to Eton, nor Oxford. However, He certainly could help the fact that he joined the braying Hurray Henrys of the Bullingdon Dining Club at Oxford (so ably parodied by Evelyn Waugh). He could help the fact that he joined the snooty Whites Club- Home of the famous "Shit of the Year" contest. He could help the fact that he was an enthusiastic huntsman with the Old Berkshire. So what? We might say, we knew that he was an old school posh boy.
The trouble is that these posh boys get up everyone else's nose- which is why the rather illiberal hunting with dogs act was passed-and ordering his MEPs about will either make him look like an arrogant right wing nutter or, and perhaps more likely, he will fail and look like a chinless wonder. If he is as extreme as Clarke suggests, he could end up in real trouble.
Extreme euroscepticism is not "a move to the centre ground" nor is it an end to "Punch and Judy politics". If Clarke is right, then Cameron is no moderate, he is a Eurosceptic headbanger who will split his party again. The stakes are high because for the Tories this really is the last chance.