by RAY FLEMING

POLITICS apart, I cherished the reaction of France's Europe Minister, Pierre Lelliouch, to David Cameron's statement of future Conservative policy towards the European Union. With a fine Gallic disregard for mixed metaphors, M.

Lellouche accused Mr Cameron of “castrating Britain's position within Europe” by adopting an “autistic approach” that would take the UK “off the radar”. More seriously, I had been waiting for the reactions of two Conservative elder statesmen. Lord Tebbit duly obliged on Radio 4's Today yesterday with an abstruse arithmetical calculation that proved a Conservative victory next year would still only enable Mr Cameron to speak for 24 per cent of the British population and that therefore he would need a referendum on his European “negotiating brief” to prove to other EU leaders that he had the British people behind him. After a lifetime in politics Lord Tebbit still does not seem to accept that parliament and referendums do not go together.

We may wait in vain to hear from Kenneth Clark, the most experienced politician in the Conservative shadow cabinet. Has he been silenced? When asked about Europe at the recent Conservative conference, he referred his questioner to his last speech in the House of Commons on the subject, in January 2008. He then said that any attempt to “unpick parts” of a ratified Lisbon Treaty would be “absolute fantasy”. But that, of course, is exactly what Mr Cameron says he intends to do if elected as prime minister.

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