The new that Jean Claude Juncker has been appointed the new President of the European Commission is bad news not just for the UK but for Europe as a whole. It shows how out of touch the EU is with the people it is meant to serve. In last month's European elections, those who voted delivered a clear message that they wanted Europe to change. Today, the European Council appointed a status quo candidate.
Not only is Mr Juncker the wrong person for the job, it's also depressing that all but two Heads of Government decided, despite many of them having misgivings, to endorse the nomination of the largest group in the European Parliament - a body with at best limited democratic legitimacy given the low turnout in European elections and the fact that many of those who do vote choose who to vote for on the basis of the political situation in their country at the time not how they want the EU to evolve.
Some people are saying that once it became clear that Mr Juncker was going to get the job David Cameron should have piped down and not made such a fuss, that it is bad for Britain to be isolated. I don't agree. I want a Prime Minister who will stand up for his principles and for what he thinks is right for Britain even if it is not popular with other Heads of Government.
Others are saying that today's decision shows there is no hope of David Cameron renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU. It certainly shows the scale of the challenge, but despite the failure to secure a reforming President of the Commission he did make some progress in the European Council’s mandate for the Commission for the next five years. It makes it absolutely clear that:
- the Commission should focus on building stronger economies and creating jobs;
- the EU should only act where it makes a real difference. Where it doesn't, it should leave it to nation-states;
- national parliaments should have a stronger role;
- the EU must deal with the abuse of freedom of movement by those who move to claim, not to work;
- Britain’s concerns about the EU must be addressed; and
- linked to that, "ever closer union" must allow for different paths of integration for different countries and respect the wish of those, like Britain, who do not want deeper integration.
So while Europe has taken one big step backwards with its choice of Commission President, the Prime Minister has made some small steps towards securing a new relationship for Britain in the EU.
But whatever your views about the prospects of securing a much better deal, the important point is this: if David Cameron is Prime Minister after the next Election there will be an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 whatever deal he is able to negotiate. The Conservative Party is the only party offering such a commitment. So if you want a say on our relationship with the EU you need to vote Conservative.