Edward McMillan Scott was leader of the Tory MEPs. Before that, he had a long and distinguished career as a Conservative MEP. He vigorously opposed the decision to leave the centre-right European Parliament grouping, of the European People's Party, and certainly considered that the new leader under whom the Tories now grouped, Michal Kaminski, was too extreme for a moderate British party. Now, finally, after a long battle with the Tory hierarchy, McMillan Scott has thrown in the towel and joined the Liberals. Tory activists will be pleased at the defection of a pro-European, as witness this brief post on Conservative Home.
The problem for the Conservative Party, of course, is that Mr. McMillan Scott is no leftie. He was for years the perfectly acceptable face of Toryism in Europe. He was a part of the Tories' old leadership establishment. He was re-selected by the members in Yorkshire to stand again and again as one of their representatives. He is no long-term rebel. Which begs the question, what has happened to the Conservative Party?
David Cameron apparently had a friendly meeting with President Sarkozy yesterday. This should hardly be news - they are both leaders of right-wing parties, with Mr. Sarkozy, moreover, being rather more Anglo-phonic than his conservative predecessors. But it is news, because Mr. Cameron's decision to take the Tories out of the EPP (a grouping which includes Sarkozy's own party) angered his right-wing colleagues in Europe, none more so than Sarko. Whatever the warm words coming out of their meeting, Mr. Cameron's Tories look destined to play only a marginal role in Europe, and Mr. McMillan Scott's defection shows the continued toxicity of the European issue for the Conservative Party.