Richard North, 05/10/2004  

For a close-up view of an all-too-common species in the Conservative Party, one only had to attend one of the fringe meetings yesterday hosted by The Independent, where Tory policy co-ordinator David Cameron spent five minutes offering his views on how the Conservatives are going to win the general election.

For Cameron, the winner was to emphasise "the Conservative values that the vast majority of the British public share", to turn them into Conservative polices - and to show "how we would put them in to action".

Listing crime, families, police bureaucracy and paperwork, health, education and council tax – while extolling the virtues of his Party’s "Timetable of Action", his "big idea" was the slogan "Values, policies and action".

But what was stunningly absent was any mention of that huge elephant in the room – the European Union. And that was no accident. Cameron is a so-called "moderniser" (what used to be called a "wet") and the silence reflects his and his colleagues cunning strategy on Europe. Quite simply, they are not going to talk about it.

They will talk about anything else but – police, crime, public services, live, the universe, even the weather, anything but "Europe". And if anyone else mentions the dreaded "E-word", they stick their fingers in their ears and sing very loudly, "la-la-la" until their tormentor goes away.

To sympathetic BBC reporters, they will talk grandly about being "adult", but this is not an adult response. It is akin to their drawing up in foetal positions when confronted with something they can’t deal with.

And this is how the Conservatives are going to lose the general election.

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