The Conservatives have now formed their new group in the European Parliament, having left the EPP to found the European Conservatives and Reformists, ECR. David Cameron has kept his campaign promise from his leadership election in the autumn of 2005.
A lot of words have been written examining the strategic intent behind this move: I suspect that the strategic intent was to win over some voters in the Conservative leadership context with a commitment that did not seem outrageously unreasonable: the Conservatives should not share a group with political parties with whom they did not agree.
It turned out to be harder to create a new group than it seemed at first. It was not a simple procedural matter as it might have been in Westminster, and the participation of parties from other member states was also necessary, but nevertheless it has been done. Daniel Hannan has hailed the new group as the creation of an official opposition in the European Parliament, and if the new group brings a new spotlight on the necessary choices that need to be made, then that certainly is a good thing.
But with the aim of saying the same thing in both Westminster and Brussels, the new group has some problems. First, the Conservatives and the Polish Law and Justice party are both against the Lisbon treaty whereas the Czech ODS party is in favour. If the fate of Lisbon is a crucial issue in the European political debate, then the ECR is divided at birth.
And then there is the issue of EU membership altogether. David Cameron never misses an opportunity to say that he is in favour of EU membership, but prominent members of his group in Brussels – Daniel Hannan, for example – are firmly against. His new group has merely replaced one inconsistency with another.