Iain Duncan Smith achieved two things as Leader of the Conservative Party. He adopted social justice as a Tory cause and he managed to persuade people to shut up about Europe. David Cameron has followed IDS's lead on the first, but so far failed on the second. Indeed, from events this week, things seem to be getting slightly out of control. It's now time for the leadership to assert itself.
As I have written previously, these problems all stem back from the promise David Cameron made to withdraw from the EPP. The failure to deliver (yet) has left die-hard Eurosceptics foaming with vengeance and Europhiles like Quentin Davies making vituperative speeches threatening all sorts of things if the split does eventually happen..
The formation of the BETTER OFF OUT group has upped the stakes further and given a louder voice to those few MPs who want the Party to withdraw from the EU altogether. David Cameron has said that anyone advocating EU withdrawal will never be given a front bench position.
Yesterday, Graham Brady (who is a friend, and used to work with me) told a seminar in Westminster: "Can Britain afford to remain in an EU that is pulling up the drawbridge? No we can't." It's a view I have some sympathy with, but it's been picked up by the media this morning and reported as a Tory split. I suspect it's been quoted totally out of context, but it highlights the tightrope that has to be walked on this subject.
Of coyrse the Party has got to develop its policy on Europe, but there are great dangers for us if we have internal debates on this issue in public. Look where it got us under Major and Hague. It's time the Party took IDS's lead and went 'quiet' on Europe.