Was walking up Broad Street in Weslhpool this morning when I met an old friend, who immediately began berating David Cameron in terms that Simon Heffer would be proud of. Mind you, he was my Ukip opponent at the last election! I didn't enter into a debate there and then - it could have turned a bit heated. He really is a good friend, and I managed to move the conversation on to the sale of the Lake Vyrnwy Estate, about which he also has strong views. But it did cause me to take a coffee at Coco's and contemplate the EU budget issue.
I wanted a freeze. Everyone I've talked to wanted a freeze. Absolutely no-one seems willing to argue for an increase, 2.9%. 6.0% or 0.1%. David Cameron wanted a freeze. So why do I reckon that our Prime Minister got a good deal? I'll tell you why, in grown up language. I'm a fairly typical businessman. Throughout my business life as a livestock farmer, I have been negotiating deals - buying rams, breeding ewes, heifers, stores, bulls, machinery, feedingstuffs etc. I've been selling fat lambs, finished cattle, yearling speckled faced, etc.. I don't think I've ever bought or sold anything at the opening bid. By the measures adopted by the Prime Minister's critics, every deal I've ever done has been a failure'. If I ever return to run my business, remind me never to ask Heffer to negotiate for me. I'd be 'bust' in short order. Or buy a watch in Hong Kong. Better off ask one of my own heifers to negotiate.
Lets consider what some of these critics really want. They want the UK to withdraw from the EU. They want our Prime Minister to behave in a way that makes the EU unworkable. They want to bring down the Liberal Democrat-Conservative Coalition. All of these are perfectly honourable objectives, but they are neither Conservative policy nor my policy. I state again that I would have liked an EU budget freeze, but such a deal was not on the table. David Cameron probably got the best deal there was (No way I can know that - and neither can anyone else) and he secured a lot of agreement on some fairly sceptical rhetoric. Let my fellow Conservatives turn their fire on the Labour Party, which reneged on its promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, and now stand on the touchlines, doing policy somersaults, watching people who should know better making some damn stupid comments.