He emphasised that only by working together, starting with the European Union, can we build a global consensus to take action against offshore tax havens and leave no hiding place for tax avoiders who refuse to pay their fair share. He said that only joint action could ensure that the market serves us and not the other way round. And he won widespread applause for his convictions that markets should be free, but never values free and that being fair is more important than being laissez faire.
He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech and I couldn’t help thinking just how much having the Prime Minister at the heart of the European Parliament contrasted with David Cameron. Only two weeks ago he confirmed that he would withdraw his MEPs from the mainstream right-wing political group in the European Parliament and leave them isolated and impotent, set adrift from the parties of the most important European leaders such as Sarkozy, Merkel and Berlusconi. Indeed one of his own MEPs, Christopher Beazley, inspired by the Prime Minister’s visit, broke ranks, saying that if Cameron became Prime Minister, Britain would be heading for the rocks with no allies in the major governments of the European Union. I don’t think I have ever agreed more with a Tory in my life!