David Cameron's carefully worded Europe speech

"A source of alarm and crisis... an organisation in peril... out of touch... immune from developments in the real world."

My lords, ladies and gentlemen - that is how the British prime minister described the European Union at the Lord Mayor's Banquet tonight.

David Cameron described the EU in language which he knew would make tomorrow's headlines and would resonate with those he called self-consciously "we sceptics".

But Messieurs, SeƱors, Herren - Europe has an "opportunity", Britain is not an outsider and does not want to leave to become like Norway, governed by rules which it cannot shape.

Thus, the PM also addressed the chancelleries of Europe and the bureaucrats of Brussels, reassuring them that he wants Britain to stay in the EU and does not want to see the creation of a series of clubs within the wider EU club.

This was a speech of positioning on Europe. The big questions - what powers may be repatriated to Britain and when? What will happen if there is no agreement within the coalition on the EU? What if Germany and the Commission continues to insist on the need for "more Europe not less"? - were not asked, let alone answered.

However, what we learned tonight is that the man who once told his party not to obsess about Europe, knows he now has no choice but to do just that.

PS: The Prime Minister's speech was not the only positioning speech on Europe today. Douglas Alexander did not and would not say "we sceptics" but the shadow foreign secretary was clearly trying to protect Labour's flank from those who dislike the fact that the party was pro the euro and anti a referendum.

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