The other day I suggested that Dave is a Cicero to Obama’s Demosthenes, and now he has delivered himself of a long-awaited oratory aimed at justifying such flattering parallels.
Even as Obama expanded his mandate beyond the boundaries of time by claiming obligations ‘to all posterity’, Dave has stretched his own remit in space, by insisting he wants ‘a better deal’ not only for Britain but ‘for Europe too’.
It’s good to see a man with a broad outlook on life. However, perhaps Dave ought to remember that he was elected by the British people, and then appointed by Her Majesty to lead her government in the interests of her subjects. If such interests coincide with Europe’s, fine. If they don’t, too bad. Methinks Dave is planning to give Tony a run for his money when the job of EU president next comes up for grabs.
And specifically, Prime Minister? How will you deliver the pan-European better deal?
Here’s Dave’s answer: ‘It is nonsense that people shopping online in some parts of Europe are unable to access the best deals because of where they live.’ From being vaguely broad the aspiration has narrowed to a needlepoint. Perhaps Dave is campaigning for the presidency of Amazon.com, rather than that of Europe.
No, that too is wrong. Dave is seeking neither job. He’s campaigning in the 2015 election. His speech isn’t an earth-shattering statement of intent. It’s his plea to be returned to 10 Downing Street.
How else would you explain the proposed timing of the epochal referendum to which he now is/isn’t firmly/contingently committed? ‘No later than 2017,’ suggests Dave, which is the political for ‘no earlier’. Since Labour is opposed to any referendum, for Dave to keep this promise the Tories must win the next election. QED.
This seems so unlikely as to empty the promise of any meaningful content. And even if Dave remains Prime Minister beyond 2015, perhaps by forming a new coalition with the BNP, the Communist Party, UKIP, the Greens, Respect Party and the Manchester United fan club, so what? Five years is a lot of water under Westminster Bridge. Dave has been known to go back on campaign promises of much more recent vintage. Can’t you just hear it now? ‘Our 2013 pledge was made in good faith, but now the circumstances have changed so drastically…’
The pledge is contingent not only on something unlikely, Dave’s re-election, but also on something impossible, ‘…a new settlement in which Britain can be comfortable and all our countries can thrive.’
‘And when the referendum comes,’ continues Dave, ‘let me say now that if we can negotiate such an arrangement, I will campaign for it with all my heart and soul.’ The operative word here is ‘if’, and this if isn’t just big but, to use Dave’s preferred locution, ginormous.
In fact, if a new settlement is the pre-condition for the referendum, there’s no need to wait five years. It’s clear to anyone with an IQ higher than Dave’s house number in Downing Street that the only way for the EU to delay the collapse of the euro is to accelerate ‘ever closer union’. Again volunteering my services as translator, that means a single European state. Not coincidentally, this necessity tallies with the EU’s declared purpose.
This means that Britain may get a few crumbs thrown her way off the EU table, and in fact Frau Merkel has hinted at such a possibility, but we’ll never get a piece of the meat. Dave’s professed craving for ‘flexible, willing cooperation [which] is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre’ shows he’s either a child waiting for the tooth fairy or a fool who doesn’t realise that no tooth fairy exists – or else a knave who claims it exists while knowing it doesn’t.
The 64,000-euro question asks itself: What if no new settlement is forthcoming? Now, unlike Dave’s ifs, this one is tiny. After all, every federast, from Angela to François, from Barroso to Rumpy-Pumpy, has stated in no uncertain terms that being an EU member is like being pregnant: you either are or you aren’t. No picking, no choosing, no flexibility, no willingness – read my lips, Dave: no new settlement.
In that case, do we go to a referendum straight away, without sitting on our thumbs for five years? If we do, will Dave still campaign for the yes vote, as he promises to do now? Or will he say in his inimitable manner that the pledge of a referendum has been invalidated by the EU’s intransigence?
Dave answers none of such questions. Instead he utters a mantra of platitudes, some false, others so self-evident as to be irrelevant.
Falling into the first category is Dave’s boast that ‘the first purpose of the European Union – to secure peace – has been achieved and we should pay tribute to all those in the EU, alongside NATO, who made that happen.’ Well, at least NATO gets a parenthetical mention. And here we were, thinking that it was the threat of Luxembourg’s counteroffensive that prevented those 50,000 Soviet tanks from rolling towards the Atlantic.
It’s because NATO, and specifically the American nuclear umbrella, secured peace that the retarded baby of an EU was able to crawl out of the Franco-German loins. And in any case, read my lips again, Dave: ‘the first purpose of the European Union’ isn’t ‘to secure peace’. It’s to create a single, tyrannical, unaccountable European state. Omit this understanding, and the speech becomes just meaningless waffle.
The second category, that of needless truisms, includes Dave’s admittedly accurate enumeration of EU failings, ‘undemocratic’, ‘unaccountable’, ‘crisis of competitiveness’ and so on. Thank God for small mercies, for no British PM since Mrs Thatcher has dared to suggest there’s something wrong with the EU. But then they didn’t come under such pressure from their own party and UKIP. Dave has, hence his speech.
In the process he uses, naturally without attribution, Enoch Powell’s astute comment that there’s no such thing as a European demos (and therefore there can be no European democracy, but Dave skips this part). That’s a masterstroke of cynical but effective politicking: those who don’t know the provenance of the phrase will think Dave is clever; those who do will think he hints at his Eurosceptic lineage.
In fact, the whole speech is just that: effective politicking, shame about meaningful content. Dave tugs at every imaginable heart string, while showing yet again that his own ganglion of conviction is nonexistent.
Amazingly, conservative pundits were impressed by Dave’s Pauline attempt to be all things to all men, or rather by his technical mastery of political infighting. One can understand how they feel: we all like the aroma of freshly baked bread, even if we know we won’t get the loaf.
In one short speech Dave managed to score all sorts of political points:
· He defanged a previously threatening UKIP, now seemingly deprived of their central plank.
· He confirmed his pro-EU credentials by decrying British isolationism – no little-Englander, he.
· He also established his anti-EU credentials by stating with (un)equivocal firmness that at some unspecified time, given an unspecified confluence of events, Britain will consider the theoretical possibility of leaving the EU, much as Dave personally thinks that would be a disaster of Biblical proportions.
· He postponed making any serious decisions until his second term, while giving voters a semblance of a reason to give it to him.
· He made Labour come down from its Eurofence.
· He got an or-else bargaining chip for the next time he goes to Brussels with an outstretched hand.
All good stuff, that. But political virtuosity can’t mask a deficit of substance. After all, the art of politics isn’t practised for its own sake, but rather for the sake of the country. How Dave’s impersonation of Cicero will serve Britain is anyone’s guess. My guess is it won’t.