Generally, unless some cataclysmic event is under way, I avoid writing two consecutive pieces on the same subject.
However, I’m warming up to Jean-Claude so rapidly that a single article can no longer contain all the burgeoning affection.
The more he’s criticised, the warmer this emotion becomes, with both the personalities of his detractors and the nature of their arguments acting as Bunsen burners.
In fact, all worthy men must praise Jean-Claude for what his critics see as his disqualifying habits.
Apparently Juncker likes a drink, which makes him almost Churchillian. One has to admit regretfully that my friend Jean-Claude has little else in common with our wartime leader, but even some resemblance is laudable.
Cognac at breakfast? This means the man wants to start his day in high gear, ready to take on the world. A shot of brandy in a cup of strong black coffee is the best upper known to man, this side of the law, that is.
To continue the flattering parallel with Churchill, Winston reportedly drank a bottle of booze and up to five bottles of champagne every day. Simple arithmetic would suggest that he must have started at breakfast too, for otherwise there wouldn’t have been enough hours in the day to get so much alcohol down his neck.
So let’s scratch that as a minus, chalk it up in the plus column and move on. My new friend also smokes, thus ignoring the diktats of health fascists. Surely this has to be a sign of good character?
It’s also an indication of a refined sense of style, for it would be aesthetically incongruous for someone who drinks spirits at breakfast not to accompany – or, better still, precede – his first shot with a cigarette.
Jean-Claude’s nemeses don’t specify his brand but, since I feel an intuitive empathy for him, I bet I know what it must be. Unfiltered blue Gauloise, black and strong, just like the two espressos Jean-Claude drinks at breakfast to dilute his hair of the dog.
He also swears in half a dozen languages, which only a prissy middle-class wimp would hold against him. Show me a man afraid of flouting bourgeois conventions, and I’ll show you one whose sphincter needs loosening, surgically if need be.
Switching from one language to another when swearing is a sign of impeccable manners. It’s rude to swear in a language one’s interlocutor doesn’t understand. False modesty aside, I regard myself as a man of irreproachable decorum, which is why I always abuse fellow motorists in their language, not my own.
This goes for semiotic swearing too. Thus it would be rude to flick two fingers (about which later) or make an onanistic gesture in front of one’s forehead at a Frenchman, who’s unlikely to understand the message. The polite alternative is to shoot one’s forearm up while simultaneously slapping one’s biceps.
I don’t claim to be as much of a polyglot as Jean-Claude, but we both try our best to strike a blow for propriety by gearing our self-expression to our interlocutor’s understanding.
Here he’s reported to be laying into a government colleague: “I f*** where, who, and when I want – do you get me? You could f*** too, but you can’t even do that – your German correctness… won’t allow you to.”
One can take many positives out of this tirade, and only two negatives: it should be ‘whom’, not ‘who’, and the word f*** in the second sentence requires a direct object. Yet these minor solecisms are outweighed by the mighty spirit (or spirits, if you’d rather) shining through.
Certain animosity to the Germans, shared by all worthy men including most Germans, is also discernible, giving the lie to the slanderous accusations of Jean-Claude being Frau Merkel’s minion.
As to the f-word, it doesn’t really matter whether it was used literally, in an amorous sense, or metaphorically, in the sense of treating someone harshly. The whole phrase shows an independence of spirit(s) that would be incompatible with Juncker’s putative servitude to Frau Merkel.
Thus the ad hominems levelled at Jean-Claude lack any substance whatsoever, and the same goes for the feeble attempts to besmirch his politics.
As I suggested yesterday, Jean-Claude’s devotion to European federalism is simply a job requirement. A believer in national sovereignty can no more become an EU functionary than a pacifist serve in the SAS.
Yesterday the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith ignored this obvious fact, choosing instead to whip the decomposing carcass of the dead horse.
“If they give Jean-Claude Juncker a job,” he said, “this is like literally flicking two fingers at the rest of Europe… I have always been of the view that there needs to be major change within the European Union if Britain is to honestly think this is a viable enterprise for us… At the end of the day every elected MP has a free vote, they have to take the decision of their conscience.”
On the evidence of Mr Duncan Smith’s statement, the proposed English test as an ironclad requirement for residency ought to be extended to our cabinet ministers as well.
The fingers on one hand, including the two flickable ones, won’t suffice to count the solecisms he managed to jam into just three sentences:
Juncker isn’t after ‘a job’. What Mr Duncan Smith doesn’t want him to get is ‘the job’.
The proverbial flicking is in this case metaphorical, not literal.
Anyhow ‘they’, meaning continental federalists, wouldn’t ‘flick two fingers at us’, for the reason I outlined earlier: this manifestation of opprobrium is strictly British.
‘To honestly think’ is illiterate: government ministers may get away with splitting hairs, not infinitives.
‘At the end of the day’ is a meaningless, parasitic cliché to be avoided in cultured speech.
Since the antecedent ‘every elected MP’ is singular, it should be followed by a singular personal pronoun, which ‘he’ is and ‘they’ isn’t.
If the word ‘his’ burns the lips conditioned to utter politically correct usages only, it’s possible to get around this offensive pronoun without coming across as an ignoramus. Had Mr Duncan Smith said ‘all elected MPs’, he would have been on safe grammatical grounds.
Jean-Claude probably uses English better than our own leaders, which wouldn’t be difficult, and this is yet another argument in his favour.
But the argument to end all arguments is the one Mr Duncan Smith only hinted at: Juncker’s appointment to the presidency of the European Commission would strengthen the Out vote in a future referendum.
If so, all one can say is ‘Go, Jean-Claude!’. We need you.