Friday, December 09, 2011


Where Do We Go From Here?

Well, that was a depressing headline to wake up to. And a depressing throwback to Tories of years past as they go mad again on Europe.

I voted for the Coalition Agreement at our Special Conference last year; I still support it. Some of what the Government’s doing is heartening Liberal; some of it’s revoltingly Tory; but most of it’s unpleasant but necessary. And though I’m never going to like David Cameron, he’s certainly been a far better Prime Minister than I expected, in part through mostly striking a more reasonable and conciliatory tone than the likes of Mrs Thatcher (while Labour have made up for their complete lack of policy by howling more bitterly than the Trots of the ’80s).

So I can only think that the pressure’s got to him and he’s finally gone mad.

The central purpose of the entire Coalition has been to secure the economy. To restrain the vast deficit that Labour flew into long before the financial crisis – and before they pretended to be Keynesians only in crisis, having been bankrupts instead when times appeared to be good – and to make the economy sustainable. The biggest threat to our economy today has changed from the insanity of the US Republican Party to the ongoing crisis in the Eurozone. And David Cameron has this morning apparently shown that he’ll throw away the whole point of his Government to stop the Tory Party from eating him.

What happened to his past rhetoric about saving your neighbour when their house is on fire?

Now, maybe I’m wrong. I’ve not read the agreements that European Union countries came to, or didn’t, overnight. It may be that Mr Cameron’s position is sensible, and that it’s only twenty-six other countries that have instantaneously and collectively gone mad instead. I’d like that to be true. I hope someone can reassure me.

But when Mr Cameron walked into the ‘negotiations’ loudly proclaiming himself not the Prime Minister of the Coalition Government, still less of the whole of Britain, but only of the howling Eurosceptic nutters of the Tory Party, shouting in advance that he was going to be as big a knob as he could be and more interested in striking a pose than saving the economy, then – surprise! – came out of it striking a pose as an enormous knob, I can’t give him any benefit of the doubt. Let’s face it, he’s hardly given himself an alibi, has he?

Again, it seems that he’s gone mad. Or simply capitulated to the madness of his own party.

Which puts the economy and the Coalition in the most deadly jeopardy since Mr Cameron became Prime Minister. And even now, he surely can’t be mad enough to think his party will be satisfied for more than a few hours, so what’s it for? I know that the Tory Party’s ‘knowledge’ of European politics begins and ends with World War II, but anyone remotely better-read will have heard of Danegeld.

Back in 1999, I wrote an extended essay on my own Liberalism, Love and Liberty. In it, I contrasted our Liberal Internationalism with the petty crappery of the Tories over Europe:
“In government, the Tories were like a drunk at a party – not listening to anyone else, standing propped up in a corner, ranting away at the other guests, making our friends move away in embarrassment and those who didn’t want us invited in the first place say ‘See! We told you they couldn’t behave!’ Now they just want to sit at home and complain about the noise next door.”
And now we’re the other half at the party that has to wince and make excuses as they grab all the nuts and then throw up.

Update: Cicero asks a similar question, with considerably greater thought and analysis. He’s well worth a read.

And it’s difficult to disagree with John Kampfner, too.

Sunday Update: Feeling pretty grim, both physically and politically, while feverishly ill. But if you’re coming back here for more, I’d recommend three informative pieces: The Economist’s Bagehot suggests that Mr Cameron was not malign but simply grossly incompetent in blundering into Britain’s worst diplomatic defeat of my lifetime; The Independent offers “Clegg Rages At Cameron’s Spectacular Failure”; while Caron muses on Nick Clegg’s interview this morning.

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