Parliament - The Sketch: Just William's catapult backfires on a bad day for the Veto Gang

APPROPRIATELY, IN the run-up to the festive season, the Prime Minister followed planeloads of British tourists and jetted off to Finland for the weekend. Travel agents have been offering cheap flights to Lapland for families to see Father Christmas, savour the local reindeer meat and enjoy a few hours of skiing.

Mr Blair made his own pre-Christmas visit for a couple of days, which took the form of the European Council in Helsinki, and he returned to give an account to the Commons yesterday. The general view, at the end of the summit, was that the European Council of Father Christmases had not given Mr Blair very much in the way of goodies to show off to his rival Just William gang on his return.

Mr Blair had not engineered the lifting of the beef ban by France, and the threat of a withholding tax, which could damage the City of London, still lingered. The scene should have been set for William Hague to bully Mr Blair and tell him that, just like children who are upset when their cherished belief in Father Christmas is finally exposed, so Mr Blair's insistence on believing in Europe had ended in tears.

But somehow Mr Blair succeeded in retaining his optimistic European beliefs and made a statement claiming that "key decisions of the Helsinki Summit were far-reaching".

As befits this time of the year, the Prime Minister talked more about turkey than he did about beef, saying that "candidate status" would be given to Turkey for the first time.

Mr Blair shrugged off the Tory attack that he had not put beef on the European menu and stuck to his earlier line that, though it was always preferable to settle through discussion, "failing that we would have to go to law". Margaret Thatcher's ghost hung heavy in the chamber as the Prime Minister resolutely refused to don the blond wig and declined to swing the handbag, seemingly anxious not to play the "No, no, no" game so beloved of the Tories.

Mr Hague had an off day and the worries caused to his leadership by the Steven Norris debacle seemed to preoccupy him as his attack, unusually, let Mr Blair off the hook. Mr Hague said the Prime Minister's overall strategy was a complete failure and that he had come to office pledging, "I will never be isolated".

Secretly, Mr Hague was envious that Mr Blair was isolated and dreamt of the days when Tory Prime Ministers used to glory in reporting to the Commons the extent of their isolation. Mr Hague's charge was that Mr Blair had played the Euro game by the rules and ended up isolated with nothing, whereas Baroness Thatcher's isolation always ended up with diplomatic and political goodies. Mr Blair, he said, had been a good Euro boy but the nasty German and French playground bullies had roughed him up, stolen his penknife and nicked his pencil case. Why didn't he punch them in the face and stand up to them, demanded Mr Hague, by using the veto - the only catapult the Just William gang used in the Euroland playground.

But the Prime Minister had his own catapult ready for Mr Hague when the talk turned to vetoing the withholding tax. "We've done research on what the Tories did," said Mr Blair. "In 1989, when it first cropped up, the only veto was by Luxembourg." The Just William gang went strangely quiet. Pressing home his advantage, Mr Blair then flicked ink pellets by reminding the House that when the issue last cropped up, in 1996, "the Tories voted for it".

From then on Mr Blair had an easy ride and even one plaudit from John D Taylor (Ulster Unionist, Strangford) who said the Prime Minister had done "quite well" at Helsinki.

The afternoon ended with Mr Blair still believing in Europe and he concluded by saying that he had achieved much in Europe "without handbagging anyone". But he had successfully handbagged Mr Hague, who had had a bad day.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Biology Teacher

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Urgently required teacher of Bi...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments