Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Spirit of the war invoked by Tories but these days we can’t even beat a Luxembourger
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Monday 30 June 2014
Joining in the fulsome – and universal – Tory praise for David Cameron’s brave stand in Brussels, the Tory Nadhim Zahawi declared: “It’s called leadership.” (Leadership of whom was less clear, but Zahawi may have been referring to Hungary, who had sportingly ensured the vote was not actually 26 to 1).
But then in one of several tantalising references to the phone call David Cameron made to Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday evening, he asked if the PM had “managed to remind Mr Juncker that the British people are not isolated in wanting reform”.
The reply was delicately worded. “I think the Right Honourable gentleman makes an important point... we have to accept that our citizens want change in Europe…”
Presumably this meant, no, he hadn’t “managed” to make this point to the new President. Which is pretty sensible, to be fair. Since the call was to “congratulate” the new Commission President on getting a job which Cameron had repeatedly told everybody who would listen he was wrong for, this probably wasn’t the moment to start lecturing him.
Indeed, since the PM gave no details of the call, it is only possible to speculate on how it may have gone.
“Er, hi, Jean-Claude, it’s David here.”
“Who?” Or if he wanted to twist the knife further he might have chosen to bark in Luxembourgish: “Wei heechs du” – which according to a brief glance at a handy online phrasebook means “What is your name?”
“Er David Cameron, actually. Well done, eh? I do hope we can let bygones be bygones and work together.”
“Ha! Now I’m in power, he calls me, the miserable Brit. Well you know what you can do with your wretched congratulations… etc etc.”
But while that might have been awkward, Monday no doubt made amends. Tory backbenchers fell over themselves to find the right metaphor, martial or otherwise. “I hope the Prime Minister takes inspiration from the fact that in the previous Battle of Britain we saw off many Junkers before,” exclaimed Stephen O’Brien.
Stewart Jackson declared: “I always knew you had lead in your pencil – but it is good to see you sharpening it against the inexorable drive to ever closer union.”
Racily, Cameron replied that he would “let the relevant people know” about the “lead in my pencil”.
Mercifully, in view of the sniggers, no one asked him to develop this point.
Ed Miliband revelled in saying that Cameron had been “outwitted, outmanoeuvred and outvoted” and that he had been “burning” rather than “building” bridges with potential allies.
We can only assume that the PM mentioned his need for EU reform in that call to Juncker. And hope that it didn’t just end with a sarcastic “Vill Gleck! [Good luck]. I’m going for a drink.”
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