Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Stephen Harper grasps the nettle of international partisanship


The Canadian Prime Minister addressed both Houses of Parliament today in the Royal Robing Room. Since it’s big enough to have accommodated the entire House of Lords during the Second World War, the Queen must feel pretty lonely dressing up for the state opening here, which is what it’s actually for. But though it’s only No 3 in the hierarchy of venues for  these gigs, after Westminster Hall (which has hosted Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama) and the Royal Gallery (graced by Nicolas Sarkozy and Bill Clinton), it was pretty full.

Charisma is not the reason. Stephen Harper was named “the most boring person in Canada” at an awards event last month. But for the Tories he’s the man who led two minority governments – no pesky Liberal Democrats for him – before winning an overall majority. And a laudatory piece on the ConservativeHome website points out that the anti-gay-marriage Harper  “came from the end of the centre-right spectrum that might be lampooned... as ‘mad, swivel-eyed loons’”.

Inspirational rhetoric isn’t his thing. He didn’t – quite – resort to what Ernie Bevin, the wartime Minister of Labour when Mackenzie King was the last Canadian PM to address the British parliament, used to call “clitch after clitch after clitch”. But his homely proverbs, such as “a nettle once firmly grasped is on its way to being pulled out by the roots” or “if we want to spread prosperity we must be prosperous ourselves,” came perilously close.

He rightly applauded the Canadian servicemen who fought “voluntarily and passionately” alongside the British in the Second World War – though oddly, didn’t mention those that did so in the First War. Unusually, however, he was distinctly partisan, fulsomely praising the  Thatcher revolution and the “wise and principled” David Cameron. He was applauded when he backed the right of the Falkland- ers to self determination but not when he beat the drum for Israel, of which he has been the West’s  most uncritical ally. And he hinted at differences with Camer- on over Syria by warning of its “extremist, sectarian” opposition.

Harper won power after a reverse takeover of the Tories by his Reform party. Which is why he is a hero to Nigel Farage. Though the Ukip leader would have been less happy to hear Harper promote an EU-Canada free trade agreement as a “historic and monumental” step “for Canada, and for Great Britain as a member of the EU”. Assuming Britain still is one by the time it’s signed, of course.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life