Sketch: Euro-rage succeeds where quip falls flat
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.
Wednesday 18 June 2014
Prime Ministerial apology alert! It was only four short words. But it showed justified remorse for what must be – despite the stiff competition – the most terrible dispatch box joke during this Parliament.
The Tory Anne McIntosh had asked him to urge his new best friend Premier Li Keqiang to “unlock” the barrier to UK exports to China of pig’s feet, which she optimistically suggested would “ensure the long-term economic growth of north Yorkshire”.
Promising to do so, Cameron pointed out he had already smoothed the way to exports of “pig semen”, and then claimed to recall that the press release at the time referred to the “Pig Society”. Pig–Big. Get it? Many MPs didn’t, and seeing that he had “died”, as they say in stand-up, he added in rueful self-deprecation: “Sorry about that one.”
Admittedly, it was not much of a day for jokes of any kind, rightly dominated as it was by Iraq. When the venerable Tory Sir Peter Tapsell made the startling suggestion that in the absence of the long-awaited Chilcot report impeachment proceedings should start against Tony Blair, Cameron said sharply that the inquiry might have begun – and finished – much earlier if Labour, including Ed Miliband, had not initially voted four times against having it while in government.
But when it came to the Miliband/Cameron exchanges on what was happening now, the two leaders were serious, bipartisan and eloquent, while failing to lift the sense that no one in the West has much idea of how to prevent Iraq being dragged deeper into mass sectarian violence.
On Europe, however, thrilled Tory backbenchers roared with approval at Cameron’s Thatcher-like promise to “fight… right to the very end” for the right of European leaders – and not the European Parliament which wants Jean-Claude Juncker – to pick the European Commission President.
One such Tory, Sir William Cash, revealed details of an Athens weekend conference he had attended of “the national chairmen of the European Select Committees [and]… chairmen of the European parliamentary committees”.
Once at this unmissable, if presumably not ouzo-fuelled, jamboree the Brits had seen off an (admittedly fairly breathtaking) attempt to classify “Euroscepticism” as “equivalent to xenophobia and racism”. And secured the agreement of the conference that the procedure by which the dreaded Luxembourger looked like being elected was “unprecedented, unacceptable and unsuccessful”.
Earlier, Sir John Major had described Juncker as having been a “very fine Prime Minister of Luxembourg” – a brilliantly condescending put-down.
But at least he pronounced him correctly. Sir William showed the depth of his disdain for the prime candidate by calling him “Junker” –as in “junk” – instead of the more normal “Yoonker”.
“Junker” maybe, but despite the British PM’s best efforts, not junked.
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...
£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...