The Sketch: Will Nicholas Soames be remembered as the new Horatius?

 

Rising to his feet, Nicholas Soames, the larger than life – in every sense – Tory MP for Mid-Sussex spread a frisson of anticipation among MPs assembled for day three of the Queen’s Speech debate.

Would Mr Soames, whose brilliant yellow socks once appalled Margaret Thatcher – would this grandson of Winston Churchill whose father was not only a former ambassador to France but Vice-President of the European Commission – would he be able to resist the opportunity to place his imposing bulk in the way of the Europhobic hordes threatening to over-run his great party?

No, he wouldn’t. “I think that some of my honourable and indeed my right honourable [this a scarcely coded reference to the cabinet members present and past who want out: Gove, Hammond, Lawson, Portillo et al] need to be a little cautious in trivialising what is involved,” he thundered, before announcing that the “hugely important decision” envisaged in the promised referendum was “not to be taken on the basis of prejudice or pub rhetoric. No good is done to the public governance of this country in this constant chipping away at trust and at the Government’s integrity. If the Prime Minister says that something will happen … it will happen, with orderly process and proper debate, and not in some hysterical, knee-jerk publicity-seeking act”.

“Pub rhetoric”? “Knee-jerk publicity seeking”? Perhaps only a man with his political pedigree could have so magisterially condemned the tormentors of the absent Cameron. True, Sir Malcolm Rifkind had expressed on the Today programme his bafflement that anti-European government backbenchers had decided to split the party by amending the Queen’s Speech on the non-issue of whether it should have included a Referendum Bill.

But not even he had laid about the “big beasts” of anti-Europeanism. And while even Boris Johnson had declared that Cameron had his “full support” in promising a referendum, in true Borisian style he had carefully kept his options open on how he would vote in it.

So, Soames was Horatius at the bridge to Rome – as plucky and, among Tory backbenchers prepared to speak out, almost as lonely. Would he be for ever commemorated for gallantly stemming the tide engulfing his party, as has been the Captain of the Gates for seeing off Lars Porsena’s Etruscan invaders?

Cameron, 3,600 miles away, could only hope so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine