Whipped to fury by spectre of the jackboot

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The Independent Online
As you walk into the MPs' suite of offices at 7 Millbank the airlock doors hiss shut behind you. Then it's past the green coppery bust of Sir Edward Heath, straight ahead, turn right, right again and into the meeting room that the eight former whipless wonders - the Praetorian Guard of Europhobia - were using for their press conference about the latest judgment of the federalising European Court.

As I sat down, the young man in front of me was subjected to narrow-eyed questioning by one of the organisers: who was he working for?

You could see why there were grounds for suspicion. Blond haired, blue- eyed and tall, it was not difficult to imagine this chap - sporting a funny armband - singing "the future belongs to me" in a Bavarian biergarten.

Within minutes of the press conference ending he would be reporting to his controller at the German Embassy. "Heil Helmut!" they greet each other. "Ah, Gerhard", the man with the duelling scar would say, "vot are ze vipless schweinhunde up to now?"

Then Gerhard would tell him. That Nick Budgen spoke of "betrayal" by Europe; John Wilkinson of Britain being "at the crossroads ... a satrapy of a European Federal state"; Teddy Taylor of "democratic outrage" ("when will the breaking point come?"); Tony Marlow of "who governs Britain?"; St Teresa of Gorman of "the credibility of the Prime Minister"; Christopher Gill revealed that "all those on the continent want is to see the subjugation of our country".

"Der Teufel!" exclaims the scarred controller, his schnapps trembling in his gloved hand, "zey haf us ge-rumbled. Vot are zey planning to do?" And Gerhard, a humourless smile on his thin Teutonic lips, replies: "Actually, not a lot. They will support a government policy of non- cooperation with Europe, like over beef!". They both laugh, nastily. And if Herr Major does not stick to his guns? Will they withdraw support?

Gerhard muses his answer to this question. Like me, he will have heard Nick Budgen say that the eight will not withdraw. But he will also have overheard Richard Body mutter "not yet!" and seen Teresa's face become like a Greek mask of tragedy, her mouth turned down in misery, and subcutaneous twitches and grimaces testifying to the torment within.

While the two Germans settled down to compose their report to Berlin, I went to see Act Two of the latest Euro-crisis played out at Prime Minister's Question Time.

Some of the tattered battle-flags that had been waved before the battle of Florence (where our obstinacy, if you recall, was to win the beef war) were held aloft again.

Under their shade, the Prime Minister said he would insist, would demand, was not prepared to allow, would halt all progress unless. There would be no end to the IGC ("an endless IGC?", says Gerhard, "it sounds wunderbar!").

"I'm not going to accept this nonsense", said JM, in reply to Tony Blair, "I have written to the European Commission."

But why, asked Sir David Steel, was he getting his knickers in such a twist? Had not Gillian Shephard in 1992 (when Employment Secretary) said of the working hours directive, "In a word we've won. The UK has secured all its key objectives"?

Ah, Mr Major didn't say, but much has moved on since then. There is a new game: my MPs hit me with balloons on the ends of sticks, and I hit Brussels with balloons on the ends of sticks. It may not be dignified, but as Politik goes, it is Real.

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