Chris Bryant: Just when we should be working together, Cameron is sulking behind the door

A Political Life

Share
Related Topics

It is a laugh watching David Cameron at a European Council meeting. My old Foreign Office colleagues say that in his first few months it was all bonhomie. He would slap a few backs, air-kiss a few leaders, crack a few almost bilingual jokes, and leave with a better deal than he had thought. But now it's different, and always at his back he hears his wild backbenchers.

The so-called veto has melted in his hands and he's left outside the room where a treaty on fiscal union will be signed. The 25 have completely disregarded his argument that the instruments and offices of the EU should not be made available to the fiscal union and that the treaty is of dubious legality.

So on Thursday night he issued a five-minute diatribe of frustration at the council dinner and now, rather feebly, he has even moaned that he is being ignored in Europe. I should coco. If you storm out of the living room mid-family row, you rarely end up winning it. Where once we could always cobble together a coalition of Scandinavians and Eastern bloc countries to defeat any loopy proposal, now Cameron lazily hopes to saunter along in the slipstream of Sarkozy and Merkel.

The bigger problem is that, largely because of his "made in Britain" ideological truculence with Europe, Cameron just doesn't get the nature of the problem. He actually said yesterday, "Europe doesn't just face a debt crisis. It faces a growth crisis."

Well, yes, Prime Minister. Absolutely. That is exactly what we have been saying for two years now. The only way out of the slough of European economic despond is growth. Sharp-edged austerity, enforced by technocrats and right-wing governments is in real danger of consigning Europe to a decade of under-performance. If ever there was a time for Europe to be pooling its sovereignty in the wider economic interest, it is now.

Jesus would want women bishops

As Parliament still, bizarrely, has a role in agreeing the Church of England's canon law, my clerical and parliamentary "careers" sometimes collide. So on Tuesday morning we had a debate on women bishops, led by my colleague Diana Johnson. So far as I can see, the opponents' central claim is that if Jesus had intended there to be women bishops he would have chosen women disciples. This is just lazy, inaccurate and dangerous theological tosh.

For a start, we don't know whether any of the 70 disciples and more that Jesus sent out in pairs were women (yes, honestly, 70). Nor can we even be certain of the names of the apostles as the list of 12 in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is different from that in Luke (who replaces Thaddeus with Jude the Obscure) and John (who adds Nathaniel). Indeed, Jesus clearly surrounded himself with women and St Paul also refers to a woman called Junia as an "apostle". But more important, pettifogging, small-minded, gnat-straining, camel-swallowing religion is truly dangerous.

I remember hearing the resoundingly soulful Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, being posed a deliberately tricky question by a smells-and-bells trainee vicar. "Father," he said, "what should you do if you spill a chalice full of consecrated wine over an expensive brand new altar carpet?" The ordinand doubtless expected the theologically correct answer, that the carpet should be burnt. But Ramsey, twinkling with mischief through his Denis Healey eyebrows, quipped back, "I'm sure if the Good Lord knows how to get into it, he also knows how to get out of it."

A long way from homeless reality

A symbol of how depressing my advice surgery can be was the man who came to see me last week. He is working full-time, paying his Child Support Agency contributions, but is left with so little to live on that he is homeless and sofa-surfing. That's when Parliament feels a long way from reality, especially as the Commons has been stuck in the doldrums for weeks and even Tories are fed up.

Amazingly, we were on a one-line whip (ie attendance has been entirely voluntary) every single day this week and there was just a single vote. The reason we have so little to get our teeth into is the fact that, whereas in the past the Queen's Speech (marking the beginning of a new parliamentary session) was nearly always in the autumn, this Government decided to run a session for a full two years, so we are now in the fag end of the longest parliamentary session since the Long Parliament ended with the Restoration in 1660.

Since all legislation lapses if it has not completed all its stages in both Houses by the end of the session, the Government can't now introduce anything controversial before May. So we are stuck twiddling our thumbs. Sadly, the long session has also made it easier for the Government to force its bills through the Lords, either by appointing more and more peers or just waging a war of attrition. If there had been a Queen's Speech last autumn, the Government would almost certainly have had to cave in on its ludicrous bugger's muddle of a Health Bill.

Divided by language

Incidentally, poor translation can often undo Europe. When the former president of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, was publishing a report into allegations that Edith Cresson, France's commissioner, had dubiously appointed her dentist as an adviser, he used the French word blanchie. I think he meant to say that Cresson had been exonerated. The commission translation into English, however, had him calling it a "whitewash".

Likewise, less seriously, there was much hilarity in a European Parliament debate when a Frenchman said that that was needed was more common sense, in French la sagesse normande, as this was translated as "we need more Norman Wisdom".

twitter.com/ChrisBryantMP

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the strange case of the errant royal pronoun

Guy Keleny
Flowers and candles are placed at the site where a refrigerated truck with decomposing bodies was found by an Austrian motorway  

EU migrant crisis: The 71 people found dead in a lorry should have reached sanctuary

Charlotte Mcdonald-Gibson
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future