Simon Carr: Has the Prime Minister found a friend in the German Chancellor?

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The Independent Online

In comparison, the honour guard in Paris were – I'm sure they won't mind me comparing them to their Berlin counterparts – effeminate.

And indeed one was more than effeminate; she was a woman. But all had ponytails as part of their uniform. Standing at ease (a formal drill position, incidentally) they'd move their weight from one side to another, cocking their hips in the process. If you like men in cockades and tight black trousers, cocking their hips, they would affect you in a very unmilitary way.

The German parade aroused very different emotions. Two hundred men – archaic term – standing implacably still. They were dressed in public-service blue with white gloves. A drill sergeant growled and barked harsh commands at them. They threw their rifles around with synchronised fury and long pauses between movements.

Angela Merkel wandered out on to the parade ground in her amiable civilian way, and they yelled at her. Bawled at her. If you can imagine the haka being bellowed by 200 perfectly erect soldiers you can imagine the aggressive effect. I was ready to invade Poland because I don't speak German. What they had shouted was "Good afternoon Mrs Chancellor!" My neck flushed, I fear.

"Together we are stronger than we are apart," as Tony Blair used to like to say. Hmm. They really were together, those 200 Teutons. Compared with French style and insouciance you can't help thinking strength and togetherness is not all upside.

Angela Merkel and David Cameron came into the press conference. She is said to have a tendresse for tall young men in suits. This worked in Cameron's favour. She talked at presidential length. But our Prime Minister is a quick learner. He has a new way of staying alive while not speaking. He was perceptibly present while she spoke. He was playing in the same division. All patriots will be glad to know that. It's also possible something happened. I'm not attuned to the Euro way of saying things, but neither is he. So it was that he said, standing there next to her: "We have a veto."

Gordon Brown would never have said such a thing so clearly. "The principle of unanimity is fundamental to the operation of the Council of Ministers," he would have put it. "We have a veto" is, in diplomatic language, swearing.

Compare also Cameron's euro position – "We're not in it and we're not going to join it" – with the sort of thing Gordon said: "It's a decision that, in layman's terms, depends on the degree of economic convergence developing in a non-cyclical way." So, Cameron is refreshing some parts that previous leaders failed to reach.

Did he reach Ms Merkel? That must be a matter between them, for now. But experienced Merkel-watchers behind me noticed a lightness, a gaiety in her manner. She had just won a crucial bailout vote in her parliament, it's true. But she laughed and was light with her new comrade when he said he would not allow any new powers to be transferred to the EU without a British referendum.

"Good luck with that," she seemed to be saying. PS: There was a sign on the road saying Botschaft. Frankie Howerd would have loved it here.

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