These europhobes really are bonkers, you know

'I'm seriously intimidatedby the use of the word"yard" in Chaucer's day asslang for the male organ'

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Bleary-eyed, in the warm early morning, I began my ablutions yesterday to the dog-whistle sound of one of the BBC's more excitable political correspondents getting his rocks off. All journalists like to lead the news, and this one was doing just that; his tale of yet more leaks to newspapers of confidential government memos, marching in the vanguard of the BBC's seven o'clock news bulletin.

Bleary-eyed, in the warm early morning, I began my ablutions yesterday to the dog-whistle sound of one of the BBC's more excitable political correspondents getting his rocks off. All journalists like to lead the news, and this one was doing just that; his tale of yet more leaks to newspapers of confidential government memos, marching in the vanguard of the BBC's seven o'clock news bulletin.

He did have a slight problem, though. Which was that the memos didn't really tell us anything we didn't already know (and that members of the Government hadn't admitted). If anything, the private language was worryingly similar to that used by ministers in public.

To cope with this difficulty, the story had mutated from being about the content of the leaked documents and their significance, into being about the timing of the leaks, coinciding as they did with the Government's announcements on the NHS. So the story was the timing of the story. The bulletin therefore led with a journalist saying that the biggest item of news that morning was how he himself had come to be there telling listeners what the biggest story was. Which, of course, was exactly what the leakers (or thieves) had in mind when they timed the leaking of the story. Folks, if we carry on like this, we are going to go mad.

The immediate consequence of this latest leak was to make William Hague suddenly available for long interviews. And once he had batted away the inevitable (and pointless) questions about whether he had himself been rummaging through the dustbins of Gould Villas, he was able to move on to the bit he wanted to blast the voters with: Mr Blair's attachment to the euro.

The leaked memo in question, said Mr Hague, "reveals that the Prime Minister wants to scrap the pound, he wants to join the euro as soon as he can. That intensifies the fact that the next election is a choice for people between keeping the pound under the Conservatives or getting rid of it under Labour". I thank you and good night.

In one way, such an exercise is always successful for the Conservative leader, in that it reminds the politically unreliable Sun and Times that Tony Blair is a dangerous pro-European, who may need to be strangled one day. But even so, every time William Hague goes on the stump for the pound, the question that comes back to him is why, if he believes that the abolition of the national currency means the effective (and intolerable) loss of national sovereignty, he is only ruling it out for one parliament. And none of his evasions work.

The "I can only lay down policy for one election at a time" stance that he usually uses is transparently absurd. He doesn't say, "The NHS is safe with us - but only for one election", or "I am in favour of tougher sentences for burglars, at least for the next five years". Which means that there is some other explanation for his reticence. But what is it?

Every week since January, one or other of the competing euro campaigns has sent me a booklet or a press release. Britain in Europe's last offering was "The Case for the euro", and the fashionably lower-case (and anti-euro) new europe recently obliged with "Joining the Euro: the economic and constitutional questions". This last was the text of a debate between Kenneth Clarke and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former Conservative cabinet colleagues. And contained in this pamphlet was the answer to the great Hague conundrum.

Illumination came during a cross-examination of Rifkind by Clarke. Why - he had asked - was this ceding of sovereignty so different from those other cessions that Rifkind had embraced in the past, such as the single market act and the provisions at Maastricht? What objection could be made to the euro that was not equally made to all of those previous acts? Rifkind's reply amounted to asserting that this one change meant the creation of a central European government, where all the others had not done so. The nightmare prospect of a federal Europe would pass from being the escapist fantasy of power-crazed Jeans and utopian Fritzes, and become a horrid reality.

So, asked Clarke, that was a "never" then, was it? Nope. "If," replied Rifkind, "it were able to be demonstrated that ... being outside the euro was doing severe damage to our employment, to our prosperity, to our economic prospects then, of course, one would look afresh at one's concerns." But, of course, that's what some people - mostly in manufacturing industry - already believe. And Rifkind accepted that here, too, was a balance that had to be struck between sovereignty and other concerns. "That is what we have done elsewhere," he continued, "when we agreed to Nato, when we agreed to the single market, when we have agreed to any part of European integration."

And that is precisely the process that the Tory anti-Europeans fear, because it is exactly the process that has characterised the last 30 years. Agonise, delay, join. If William Hague were to say that he was only prepared to commit for one parliament because there might come a time when Britain had to join or to slump, then the full wrath of the euro-nutters would come down upon him. (Incidentally, how on earth were we all gulled into agreeing that the word "sceptic" could be applied to fanatics like Bill Cash?) In other words, his perfectly (from his point of view) reasonable carefulness, cannot truthfully be explained for fear of the reaction.

They are bonkers, you know, some of the antis. One of their intellectual heavyweights is the philosopher Roger Scruton. Last week, I happened to catch a radio conversation in which he was lamenting the replacement of imperial measures with metric ones. Not content with the argument that lbs and ozs was what we Brits are used to, he veered off (as right-wingers sometimes do) on to the Nature trail. Imperial weights were, he asserted "more natural" for human beings. For a start, they were divisible by more numbers than five, two, or 10. And also they corresponded to human dimensions, with a foot being roughly the length of the average foot.

He didn't get round to it, but I guess a furlong must be the length of a long fur, and I'm now seriously intimidated by the use of the word "yard" in Chaucer's day, as a slang term for the male organ.

There is a type of chauvinistic silliness that's beyond reason, and to suggest that 3ft to a yard and 1,760 yards to a mile is more "natural" than holding up your hands and counting in multiples of fives and tens, is to cross the badly guarded border between eccentricity and Lalaland. Yet that is what Mr Hague has to put up with. Any slippage, any admission that he might contemplate the euro (as one day, rest assured, he surely will), and the old elites with their xenophobic retainers will be accusing him of selling their birthrights for a mess of pottage (that's seven messes to a ladle).

Now, the eventual confidential memo in which he or his successor as Tory leader writes about how they will recapture those who Mr Hague has personally liberated from the asylum will make good reading. Open the bins!

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