It is no secret that politicians use one sort of language in public and another when talking among themselves. For public consumption, everything a politician does is driven by a high-minded desire to do what is right. In private, they acknowledge that low calculation and partisan interest pervade the political process.
When Andrew Lansley was a Cabinet minister, from 2010 to 2014, he remembered how to choose his words carefully in public. Since retiring from the Commons in May, he seems to have forgotten the rules of political doublespeak. Talking to business leaders, he laid bare the tactics that he believes David Cameron will adopt in the run-up to the referendum on British membership in the European Union which Lansley anticipates will be held in September next year.
The plan, apparently, is for Cameron to have a “big row with the French” in February, which will be “choreographed” so that, when it is over, the Prime Minister will be able to claim that the terms of EU membership have been “renegotiated”. On that basis, he will call for a vote to say “yes” to continued membership of the bloc. The French are reportedly as anxious as Cameron is to keep Britain within the EU, so can be relied upon to play their part.
This revelation will not surprise those who follow politics closely. In a club of 26 nations, it is an illusion that one EU head of government can alter the rules because he needs to solve a domestic problem. Cameron’s “renegotiation” was always going to be confected; Lansley deserves thanks for spelling that out.
But this is a childish way to handle relations with Europe. How much more honest Cameron would be if he were to admit that the EU is a complicated, flawed structure in which change comes at a snail’s pace – yet, for all its faults, we are better off in than out.Reuse content