Simon Carr: Is anyone in this House old enough to remember that Napoleon chap?

Events nowadays are very large and our young leaders look like pygmies

Simon Carr
Tuesday 08 November 2011 01:00
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As they can't seem to find the man in charge of the key to the handcart to set us off on our hellward journey – here's a moment's post-G20 pause to consider local conditions.

David Miliband was in, gaunt and cruelly coiffed. He looks like he just got out of jail (and he didn't have a very nice time). Ed Balls invented a new facial expression – Cameron had done something so disgusting you'd need to be a stand-up comedian to describe it. The Prime Minister reacted to the Leader of the Opposition's speech with the words: "I don't know who writes this rubbish."

Events were smaller in the last two decades – they made our leaders look large. Now events are very large and our young leaders look like pygmies (no offence, pygmies). They growl, jeer and hoot at each other. They pity each other's ignorance. They are saddened by trivial political responses to the unfolding epic.

The G20 statement dramatised the origin of the phrase "your elders and betters". That's not just my own tribal loyalty speaking. The Speaker helped something along, it's not clear what, by calling the sceptics, each more sceptical than the one before.

Sir Peter Tapsell told us it wasn't inflation "but high unemployment in my lifetime that brought down the Weimar Republic". William Cash asked how Cameron was proposing to defend our interests when he couldn't command a QMV majority.

Gisela Stuart thought it would be sensible only to give Greece, Italy and Portugal money once they'd left the euro. Julian Lewis asked why the Greeks would be any better at staying in the euro than we were at staying the ERM.

When Cameron responded to this question for the second time he said: "I learned a very important lesson then". And Balls interjected: "We all did". Good. But what was it? How to destroy a political party, probably.

Edward Leigh reminded us that it had been the purpose of British European policy for 300 years to prevent any single bloc dominating the Continent. Thus, promoting fiscal union was not in our national interest.

He might take comfort from the fact that Napoleon's disastrous march on Moscow was partly inspired by Russia leaving the Continental System (a proto-EU). History may not repeat itself but it may yet rhyme.

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