Maybe he is. But one problem with the European Union is that the politics of each country remain something of a mystery to most of the others. Few people are up to speed with just how much Holland has lurched to the Right, how isolated Angela Merkel is in Germany, how bonkers the new Hungarian government is, and how determined the Cameron tendency is to ‘redline’ any further incursions from the EU into British control of its destiny.
Cameron is set on this course for two reasons. First, if he wobbles on the issue, his own Party will start to use his back for knife-throwing practice; several of the older guard, in fact, will start using his front. And second, like most of Middle England he is suspicious of the cosy social democracy and redistributionist ethic that is so obvious in most Establishment EU thinking. Like the rest of us, he sees the pc, the muddle, the waste, the sneaky deals, the intolerance and the lack of commercial nous. And he asks himself, “Do these people know what they’re at?”
Already, Britain’s decision to stay out of the euro is proving to have been one of great wisdom. I wouldn’t, of course, apply that to Gordon Brown: he stayed out because, being a control freak, he didn’t want the Van Rompuys of this world treating his Budget as an exam paper to mark. But in the years before Brown’s descendancy, the Treasury for once gave excellent advice to Ministers about the downsides of being part of a venture most of them rightly regarded as puffed-up nonsense.
The Conservatives have laid down two very clear principles, and while the Slog has precisely that number of readers using the Brussels Commission server, perhaps they might spread the word: we are not going to bail out banks and governments in a currency zone we don’t inhabit; and we are not going to have our budgetary plans studied by self-appointed fluffies in the EU building. So come November, things are going to get very unpleasant indeed.
I believe (from what I hear – which frankly, isn’t much at the moment) Osborne in particular thinks that, by the Autumn, the EU won’t be in any position to make demands. I think he’s probably right: so standing up the madmen now offers enormous political gains for the Tories.
In the meantime, I would counsel the Brits again about Van Rompuy: he may be a pretentious intellectual, but he is very intelligent, very plausible, and utterly unprincipled. However, his whole career has been built on forging compromises that are bound to fall apart….after he’s moved on. There is no compromise on this issue. And from here on – especially after yesterday’s Budget – one senses that the Coalition (and the Tories in particular) will find it a pushover this time to get the voters onside.
The message would be very simple: we have enough of our own pain without sharing the pain of those who remain keen to avoid it. Such a message would deliver a thumping majority for anyone who adopted it.