EUROSKETCH: The importance of being urgent

Much blather from the Fisc Jockeys on Radio Luxembourg

There is at the moment more than the usual daily quotient of bollocks being written in the ‘quality’ press and various websites.

After Moody’s had knocked down Italy by three whole notches last night, the BBC’s Robert Peston wrote that this ‘couldn’t have come at a worse time’ for the EU. It’s this kind of searing insight that allows we poor underlings to see through the fog of Berlin at war with Frankfurt at war with Paris at war with the banks at war with Greece.  Speaking on Rundfunk a mere 66 years ago, Mr. J. Goebbels equally trenchantly observed that the Fuhrer’s suicide couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Third Reich.

Anyway, the new in-word over there on Radio Luxembourg is urgent. They’re all bored with being incompetent and dilatory so now Hell and WTF, let’s be urgent. The reduction of Berlusconia to a ranking roughly alongside Haringey has, said European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn in the FT, instilled a new sense of urgency among Finance Ministers. Hitherto, they had rejected any concerted bank recapitalization with a mixture of arrogance and manana, but now they’d be getting on with it. Urgently. George Osborne in turn told reporters in Luxembourg he too had felt a sense of urgency among his euro zone colleagues. And in his trousers.

More hazy was the direction in which things might urgently go. Rehn was quoted as saying. “Capital positions of European banks must be reinforced to provide additional safety margins and thus reduce uncertainty.” But he left things open on the question of what with, and when. Nevertheless, Osborne emerged at the end of the day to say they had ‘moved forward’ on the question of providing bank capital to the many European buildings now doing the jelly-wobble. Yes, but had they moved forward urgently? “I am not pretending that by the end of the day we had a solution” said the British Chancellor. So, not urgent then. No, said Olli Rehn, but there had been concerted coordination.

It looked for a while like the urgency drive might be running out of steam, but then German Chancellor Angela Merkel got onto the wave by telling a wildly applauding audience in Magdeburg that the problems of Europe had never been more urgent. Action would have to be –  as Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop character had it – upcoming soonest urgentmost. “The time of living above our means is over once and for all,” she said, and unless the utmost urgency was adopted right now, Europe would be in debt for centuries. Presumably, Geli thinks the Greek time of living above their means is well and truly over, as she has put an urgent stop on any more money being paid to them. They too will, presumably, now go bankrupt with an urgency bordering on rapid descent from a clifftop.

There is, as ever I’m afraid, a lot of urgent gabbling about urgency, but not much in the way of action. Twas ever thus in the EU, but on the other hand there’s a fairly lackadaisical air about the Conservative Conference too. Perhaps this is because, as Janet Daley opined in her Telegraph piece today, there is no longer (allegedly) anything to separate the Tory modernisers from the mainstream ‘except on Europe’. Given that Europe is imploding and half the Party has been trying to get out for the last thirty years, this is a bit like saying that George III and George Washington saw eye to eye, except on America. Janet was a Berkely student radical in her youth, and one wonders when she writes stuff  like this whether she still takes regular solace in the twaddle-baccy.

Either way, Camerlot has – right from Day One in May 2010 – shown absolutely no sense of urgency at all on the EU issue. There has thus been  no thinking about an alternative trading strategy, in the same way that zero brain matter was applied to rebalancing the economy – which is, predictably, near flatlining levels at 0.1% today. William Hague said this morning that “having a referendum now on the EU will damage the UK economy”. Whereas the complete breakdown of the entire European banking system (that had previously helped the EU economy to grind into neutral) will very likely be hardly felt at all, I suppose. I’m sure Hague is a bright bloke and all that, but he’s been a washout as Foreign Secretary.

While I know this is a statement of the obvious, the only things showing any urgency in the Debt Crisis are events. Anything out of the control of the eurocrats, politicians and bankers – or ‘everything’ for short – are moving at an exciting speed and worth writing about. For somebody writing about the folks supposed to be managing those events by talking about urgency, I am that hack here to tell you that it is boring beyond belief. Hence the naked desire to have some fun at their expense.

There’ll be something more serious along later.