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Cameron proves he is a politician of the eurosceptic right, but he still seems like a reasonable guy

12 December 2011

5:47 PM

12 December 2011

5:47 PM

I have just been at the Conservative Friends of Israel Business Lunch, which can best be
described as a triumphalist ‘smugfest’ in the wake of David Cameron’s bulldog moment in Europe last week. The Tory leadership should be very wary of this moment. We have just entered a period of
unprecedented political division in this country. For a party that wishes to be on the centre ground of British politics, this is not a good place to be. The headlines in the Guardian (‘Cameron cuts UK adrift’) and the Daily Mail (‘The day he put Britain first’) expressed this in two sentences the chasm that
now exists in the political class. So much for the Cameroons’ healing centrism.

But does this really matter? The opinion polls suggest a substantial section
of the British public backs Cameron’s stance (although many do not) and this will help him gird his loins for further isolation in a Europe that few in this country feel passionately about. I would
suggest he and his ever-triangulating circle are already thinking of the best way to slap the eurosceptic right in the face. And if they are not, they should be. An international crisis is not the
moment for triumphalism.

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Nick Clegg may be feeling pretty miserable right now. If he applied the logic of David Cameron’s decision in Europe, acting in his party’s self-interest, he would leave the Coalition right now. The
trouble is that in scuppering the government he would be doing domestically precisely what he has accused the Prime Minister of doing on the international stage.

But Ed Miliband should not be complacent either. Here’s his problem. David Cameron has demonstrated himself to be just the sort of right-wing, europhobic, budget-cutting Tory Gordon Brown warned us
he would be. But still big chunks of the voting public don’t quite seem to buy this. Whatever he does, Cameron just comes across as a rather reasonable, moderate kind of guy – a Tony Blair in
reverse. For years, the Tories tried to warn us that Blair was a dangerous tax-and-spend Labour politician, a loony-leftie in sheep’s clothing (remember Demon Eyes). In many respects this was true,
but it just didn’t wash with the public.

This is not a cosmetic point: it goes to the heart of Ed Miliband’s problem. Whatever else it was, David Cameron’s decision last week was momentous. It fundamentally shifted the UK’s place in
Europe, caused a vast, probably unfixable, rift in the government and showed that the Prime Minister can bend to internal party pressure. But it does not necessarily put the Labour Party any closer
to power.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good thought.

  • mightymark

    “As a few have pointed out this rather clueless post is based on that tired old assuption that to be eurosceptic is to be right wing.”

    Well we might be forgiven for thinking so after posts like that of winkled weasel, Michael Dixon and Hugh. It is true that there was circa 1960-79 a distinctly left wing brand of Euroscepticism but its tone was quite different from these posts.

  • Augustus

    Clearly this was a souped up ‘pact’ which will unravel itself before too long, and clearly ‘Europe has learnt nothing about the shortcomings of the previous SGP. That agreement (to keep debt to 60% of GDP and deficits at 3% of GDP) was repeatedly flouted when it suited both Germany and France during the so-called ‘good times’. This is all about national political agendas
    and they are mostly of the left variety.

  • Raffles

    As a few have pointed out this rather clueless post is based on that tired old assuption that to be eurosceptic is to be right wing…ummmm, no mr Bright its to be a believer in democracy, left or right.

  • starfish

    What amuses me is that Cameron apparently only acted out of selfish national self-interest while the EU17/24/26 only acted through European altruism

    It is quite clear that the EU17/24/26 recognise that only Germany can bail them out of the mess they have got themselves into (largely through fudging the so-called rules of the Eurozone)

    At the moment that means supporting Sarkozy too, but he will be cast adrift when the French banks start to fail

    Then they will want us (one of the few net contributors to the EU) to join in the bail out

    Cameron was at pains yesterday to emphasise that bailouts will not solve the fundamental problem with the Euro zone – uncompetitiveness with the developing world

    More financial regulation targeting the UK fiancial sector from Brussels will not resolve that

    And it seems the markets and China are clear on this too

    Strangely you hear little of this on the BBC which has now gone so native it might as well broadcast from Labour HQ

  • wrinkled weasel

    What poisonous drivel. “Europhobic”.

    You lefties don’t half scrape the barrel. As for Cameron, he’s just another bastard with a particular tribe of bastards he has to pander to. He’s no different as a politician from Brown or Blair and the reason he said “No” is because he values his prestige address in Westminster and knows that he would be knifed in a trice had he done anything else.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    “The headlines in the Guardian (‘Cameron cuts UK adrift’) and the Daily Mail (‘The day he put Britain first’) expressed this in two sentences the chasm that now exists in the political class.”

    And do you want to know why this is, Martin? I’ll tell you. It’s because the Left and the Centre have spent the last 20-odd years building a myth that Big Politics is not just arguably the most appropriate way for societies to make their decisions, it is unquestionably so. The absolute nature of this myth brings about the unavoidable logical conclusion that anyone who refuses to accept it must be either stupid or deceitfully on the make.

    Where does this leave those of us who genuinely believe that the socially optimal level of organised politics is below where we actually are, and even further below where we’re heading? According to the constructed myth we’re either mad or bad. How do you expect us to relate to the people whose main argumentative strategy is to sustain this false and poisonous accusation against us?

  • John Edwards

    The Conservative Friends of Israel business lunch would have been the ideal opportunity to ask about the purpose of the numerous meetings between our Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould, ex-Defence Secretary Liam Fox and his “friend” Adam Werrity. We are still waiting for an answer!

  • Hugh

    Yes, quite right, what he should have done is what would have happened under a reasonable PM like Blair: go to Europe promising much the same as Cameron – protecting the City etc – cave, in direct contradiction to the wishes of the majority of the electorate, and then lie about it on return home.

  • Michael Dixon

    An elimentary misunderstanding here pervading those from the left/BBC that you are a right-wing europhobic if you happen to be even just a shade sceptical about the policies of other European countries such as France and Germany.

    It is quite strange really how this generalised guff can be accepted as correct by otherwise intelligent people, unless of course it is just blatant politicising masking so-called serious journalism.
    Right wing eurosceptic, left wing europhile.

    The writer should refer back to recent submissions, pre-summit, about Cameron on the conservative home website. There you will find your right-wing eurosceptics, who have called Cameron really insulting names and likened him to Mao and Arthur Scargill to name but two. They are still, to Cameron’s credit, highly suspicious of him as he takes the Party to the centre ground of politics, fortunately for him vacated by Labour in their current mess and their dreadful legacy.

    Cameron. whether the left like it or not, is not perceived by the public as some right wing headbanger, despite the best efforts to portray him as such in this article, Wishful thinking. And to say that Ed Miliband “should not be complacent” is laughable. Few care whether Miliband is complacent or not, in fact few care what he thinks and that will always be his problem

    If Cameron is considered a decent person is it any surprise after the nastiness that characterised politics under Labour, McBride, Whelan, Mandelson, Campbell and the rest, now mercifully consigned to the outer reaches, miles away from power, never to return.

  • Colin Cumner

    I have always been a lukewarm supporter of Cameron – he makes too many U-turns for my liking. However, the final line of Bright’s article – ‘But it does not necessarily put the Labour Party any closer to power’ immensely reassuring.

  • Mycroft

    Are all members of the Eurosceptic right unreasonable? Are all members of the Europhile left reasonable? One hears any amount of nonsense from both sides, and it is perfectly possible to put forward reasonable arguments for both points of view. Moreover Cameron assuredly is a reasonable sort of guy, he is evidently a pragmatist, and his action at the European meeting strikes me as being eminently pragmatic, rather than action prompted by an fit of rabid Euroscepticism.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    All the item shows for sure is that you will go anywhere for a lunch. I’d wait for the other shoe to drop before deciding Cam is eurosceptic. Or right-wing.

  • Jeremy

    Martin Bright:

    “The opinion polls suggest a substantial section of the British public backs Cameron’s stance (although many do not)…”

    Er, I think that should read: “…a substantial majority of the British public backs Cameron’s stance…”

    “The headlines in the Guardian (‘Cameron cuts UK adrift’) and the Daily Mail (‘The day he put Britain first’) expressed in two sentences the chasm that now exists in the political class.”

    Political class or no, I think you’ll find that The Daily Mail reflects the views of more people in this country than does The Guardian.

    “Nick Clegg may be feeling pretty miserable right now.”

    I sincerely hope so – because given his cowardly and duplicitous behaviour over the past few days, that is exactly how he deserves to feel. I mean, who in their right mind would want someone like Nick Clegg for a partner…in anything?

  • In2minds

    Cameron loves the EU, always has. I thought you journo’s did research, delved, that sort of thing to avoid being taken in by a bit of PR flim-flam?

  • DavidDP

    Um, that’s because perfectly normal to be a member of the Eurosceptic right and be a reasonable guy.

    As with the Europhile left, Eurosceptic left and Europhile right. etc.

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