Is it a good thing that David Cameron now appears isolated in Europe as he continues to dig a hole that Jean-Claude Juncker almost certainly won’t fall into? Jeremy Hunt tried to argue on the Today programme this morning that it was, saying that people would respect an isolated Prime Minister who was prepared to make the right argument. He said:
‘Sometimes leadership is lonely, but if it is the right thing to do for Britain, I’m glad that we have got a strong prime minister who’s prepared to take those steps, even if it means that he is isolated from time-to-time, I think people in Europe will respect the person who tells the truth; that Europe needs to be reformed, it can’t carry on the way it’s doing, it’s unacceptable to put in place who someone who doesn’t stand for reform and I’m very proud that we have a prime minister who’s prepared to do that, however difficult it is, however isolated.’
Cameron has certainly earned the respect of his party, even those Better Off Out-ers who would like Juncker to take the presidency as he will only reinforce their case for a Brexit. But the question is whether he has isolated himself in the short-term only to be proved right in the long run, or whether he has exhausted such stores of political capital that he’s made the next few years more difficult for himself. The leaked tapes of Polish politicians criticising his strategy suggest that the Juncker episode isn’t the only way Cameron has damaged his standing in Europe, though. They seem to think he isn’t adept at negotiating his way around Europe in general. The possibility that he may have mis-read signals from Angela Merkel for a second time will not help this impression. Even if he is isolating himself in a noble way over Juncker, he must be wary of accidentally isolating himself in other ways.