Last Saturday, Diddy Dave Cameron upped and flew to Tbilisi: to no great effect except as personal-image burnishing. There was even a sequin of foreign policy with which to dazzle us:
Cameron adopted a more robust, anti-Russian stance than the government has. He called for Russia to be suspended from membership of the G8 group of industrialised nations and for Georgia’s entry into Nato to be brought forward.
Yesterday, more discreetly, the Tories were trying to unscramble their lines over cooperation in the Council of Europe. By the by, Denis MacShane played a blinder on their confusions:
Denis MacShane, the Labour former Europe minister, said it was hypocritical for Cameron to pose as anti-Russian in Georgia when Conservative MPs were sitting alongside parliamentarians from Putin’s United Russia party in the Council of Europe …
MacShane told guardian.co.uk that it was hypocritical of Cameron to advocate firm anti-Russian policies “when he leads the only major European party that works with the Kremlin in the Council of Europe”.
The bottom line there is that Tory Euroscepticism prevents the natural alliance with respectable European parties. Instead they have lumbered themselves with the “European Democrat Group“, which is hardly “European” in any positive sense, and its other members, largely from Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic, on only vague nodding terms with “democracy”.
The constitution of the EDG tells us most of what we need to know:
7. The Group believes that free market economics, the pursuit of free enterprise, private ownership and minimal government have proved to be the principle [sic] catalysts to individual freedom and a growing source of both personal and national prosperity; that the wealth of nations grows with individual enterprise and the inheritance of generations; and that it is the ambition of parents for their children to be richer and freer than they.
8. The Group believes that citizens should be encouraged to exercise ever greater private responsibility in the provision of education, health, social services, security in old age and employment. The role of the State is to guarantee provision of those services for all.
Private health, private wealth, and the pursuit of capitalistic happiness.
Then, suddenly, out of the darkest blue, the Tories changed tack:
A spokeswoman said: “Given the recent events in Georgia, we do not believe that the current arrangement in the European Democrat group in the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly can continue as it is.
“We are already in the process of consulting our partners within the group, such as the Polish Law and Justice party and the Czech Civic Democrats about the way forward.”
She said that talks about a new grouping had been going on for some time and were not just prompted by the “hypocrisy” allegations. She also said that, because negotiations were under way, it was not possible yet to say what the outcome would be.
You won’t be if you address yourselves to the Ratbiter column (not on line) on page 8 of the current issue (i.e. 22 Aug – 4 Sep) of Private Eye:
The party of the thoroughly modern David Cameron ought to be able to work with those other successful centre-right politicians Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. But because Sarkozy and Merkel support greater EU integration, the Tories will have nothing to do with them. They ally instead with assorted deadbeats and nutcases from fringe nationalist parties in the European parliament. When they move beyond the EU, they cut deals with Putin’s far more formidable and far more dangerous United Russia Party and try to advance the careers of its apparatchiks …
There then follows six more paragraphs, detailing how Tories in the Council of Europe pushed a former KGB man for president, tried to prevent Saakashvili of Georgia speaking at Strasbourg, and generally acquired the reputation of being Putin’s pawns.
What was that about “a week being a long time in politics”?
Meanwhile, in the jungle something stirs …
… and it ain’t nice.
And, if Diddy Dave and Co. have anything to do with it, it ain’t gonna be on public view.
Back in June, John Redwood flew a kite about Cameron and Obama maintaining the “special relationship”:
I think David Cameron would get on fine on a personal level with [Obama]. The policy disagreements on economic and tax matters would not, on the whole, matter, as they are largely domestic decisions in each country. I suspect an Obama presidency would end up looking more like a Bush presidency, once the Pentagon had sucked him in to their more warlike view, and once the Treasury and Commerce Departments had explained to him the advantages of freer trade. McCain still has plenty of room to push for victory, and the McCain relationship has been developed by David Cameron in Opposition.
In yesterday’s Telegraph, Irwin Stelzer took the notion a stage further. He was comparing the merits of Brown versus Cameron and McCain versus Obama in terms of the UK/US connection:
In foreign affairs, Britain needs a leader with the best chance of retaining the nation’s historic ability to punch above its weight – to borrow Douglas Hurd’s phrase.
However, Brown has:
… low standing in Washington. Brown’s refusal to allow British troops to come out of their airport sanctuary to help tame Basra is something a McCain administration will remember when deciding which allies it can count on.
Miliband is even more despised:
“spineless” is a word bandied about by those least impressed with this David’s ability to take on the Russian Goliath.
But here comes the new hero:
David Cameron has managed to remain a blank page in the book of America’s foreign friends. But US policy-makers know that his foreign secretary-to-be, William Hague, has made it clear that he regards Britain’s relationship with America as central to Britain’s foreign policy.
So, if you believe that one of the keys to Britain maintaining a voice that will be heard in foreign affairs is its close relationship with the US, Cameron is your best bet.
Pick the bones out of that.