Trying to come to terms with a bit of Czech, Malcolm hit on this:
Moje kamarádka se, naproti tomu, byla dobrým teroristou, protože byla dobrá v plnění rozkazů.
My friend, on the other hand, she was a good terrorist because she was very good at following orders.
Somehow that incongruity fitted the extraordinary ‘performance’ of Euro-minister David Lidlington, under scrutiny by Andrew Neil, on the BBC1 Sunday Politics. It was only when John Rentoul put up the transcript the whole disaster became evident.
So allow Malcolm to switch his metaphors in mid-stream, and revert to something nearer home: the wooden
heads walls of Old England.
It began quite amiably (Cap’n Neil is at his best when the cannonade is loaded but the battery not yet run out):
Andrew Neil: David Lidington, the Tories led the yes to Europe campaign in the 1975 European Referendum. A Tory Prime Minister signed our accession to Europe, the Single European Act and Maastricht. Did David Cameron’s speech represent a break with the past?
David Lidington MP: No. What David Cameron’s speech was about was the recognition of the fact that change — and dramatic change — is already taking place in Europe and Europe’s going to change further. The speech was not just about the situation of the UK vis a vis the rest of Europe, it’s about how the whole of Europe needs to respond to the challenges of global competitiveness, democratic accountability and getting the relationship right between the eurozone and the others.
Wow! At first hearing, that almost convinces. It’s not as if the main crisis is UKIP rolling up the soft-Tory vote (and more by disaffection on gay-marriage, grammar-schools and such like), which is scaring the excrement out of the marginal Tory MPs. Well, is it?
Engage the enemy more closely!
Anyway, that was merely Neil’s bow-chaser finding his range. Once the target was close enough, the broadside:
AN: Now less than two years ago junior Tories in the government, including your own parliamentary secretary had to resign because they voted for a referendum. What changed?
DL: What that debate and that vote was about, in October 2011, was over whether there should be a referendum when the future of Europe was very far from clear. What the prime minister is talking about is having a referendum in the UK to settle matters to get the consent of the British people at the end of a process of European negotiation and reform. It’s two completely different questions.
AN: Well is it really? I mean in 2011 your – let’s just look at what you said. You said, ‘When I go round the constituency at political and non-political events, this is the last thing on their minds a referendum.’ You said, ‘they’re more concerned about jobs.’ I ask you again, what’s changed?
DL: It’s still the case that whether you look anecdotally in my constituency or whether you look at the opinion polls that Europe ranks below issues like jobs and the economy in people’s minds, but what has change –
AN: I understand that, but these people were fired because they wanted a referendum and you’re now giving them a referendum.
The simplest questions (“What has changed?”) are the most difficult — and Lidlington has to fluff this one, effectively three times.
England expects that every man will do his duty
Then Neil goes for the hard-pounding on the terms of the negotiation:
AN: Well let me see if I can help you. This is what the last Conservative manifesto said. ‘A Conservative government will negotiate on three specific guarantees. On the Charter of Fundamental Rights, on criminal justice and on social and employment legislation.’ You wanted these to come back to Westminster. Let’s say you add in protection for the City of London from new regulations from Brussels. Is that the bare minimum?
DL: You’ll have to wait and see for our manifesto exactly what is going to be in there.
This is clever stuff. Lidlington offers a tacit but unqualified “yes”. Anything less than that 2010 commitment and the Balubas go AWOL, and joining the UKIP marauders. Let’s be honest, even with those impossibles achieved, the true eurosceptic will still be off with the mutineers.
Balubas came to have a particular meaning in Irish politics, particularly so when Seán Lemass, having finally succeeded Éamon de Valera, was seeking to bring his party into the second half of the Twentieth Century
In November 196o, an Irish platoon in the Congo crisis were surrounded by the Baluba tribe. In that Czech expression, there’s the notion that terrorism needs close obedience to orders. In the Congo there was endless bloody terrorism, and the only orders in effect were those constraining the poor blooded infantry.
Nine of the eleven soldiers of that platoon were killed. Their bodies repatriated. O’Connell Street was packed for the courtege on its way out to Glasnevin. Yes, Malcolm was there.
Hence, the ‘Balubas’ became a term for the wild culchies who came up from the bog lands to torment the Fianna Fáil leadership.
And if you don’t recognise a “culchie” is, ask any Dubliner.
Finally, Neil holes Lidlington below the water-line:
AN: Let me show you another thing the Prime Minister said. He wants the EU to think again about its aspirations to ever-closer union. Now, this is what the Treaty of Rome in ’57 said. It’s the founding document. ‘Determined to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.’ Now, it beggars belief, doesn’t it, that the rest of Europe is going to overturn that founding principle?
Prepare to pick up survivors!
The whole Cameron case, as defended by Lidlington founders on that:
- Macmillan accepted the ‘ever-closer union’ concept at the first application for membership.
- Heath was something of an enthusiast.
- Wilson worked around it.
- As did Thatcher. Indeed, she was hot for economic union, particularly if it gave the UK’s quaternary sector access to the European market in finance, management, insurance and derivatives.
- Major carried on regardless: it wasn’t an important issue.
- Blair was, as always, insouciant.
Suddenly, after half a century, it becomes the make-or-break issue.
And we know that Cameron, the Tory financiers and backers in the City cannot accept a break.