Historical and other parallels

History repeats itself, said Marx (approximately) paraphrasing Hegel, first as tragedy then as farce.

So let Malcolm repeat himself:

  • Prime Minister David Cameron is the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of King William IV.
  • William IV was third son of George III, whose elder brothers were the future George IV and … Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.

Taraaah!

Said Prince Fred is generally accounted to have been the Grand Old Duke of York, who:

… had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up.
And when they were down, they were down.
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down.

Fred, who now is dead, earned that reputation because of the futile Flanders campaign of 1799.

Cameron’s  hill-climbing and descents are as well-established as Fred’s; but he doesn’t have ten thousand men. He has just 304 MPs, and 48 of them are definitely not men. Though many of those women have more balls than their male colleagues.

Further back

Malcolm can’t be bothered to work out what the precise relationship is; but Cameron must be related somehow to the Stuarts. Which brings us to James II and VII.

After the near-rout at the Boyne, James sweatily arrived back in Dublin where Lady Tyrconnell enquired how the battle had gone. He replied, “My cowardly Irish have run away.”

She responded with a hint of acid: “Then I see your majesty has won the race.” Again, a speedy characteristic to be observed in Cameron’s hereditary nature.

The gift of leadership

This is an art or a talent in which Cameron has rarely excelled. Particularly so on matters European.

Which is why he is in his present predicament.

And which brings us to the ridiculous “Referendum Bill”; and Isabel Hardman in the Spectator channeling Lady Tyrconnell:

David Cameron was trying to work out how on earth to deal with the latest Europe row in his party. He heard them demanding legislation in this parliament for a referendum in the next, and this evening, after nearly a year of letter-writing and speeches, he announced that the Tory party will publish a draft bill doing just that. They still can’t get it through Parliament through the government channels, so they’ll be putting it up for any willing backbencher (of which there are many) to adopt in the Private Member’s Bill ballot.

Figures close to the Prime Minister were hinting to Tory MPs this evening there would be a move for legislation, but they were taken by surprise when, just a few hours later, the announcement was made that the draft bill will be published tomorrow.

So is this it? Is the Conservative party falling on its knees with gratitude? Unsurprisingly, MPs are not doing anything of the sort.

Wherein Malcolm found an echo from Li’l Abner, Al Capp, Johnny Mercer and Stubby Kaye:

Stonewall Jackson got his name by standing firm in the fray.
Who was known to all his men as good ol’ “Paper Maché?”
Why it was Jubilation T. Cornpone; 
Jubilation T. Cornpone, he really saved the day!

Isabel was being as polite as the circumstances permit. For sheer vitriol — and a longer view — there’s  Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times, subtitled in near Marxist terms — and with a flourish from Mao for added relish:

Drama is giving way to farce. The eurosceptic demands are now plain odd

Touchingly, they really believed it would work. When David Cameron pledged a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU four months ago, his team were certain it would pacify eurosceptic Conservatives, disarm the UK Independence party and ensure he would not need to talk again about this electorally esoteric issue for the rest of this parliament.

That speech, his most important deed as UK prime minister after his austere fiscal policy, has failed on all counts. Tories now hound him to go further, Ukip romp on, and he is condemned to revisit the subject periodically on behalf of his party.

Downing Street is mystified by the collapse of the January truce, and commentators also scribble their surprise. But it is not surprising at all. It was predictable, and predicted. We are now a quarter of a century into the Tories’ rancorous fixation with Europe, a single-issue neuralgia that knows no equivalent in any major party in the west, and the pattern is familiar: no concession satisfies those who ultimately want to leave the EU, even if they say it will before receiving it. Mr Cameron, remember, has withdrawn his party from the centre-right caucus in the European Parliament, vetoed a fiscal treaty and cleared a path to exit. On each occasion, Tories have summoned a practised glee before returning to their core view of him as the craven running dog of a europhile establishment.

Even that lacks the sheer horror that Ben Brogan, for the Torygraph, evinces:

It may be, as some Tories tried to explain yesterday, that a cunning new strategy is evolving before our eyes, one that Mr Gove and his friend Mr Cameron are developing as part of their wider campaign to shove Labour – and the Lib Dems – on to the wrong side of popular causes. By this theory, Europe is no longer a divisive, dangerous issue for the Tories to be caught arguing about, but is in fact a vote-winner. Look at us, the Conservatives are now shouting, we are so crazy about Europe that we are desperate to give you a vote on it and – nudge nudge, wink wink – we might just join you in voting to get out. By allowing his colleagues to say it all in public, and say it loudly, Mr Cameron is giving himself free advertising for his Euro-robustness two years early. The tease of a referendum, the catwalk of Tory beauties sashaying in their see-through ideological out-fits, the Cabinet loyalists talking naughty – it’s all part of a great plan. By allowing his colleagues to talk up the possibility of a British exit, the Prime Minister’s hand is strengthened in the EU negotiations to come. First welfare, then immigration, now Europe: everything is lining up in Mr Cameron’s favour.

Except it isn’t, of course. No 10 has lost control of this one. Even those involved admit it’s a Euroshambles. After all, can any of this truly be said to advance the cause of a Conservative victory in 2015? Surely the first part of Mr Cameron’s negotiating strategy requires winning the general election? Does an inward-looking spat about Europe really fit alongside the message about a global economic race and the importance of the EU/US trade deal that Mr Cameron found himself promoting in Washington yesterday?

Surely soon we must be reaching the end-game? That can involve just one (or both) of two possibilities: the defenestration of Cameron, and/or the collapse of the ConDem coalition. Either way the lunatics have taken over the Tory asylum.

Which brings Malcolm back to:

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Filed under Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, films, Financial Times, History, Isabel Hardman, The Spectator

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